Hello my Freaky Darlings,
Today I have Kenneth W. Cain in the interrogation seat.
Kenneth W. Cain is the author of The Saga Of I trilogy (These Trespasses, Grave Revelations, and Reckoning), United State of the Dead, and two acclaimed short story collections: These Old Tales and Fresh Cut Tales. His short stories have been published, and are forthcoming, in several anthologies and publications. He lives in Chester County, Pennsylvania with his wife and two children.
- What drives you to write?
I’ve experienced terribly realistic nightmares as far back as I can remember. At some point in my teens I started jotting them down on a napkin, a scrap of paper, or a sticky note. Nowadays they often end up in my cellphone notes app. Eventually those notes transformed into something more; a need to dissect my dreams. As this need grew, I began taking notes on every day life, as well. Someone who sees a woman’s child slip at a beach only to get swept away in the surf, might not see much more than a mother rushing to help her child back to their feet. I see the woman who hesitates, and I wonder what’s going through her mind in that split second of time. Eventually I found myself needing an explanation. This is what I think drives me, a need to explain the terrible, so it isn’t so horrible anymore. It’s a therapy of sorts, purging my soul, and being able to reflect on the prevailing good (most of the time).
- What attracted you to writing horror?
As a teen I discovered a collection of Writer’s Digest books on my parents shelves. Not all of the stories appealed to me, but one author in particular captured my heart. Upon reading Edgar Allan Poe for the first time, I found myself hooked. I made my way through those books, hoping to discover more short stories like that first one. Soon after I started visiting this local used-book store that kept all their horror books in the basement. I used to spend hours down there, reading and selecting my next book. I’d visit that bookstore at the end of each semester of college to trade in my school textbooks for horror books. It greatly saddened me the day that store closed. Anyway, those initial discoveries planted the seeds of my love for a frightening story.
- Who are your favourite horror writers?
Obviously Stephen King. His son, Joe Hill writes beautiful tales. Richard Matheson, and Jack Ketchum, of course. I’ve been listening to some of Jonathan Maberry’s audiobooks lately and enjoying those. I also like Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Poe, so many others I’ve read in various short story anthologies (I used to devour those when I was younger). Though more fantasy, I love some of Ken Lui’s short stories. Damien Angelica Walters, too, who has such a creepy tone in her stories. Every year I discover someone new, and quite often multiple someones.
- Which horror novels do you think every horror fan should read?
My favourite is Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, so that’s where I would start. King’s IT is also a favourite, but I also enjoyed Bag of Bones. Ketchum’s Off Season comes right at you from the beginning. Definitely some Poe, too. I think short story anthologies (and even collections to a degree) serve a greater purpose here, though, as they allow a reader to sample many different writing styles all in one book.
- Ebooks or paperback?
I’m in the middle in regards to this argument. There’s nothing like holding a good paperback in your hands. The smell of the pages, the feel of it; this all brings back such good memories. But I’m often reading on my iPhone or iPad, or even on the computer. I also listen to quite a few audioboks, too.
- What would make you pick up a novel by a new author?
I think the old tried and true cover/title apply in most cases. That’s what everyone sees first. All of these revised King covers that are overly simplified don’t grab me much. I’m a visual person, so I want to see something hauntingly inviting, a horrific composition that tells a story. That’s the first hook.
- Who is your favourite fictional character?
I hate to make this interview sound like it’s all King/Hill, because it isn’t. Still, I’d have to say Ig from Joe Hill’s Horns. Something about him always grabbed me. Same with my wife, as we listened to the audiobook together. Shortly after we finished we adopted a dog and named him Iggy because of that character.
- Do you plot your stories or does it just unfold before your eyes?
I think it’s become rather cliché to say this, but I see a movie in my head. At times, I’m walking through the scene, becoming part of the story. In other instances I’m looking down at my characters, doing my best to describe what I’m seeing as the plot unfolds. While I may have an idea as to how things might unfold, I let my characters tell the story. I want to let them live and breathe, choose on their own, which often leads to surprises.
- Do your characters take on a life of their own and do things you didn’t plan?
Yes, even when I have a solid idea on an ending they might throw a wrench into my plans and ruin everything. Such was the case with young Millicent, who just popped into my novella Lifeblood unexpectedly. She changed everything in that particular case.
- Do you listen to music when you write or do you need silence?
No one day is the same for me. One day I might jam out to Metallica. The next it might be Pink Floyd or Sinatra or another band. Other days it’s a complete mix of music styles, and other times I need absolute quiet. Occasionally I turn on the MLB channel while I write or listen to a Podcast. I do the latter more often these days, where I’m listening to a podcast or audiobook. It’s like I can write and absorb the audio at the same time. My brain just sort of makes it work somehow.
- Do you do a lot of research for your stories?
When the story necessitates I’ll do whatever research is needed to make things as real as possible. That’s what you want after all, to plop your readers down into what feels realistic, where they can become part of the story instead of just being a reader. That’s difficult to achieve, so you need to utilise every skill at your disposal. I think this is where the whole “write what you know” originated, as I’ll often hit upon things I know quite well. But it’s also fun to write what you don’t know, and challenge yourself.
- Facebook or Twitter?
I try to avoid being on one more than the other, as a writer needs to maintain several social media platforms. I do, however, tend to respond quicker on Facebook.
- What really pisses you off about writing?
Wow, okay. This is a tough question. I guess for me it’s that I’m struggling to write that one story, what I often refer to friends as my “Pop Art” story or my “Paper Menagerie” story. If you’ve read either of those stories, you know what I mean. They’re excellent, stand-out stories that will make you rethink why you ever got into writing in the first place. I’m not referring to winning a award, though that would be nice. I’m talking about writing that story which absolutely tears the heart out of everyone who reads it. That’s long been a passion of mine, but I feel like I’ve not yet achieved to that level.
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