Sunday, October 3, 2010

Men Writing Romance: Meet Kenneth Weene!!

Ooh-Da-Lolly and Welcome back, TLN'ers!!

The weekend has slipped into the abyss leaving us to toil through the daily grind of another work week. No need to nab a cup o' Joe, because I've got the just the ticket to get your synapses firing on an even keel . . . a sneak-peek into the mysterious land of the male perspective!!

Please welcome Kenneth Weene to the Lovestruck Novice Hot Seat!

Kenneth's first book WIDOW'S WALK explores one woman's quest for balance between her deep-rooted faith and her secret yearnings for love and a life of her own. As an added bonus, readers are also given a glimpse into the lives of the heroine's children. If you're needing a change of pace from dashing dukes and hunky Highlanders, you've picked the "write" day to swing by!

Without further ado, here's Kenneth!!

1)If you were a book, what would your blurb be?

Without the story of a guy whose life is normal and full. Within, ah that's a different story. The complexities of the mind, the intricacies of the plotting, the intensity of the emotions, and the fire of the love. This is a story of that contradiction. It is the a tale of exploration.

2)Using three words, describe your voice.

poetic, evocative, and honest

3)Tell us a little bit about your writing process? What is your secret for going from story idea to The End?

I do a lot of talking with my characters. I let them weave their own stories, especially their own love relationships. I create the setting and allow it to evolve. For example, when I set out to write Widow's Walk, it was not my intent that Arnie, the love interest, and Mary, the main character, were to become lovers. I had wanted him to be an intellectual guide and had planned for her to fall in love with a man who ultimately never made it into the story. What happened, they met and fell in love. I had nothing to say about it.

4)Your book, WIDOW'S WALK, has some romantic elements to it. Give us the male opinion on what makes for a good romance or women's fiction novel?

Good romance includes more than the sharing of physicality. Mary and Arnie share an awakening sense of sexuality, but they also share their world and ideas. That Arnie is more worldly and helps Mary to grow is also important. Of course, there does have to be some pulse-quickening physical relationship as well.

There is a second romance in Widow's Walk. Sean, Mary's son, also grows; and it is the woman in his life who facilitates that development. What makes this interesting is that Sean is a quadriplegic. I think the growing sense of togetherness, awareness, and communication between him and Karen is great because it is going to be very difficult for it to blossom into physicality.

I think sharing and growing are the most important threads in real romance and in a loving relationship. Sadly, the third relationship in the novel, between Mary's daughter, Kathleen, and Danny doesn't lead to growth. Their relationship and its lack of romantic quality is a powerful if negative force within the story.

5) Do you have a reference book in your writer's tool box? Any you'd care to suggest?

Besides the dictionary, thesaurus, visual dictionary, and Elements of Style, I use various reference materials as I need them. One thing is that I try to be careful with geography and Google Maps is great for that. I also will, when necessary, go to a museum or such place to actually see the object I want to describe, or at least something like it. For example, I saw a throw in a store in Santa Fe that I use in Widow's Walk. I also picked Arnie's Buick at a private car museum my wife and I visited.

A couple of other resources I keep around just to meditate on from time to time are: The Joy of Sex, Our Bodies Ourselves, and a couple of books on communication, Messages and Your Perfect Right.

When I'm actually at the keyboard, I will often listen to music; it helps me to get the rhythm of my words and their tonality.

When I'm working on a book, I tend to read non-fiction to avoid "contamination," but the rest of the time I read fiction and more fiction. To me style is everything, and that comes from lots of reading and appreciating as well as from ones own work.

6)What's up next for you? Any news you'd like to share?

Widow's Walk was my first novel from All Things That Matter Press. It was followed by Memoirs From the Asylum, which is a very different read. I have a conspiracy novel ready to go and am working on a fourth novel, which is as yet untitled and which is very much a romantic novel. I also continue to write short stories and poetry. Folks can read more at my website: There is a really nice trailer for Widow's Walk:

I'm sure that your readers would enjoy a quick peek inside Widow's Walk so let me share an excerpt. It is the first meeting between Mary and Arnie.

Still, Mary isn’t sure where to turn for advice. ….

She finds herself walking aimlessly down Huntington Avenue. She has been walking for some time since she left the broker. On her left are the imposing buildings of a college. There is a sign: NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY. Students are milling about carrying books and interacting excitedly. They seem young and full of life – filled with possibilities.

"Can you tell me where I can find somebody to talk with?"

The man she has approached looks like he might be a teacher. "That depends on the subject."

"About this." She makes a gesture to take in the entire school. Then she adds, “about everything.”

"There's an information office in that building." He points to a large, impersonal cement and steel structure. "Perhaps they can answer your questions."

