authors, ficiton, homelessness, interviews

In the Words of an Author: An Interview with Ken Williams

What inspired you to write? Was it something you always wanted to do?

I have written in one form or another since high school. As an adult my original inspiration was in defense of the homeless who were often under brutal verbal assault in the media in Santa Barbara. At first it was letters to the editor, then guest opinions for them. Finally I took up screenplays and novels. In the last two years short fiction and poetry has been my calling along with novels.

My inspiration is in fact a need. When I see injustice against the homeless I am driven to write about them either in fiction form or as opinion pieces. The horrors in Aleppo have fueled my most recent need to put into poetry the heartbreak of their suffering. I empathize greatly with those who are without power and face injustices alone. Writers can fight for them with the tools that we are fortunate to have within ourselves.

Outside of writing, what kind of things do you like to do?

I’m a gym rat. I work out with heavy weights and bike ride three times a week without failure. I do Yoga, Tai Chi and Chi Gong five times a week. I love walks along the beach and attending plays.

If you could sit down with any ONE person, alive or dead, who would it be?

Easy. Doctor King. I would seek his spiritual advise for the hard times that we are living in.

What have you found to be the most difficult about being an author?

I am not good on marketing myself. I need an agent who knows that part.

On the flip side, what is the most rewarding aspect?

Seeing justice achieved in my novels. Seeing the homeless—the person behind the term come alive. So many people see the homeless as something less than human. Also, in my novels and poems allowing victims to stand up to the powerful and strong—the abusers of the weak and defenseless. I would love to see Putin to have to read my poems and short fiction pieces. To face what he is doing to the people of Aleppo.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors just setting out on their journey?

You really have to write for yourself. For that thing inside that moves you—that compels you to write. Writings is not a choice. It is a need, a drive. It can also be used on behalf of those who all too often, stand-alone. Remember that your writings can be a nonviolent weapon for justice and for the marginalized. Not everything need revolve around fame and money.

“Fractured Angel” deals with some pretty heavy material. Why was this book important for you to write?

Fractured Angel is important to me because I witnessed and lived through many of the situations and characters in the book. I always had a special affinity for the mentally ill which the book revolves around. People really need to get over their fear and demonization of the mentally ill to realize what incredible people most of them are. If the novel can help that process in any way I would consider it successful.

Homelessness is an issue that is obviously close to your heart, that is far to little discussed. Where can people find more information on how they can help in their own communities?

There are so many ways to help. Most cities now have a homeless coordinator of services. The Salvation Army, local homeless shelters and especially soup kitchens are always in great need of volunteers.

But I always remember what this one homeless mentally ill client told me. My greatest service to her was not getting her housing or a place to sleep. It was when I simply smiled at her when she was going through a really rough mental breakdown. She always remembered that smile. A gentle smile costs nothing.

Who is your favorite character from “Fractured Angel”? Why?

Tracy, the young girl who lived in a drainage pipe for obvious reasons. I’ve lost count how many clients lived like she did. And how many young girls lived on some pretty brutal streets.

Would you care to provide an excerpt from “Fractured Angel”?

Luck strolled out the door when a hurried tourist tossed a half-eaten bagel into a trashcan and walked away. It took all Tracy had to stop herself from running over to the trash bin. A loud groan came. Looking into the bin, she saw that it was mostly empty. Standing on her tiptoes, she tipped herself into the trash bin. Stretching, she was just able to reach the bottom. She grabbed the bagel. A predatory smile announced victory. The bagel was covered in cheese and jalapeños.

Tracy stuffed the bagel into her mouth. Her cheeks popped out like a chipmunk. She had never tasted anything so exquisite in her life. It was only when she looked back that she saw that the girls her age had exited the eatery. They stood off to one side. Their collective stare welded onto her. Her inner voices told her that their giggles were directed at her, mocking her, savaging her in their condemnation. The voices robbed her of sight, so she didn’t see the shock and sadness that pulled at the girls’ eyes, aging them a decade in a matter of seconds. These girls had never utilized their eyes without the prism of indifference. They were obviously deeply moved and troubled by what they were witnessing.

The voices shrieked louder, demanding that she turn and flee back to her entombment where they would have her alone, to once again terrorize her without witnesses to offer her comfort. After all, Dorothy, Sam and Jeffrey were usually gone during the day, and frequently at night as well; besides, they—the voices had already done a good job discrediting them. It wouldn’t be long now till Tracy would be all theirs.

In her haste to flee, Tracy stumbled into a bench that lined the outdoor mall. An exposed rod cut through her pants and into her shin. She corrected her line of escape and ran like hell. She hadn’t seen that one of the girls had held out a drink towards her. She didn’t see that another girl had broken into sobs, and yet another one had left her uneaten sandwich on the top of the trashcan in hope that Tracy would return. She didn’t experience the humanity of the girls as she surrendered to the hideous terror of mental illness, of the aloneness: the cruelest symptom. Tracy ran like the devil was clipping her heals, leaving questions and hard learned truths in her wake. Rescue would have to wait another day. That is, if it came at all.

Where can readers go to keep up-to-date with you and your work?

Either through my facebook: Ken Williams writer or http://kenwilliams-writer.com

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