Harris Tobias' Fiction

August 11, 2010

An Interview with Author Ken Weene

Filed under: Author Interviews — harristob @ 6:46 pm


1) Why should I read your book?

Since your children or grandchildren will undoubtedly be reading Memoirs From the Asylum in school in years to come, don’t you want to be ahead of the curve? How can you pass on the chance to read a book that has repeatedly been called one of the best books of the year – and not just by the author and his relatives?

2) Are you a cat or a dog person?

Although we had many dogs when we were younger, I have never thought of myself as a dog person. My totem animal has always been the moose, but my friends and family usually refer to me as a friendly bear – except when around salmon, when I can get quite greedy.
3) Do you listen to music while you write, or do you require total and utter silence?

It truly varies. When I listen to music, I like classical, country-western, and some cross-cultural music – interestingly much of it from India and Pakistan. Sometimes I like to have the TV in the background; it’s the equivalent of white noise – totally meaningless.

4) How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?

Memoirs From the Asylum is at one level about mental health, which has been my life’s work. At another level it is about fear, freedom and existential choice: that is some of the basic substance of my life. My previous novel, Widow’s Walk, is about faith and the conflict between religion and spirituality and between love and responsibility: again basic strata of  my and most readers’ lives.

5) What do you think most characterizes your writing?

I am passionate about my characters. I want to understand them, to listen to them, and to recreate their voices with fidelity. Most of them I like, and I become quite upset when bad things happen to them. Of course there are others whom I dislike and wish had never come into the lovely worlds of my books.

6) What was the hardest part of writing this book?

I had a difficult time getting the denouement of Memoirs From the Asylum underway. I knew how the book ended, but I needed an event to make things change., a tipping point. Then a friend of mine, playwright Jon Tuttle, mentioned an event about which he wanted to write a play. A circus elephant had gone berserk and killed somebody. The town in which this happened tried and executed the elephant. The image of the berserk elephant was what I needed.

7) What projects are you working on at the present?

I have one book ready to go – written and first edit done. It is a conspiracy novel that takes place in New York just before 9/11. It is also a book about life goals.

Currently I’m writing a novel that is very different. It is primarily a simple story written in a poetic voice; however it is also partly a work of science fiction. At the bigger level that book is about sex, procreation, and the worth of life.
8) List the three questions you’d ask your favorite author over lunch.

I’d ask Kurt Vonnegut: What does writing mean to you? Do you care if people read your books? Who’s paying for lunch?

My answers if I were asked those questions:

I write to make people think and feel; therefore I need them to read what I have written. Let’s split the bill.

9) What’s your most memorable (not necessarily your favorite) childhood memory?

Read Memoirs From the Asylum and you will find some of my childhood projected onto the narrator. His mother is modeled on mine. I would particularly direct the reader to the dance classes; they are right out of my childhood.

10) Here is a really weird, but fun one…what trash item did you see that inspired you to write a story. In one of my stories I found a whole character when I saw a manikin head on a dumpster.

Did you create this question just for me? Memoirs From the Asylum is about life in a dumpster. What is a psychiatric hospital, especially a state hospital, but a giant human trash heap? One goal of this novel is to get readers to see the flotsam and jetsam of society as human and meaningful instead of seeing them as some kind of subhuman creatures or even worse as caricatures.

You can learn more about me and my work at


I have trailers for both Widow’s Walk and for Memoirs From the Asylum.

The Memoirs trailer is:


The Widow’s Walk trailer is:



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