Mary starts to laugh. It is not her typical, self-controlled laughter. It is a laughter that has been stored in her soul in Ireland – filled with the beauty of a misty Irish morning and the unconscious happiness of seeing a herd of cows making their contented way home after a day of green grazing, their stomachs filled, their udders waiting for relief. Her laughter peels across the open space and seem to echo off the buildings. It is an infectious laugh, and the man starts to laugh with her. Various students stop to watch them and then walk on – some smiling and others even chuckling.

"Why are we laughing?" he asks. He thinks to himself that he has never seen more beautiful eyes than those behind her thick glasses. "She has lovely hair, too," he considers. "If she wanted to, this woman could be something special."

Once Mary’s hair had been the majestic red-brown of a fine hardwood, but age had grayed it enough to take away the magical edge of Irish defiance and turn it soft and inviting. Her body, too, is fine to see: shapely despite her years, well exercised by honest work, kept thin by her disinterest in corporal pleasures. Only her hands speak of something else. Their roughness tells of the years she has spent cleaning, cooking, taking care of others, and even, her one sometimes hobby, gardening. Those lovely flowerbeds seemed to always need tending, and Mary had spent so many hours of happy labor kneeling beside them.

"I just realized how silly it all seems." Her tone has a tinge of embarrassment.

He looks at her questioningly. She seems like a nice person and is certainly attractive, but she sounds slightly mad.

"There's an office that can answer my questions." Mary starts laughing again. How ridiculously simple that sounded – how ridiculously untrue.

That had been the problem all of her life. Mary Riley had been brought up to believe just that – that there was an office that could answer her questions. That had been the simple faith of her parents. She starts to laugh yet again. Unconsciously she pushes her glasses back on her nose and fluffs the sides of her hair.

"I'm afraid I don't understand. You did say you wanted someone to answer your questions about the school didn't you?"

"I suppose I did. It's just that I don't think anyone can answer the important ones. I used to think they could. It was easy then. Now, now I'm not so sure. Maybe I have to answer them myself. Or, maybe there just aren't any answers." Unaware of her actions, Mary takes off her glasses and wipes them. Again he is struck by the deep blue color of her eyes.

The man looks at her in a new way. This good-looking woman dressed in her plain blue dress with her hair tied back and her dark framed glasses had at first struck him as an anxious mother looking for a school for her child or perhaps someone looking for a job. He had stopped to be polite. Dr. Arnold Berger always tries to be polite: when he is teaching his Foundations of Education courses, when he is visiting with friends, when he is shopping in stores, when he is walking down the street – wherever he is in life. He had stopped to be polite, but now he is staying out of interest. This woman has real beauty – physical and more importantly emotional – and real questions – not the kind that his students sometimes try to ask to either impress or distract him, but questions that come from the depth of mind and soul.

"I don't know if I can help, but I’d be happy to try. There's a coffee shop over there, and we can talk a bit about what the questions are. I'm not great at answers, but I'm terrific at questions."

"That's very nice of you, but I don't even know you."

"You didn't know me when you asked me where you could find somebody to talk with. Now I guess you've found somebody, me, Arnie Berger. I teach in the Foundations of Education Department."

Mary certainly doesn’t know what the foundations of education are, but it sounds impressive. "I'm Mary Flanagan. I have two grown children. My husband died years ago. I have to do something." The words come in blurted staccato sentences.


"With my life. I don't want to waste it."

He notices the slight hint of tears at the corners of those blue eyes. Mary notices it, too. She starts to reach up for her glasses, again to take them off and clean them. She stops herself. She does not want to clean away the feelings that she is experiencing at this moment. They confuse and excite her, frighten and exalt. Most importantly, they are real emotions and they seize her by the soul.

“Coffee?” he asks.


“Then tea it is.” He feels an unusual urge and offers her his arm. They walk down the street. It is a beautiful spring afternoon.


The coffee shop is crowded with students. It is a college gathering spot filled with noisy discussion and good-natured banter. Some of the students are in Arnie Berger's courses or have been in the past. A few say hello, and Mary is impressed that he seems to know their names. When she had been a girl in Ireland, the nuns had known all the names. When Sean and Kathleen had been in school, she had noticed how few teachers had even seemed interested in learning students' names. It had felt to Mary that the schools were like factories spitting out children as if they were automobile parts – often parts which didn't quite work.

"Do you like teaching?"

"Is that the first question?" There was a moment of mutual laughter – partly over the little joke but primarily from embarrassment.

