Meghan: Hi, Kenneth. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?
Kenneth W. Cain: Yes, it has, and thank you so much for having me again. It’s been a busy year, not unlike last year, but different. I’ve taken on more editorial work as of late, working for some new publishers like In Your Face Publishing and Silver Shamrock Publishing. There’s some good opportunities coming for writers out there, so stay tuned.
Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?
Kenneth W. Cain: That’s a difficult question, as I’m not sure I really know anymore. I’ve been doing a bit of soul-searching on that question as of late, actually. I like to think I’m a good listener, in part because I care about most everyone I meet. I’m a bit of a bleeding heart, and I believe in treating people as I would have them treat me, so I strive to respect people, even when that favor isn’t returned. I guess I’m just a bit of an old hippie.
Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?
Kenneth W. Cain: Nervous. I’ve made huge strides in my writing career, yet that has never changed. I often feel ashamed of my writing, that it’s lacking too much, that I’m a hack. It’s quite difficult to turn that off, the critic, but that’s likely also part of why I’m making those leaps to begin with.
Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?
Kenneth W. Cain: Well, it’s both. It takes a lot of talent to write something good, so I have the utmost respect for anyone who does. But it’s not a great paying gig, so in that respect it’s a curse. And people can fling a 1-star review at you in seconds, after months (maybe years) of hard work. Also, it’s hard to turn off. I’m ALWAYS thinking about writing. ALWAYS.
Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?
Kenneth W. Cain: I grew up in more of sports-related family. It was expected I would be playing Major League Baseball by now, but that wasn’t in the cards for one reason or another. I guess I’m lucky I took an interest in writing when I did, or I might not have that to rely on. It’s been the best job I’ve had, though my boss is always nagging me. ☺
Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?
Kenneth W. Cain: I was actually just thinking about this the other day. Someone asked on Facebook or Twitter and it got me thinking. I’m not really sure. I’ve researched an ungodly amount of harrowing topics, but perhaps my research on Nazi Germany was the most terrifying. I wouldn’t say strange—not at first—but things pop up that shock the hell out of you. Then, next thing you know, you’re diving down a rabbit hole for hours on end, jotting notes about this and that, wondering if there’s a story there.
Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?
Kenneth W. Cain: The beginning. Most stories start in the wrong place, so that’s the first challenge.
Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?
Kenneth W. Cain: I’m a pantser, so I’m always flying by the seat of my pants. That means I know as much as the reader, and I do think that helps me determine whether a scene is working or not at times.
Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?
Kenneth W. Cain: I celebrate. Tear down the walls. Draw outside of the lines. Be different. It’s a lot like real life, unpredictable at times, as it should be. We should celebrate our differences. Grow from them. Same with our characters.
Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?
Kenneth W. Cain: I sit and write. Nothing more to it. Though, without my morning coffee, I might be lost.
Meghan: Are you an avid reader?
Kenneth W. Cain: Slow, but yes. I’m always listening to podcasts that have stories or audiobooks, or reading my Kindle, and I’m typically editing at least one book by another writer, so there’s that too. I wish I was a faster reader though, because I’m ungodly slow, and my TBR pile is through the roof.
Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?
Kenneth W. Cain: I like reading in my genre mostly, but I like self-help books and Sci-Fi. Space operas and such.
Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?
Kenneth W. Cain: Some work, most don’t. People will crucify me for this, but I thought The Count of Monte Cristo was better than the book. Same with The Postman.
Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?
Kenneth W. Cain: Too often, I suppose. Sometimes, you don’t have a choice. I’m currently shopping a novel where the main characters all die somewhere in the middle of the story. Don’t worry. It will make sense when you finally read it.
Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?
Kenneth W. Cain: Absolutely. Suffering is part of life. It’s part of growth. We learn from our mistakes. Our characters are no different.
Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?
Kenneth W. Cain: I recently wrote a flash piece from the POV of a tree. I guess that’s kind of strange.
Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?
Kenneth W. Cain: I’ve had a lot of great writers pay me compliments, and that’s been humbling. Very much so. But I try not to focus on those things, as they can distract from growing as a writer. But if I had to pick one, it was being compared to Matheson. I mean, that’s pretty awesome for me. Not so much for him.
The worst was an early rejection that informed me I should never write again. And I almost listened to her, too. Her rejection has a lot to do with how I carry myself in this industry now. It was a highly unprofessional response.
Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?
Kenneth W. Cain: I love to hear from them. Love to get notes, reviews, blog posts. It’s overwhelming. I’m completely honored anyone is taking the time to read my writing.
Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?
Kenneth W. Cain: Ig from Joe Hill’s Horns. He’s just a well-rounded character. I feel like I really got to know him better than most characters.
Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?
Kenneth W. Cain: Koontz’s Frankenstein series. First off, I LOVE the original. Shelley was a master. Second, it’s an awesome series with some really cool concepts.
Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?
Kenneth W. Cain: I’ve been asked to collab with a few, but haven’t gotten into it so much. It could be fun, and I’d like to try it, but the writing styles would have to gel. And the personalities. My list would be long as to who I’d like to collab with. A better question might be, who wouldn’t I want to collab with?
Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?
Kenneth W. Cain: If I can sell everything I’m shopping around right now, you’re looking at two new short story collections, a novella, two novels, and several short stories (a couple of which have already been sold). October saw two of those short stories out, though one is a reprint for a charity anthology.
Meghan: Where can we find you?
Kenneth W. Cain: All my social media links are on my website. Check it out. Stay a while.
Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview or the last?
Kenneth W. Cain: Mostly, thank you for having me… again. And to all my readers, I’d say what I always say: Pleasant nightmares.
Kenneth W. Cain is a prolific author with four novels, four short story collections, four novellas, and several children’s books among his body of work. He is the editor for Crystal Lake Publishing‘s Tales From the Lake Volume 5 and When the Clock Strikes 13. The winner of the 2017 Silver Hammer Award, Cain is an active member of the Horror Writer’s Association, as well as a volunteer for the membership committee and chair of the Pennsylvania chapter. Cain resides in Chester County, Pennsylvania with his wife and two children.