He takes a deep breath. "It isn't that easy. It depends on what teaching is. I like getting a student's mind going. When they start asking questions and not expecting me to answer them, then I know I love to teach. When I'm sitting there correcting papers that try to mimic back my words, then I hate it. The kids who relate, like the ones in here who said hello, like the girl in the black blouse, they can be exciting. She, Louise, was a great person to have in class. Someday, she'll be a great teacher. You see the boy over there in the red-checked shirt?" He waits for her to nod. "He was in one of my classes, too. He's a Pharmacy major. He wanted an easy class and figured that education courses would be the easiest. He'd come to class, sit in the back row, and do his chemistry homework. I hated having him in the room. When he got a D, he went to the dean and complained."

"The dean? What's a dean?"

"He's like my boss's boss. He runs the entire School of Education. I guess deans are like vice-presidents."

"What did the dean do?"

“He asked me why I gave the kid a D. I told him I didn't give it to him that he gave it to himself. So the dean asked me to write a memo about why the kid got a D. That's not teaching. If the kid had come in to discuss the memo – I'm sure he got a copy, – then it might have been education. We could have talked about his attitude and why everything has value not just the things that will get you a job. We could have, but I guess he just hoped I'd be intimidated." He pauses for a moment and then adds, “At least I wasn’t.”

Mary laughs, but this is a different kind of laughter. It is the laughter of appreciation. She is enjoying talking with this stranger. More than that, she finds herself trusting him because even though he teaches in a big college he isn’t so sure of the answers. "I'd better be careful," she says.

"Of what?"

"The questions I ask you. We might both end up too confused."

It is his turn to laugh. "I think I'd like that." He reaches over and gently squeezes her hand. Part of her wants to pull back, but she doesn’t. She is feeling emotions that she has never allowed herself to feel before. They are simultaneously heady and scary.

"Mr. Berger, I think I'd like it, too."

“Arnie, please call me Arnie.” Arnie Berger, too, is feeling emotional confusion. There is something wonderful going on inside him. He realizes that at any moment the bubble of this chance encounter might burst, and that is an uncomfortable thought. He feels compelled to tell Mary the one thing that he thinks might make their relationship impossible for her. "There's something I'd better tell you."


"I'm divorced."

"Oh. Does that matter?"

"It might to you."

"Do you have children."

"We did. He died in Vietnam."

"My son didn't die. He's a quadriplegic. Sometimes – especially the times when I’ve seen the lostness in his eyes – then I wished he had died. But then, I'd feel guilty and go to confession. The priests all told me it was normal, that I hadn’t sinned. I didn’t believe them. It’s got to be a sin to wish your child dead. Later I was glad he was there. My husband had died, and Sean gave me something … something to do."

"Where is he now?"

"In a rehabilitation center in Minnesota. He left two months ago. He's learning to be independent. And, so am I."



"Do you have plans for this evening?"

She chuckles. "I never have plans for any evening."

"Unfortunately, I usually don't either unless you count teaching an evening course. Would you like to do something? Maybe take in a movie?"

Mary can’t remember the last time she has gone to a movie. She knows that it has to have been years ago. "All right." The idea seems fraught with excitement.

"Where do you live?"

She starts to give him the house address and then realizes she has sold it. She laughs at herself.

“What’s so funny?”

Mary tells him and then gives him the address and phone number of the boarding house explaining that he would have to ask for her.

Arnie has an apartment on Commonwealth Avenue, not to far from the school; he gives her that address and his phone number.

He picks up the check. Mary starts to open her purse. "Please," he says, "let me."

Mary smiles in response. “Thank you.” She wants to say more but doesn’t know what to say nor does she know how to say it. There is a sudden discomfort as she feels herself venturing onto new ground, exploring in new directions. In the back of her mind, a voice tells Mary that she is feeling like a teenager, like the teenager she had never been, had never been free to be, like her daughter, Kathleen, had felt years before when she had first dated. It is a voice filled with concern and possibility.

They walk out onto Huntington Avenue and realize that most of the students who had been milling about when they had gone for coffee have long since departed. Arnie Berger looks at his watch. "I'll pick you up at seven. We'll see a movie and have a bite to eat."

"That will be grand." In every recess of her mind Mary knows that she truly means it.

Talk about a make-ya-smile moment! I'd like to thank Kenneth for letting me interview him. It was mighty fun switching things up! I hope you've enjoyed getting to know Kenneth Weene better. It was super sweet of him to offer up his time!

THANK YOU, TLN'ers! Let's get this week going with a song sure to have you humming all day . . .
RING OF FIRE by JOHNNY CASH!! Keep smiling, ya'll and we'll catch up on Wednesday with another featured author, Caroline Clemmons!

1 comment:

Caroline Clemmons said...

I enjoyed the male perspective and loved that I agree with Kenneth. Thanks for sharing.