Kenneth W. Cain is the author of the Saga of I (These Trespasses) Grave Revelations Reckoning), The Dead Civil War , and the acclaimed short story collection These Old Tales . He lives with his wife and children in Eastern Pennsylvania.
He became interested in the art of storytelling at a young age, spending hours listening to his grandfather spin tales beside the light of a barrel fire in southern Illinois. Darkness, fear, mystery, and a bit of the unknown were elements the old man wove into his stories that Kenneth relies on in his own tales.
He discovered his passion for dark fiction spending one too many graveyards shifts on-call for the local Pepperidge Farm cookie plant. He immersed himself in a world full of books, late night television, and chronic nightmarish dreams, embracing his own fears through his writing and artwork. It intrigued him enough to study creative writing in college in order to hone his skills.
Before writing, Kenneth spent more than twenty sleepless years in the graphic design industry. Kenneth remains a loyal fan of the Cardinals (baseball and football), the 76er’s and the Flyers. He also does formatting and digital conversion work for various publications, including the Lovecraft eZine.
Kenneth’s deepest wish is to share his stories, to have them read. Perhaps his tales will bring you a chill or make you think twice about locking your front door. Either way, he is grateful for his dear readers and hopes you enjoy.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I grew up near Chicago, Illinois and was dragged away to Eastern Pennsylvania, where I now reside with my wife and two children. That in itself is somewhat of a story, but writing wasn’t something I planned on. After graduating college, I spent 20+ years in a specialized section of the graphic design industry, helping to produce packaging for much of what you see in the isles of your local stores. But my last employer was on the verge of going under, and I soon found myself without work and with few options. It’s amazing what comes to mind during those stressful, sleepless nights. So rather than me finding writing, I’d have to say it was an old friend that came back to me when I needed it most, and these last couple of years I’ve embraced that friendship.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
While I think any of those can be individually defined, I prefer horror. But it’s a funny thing, because when people ask what I write, I often say dark fiction, as it tends to sound less abrasive to potential readers. I carry around digital copies of most of my books to discuss with those who are interested, kind of like a digital business card. More often than not, many will eventually ask for clarification as to what dark fiction is. A few have actually gasped when I redefined my work under horror, but I don’t mind. I prefer a darker story, a place where I can let my own fears be explored and try to make sense out of the unknown. All that being said, I’m grateful when a few of those people come along for the ride.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I have a feeling my list would look quite similar to most other’s. Growing up, reading wasn’t something my parents pushed. And although I did read, my focus was primarily on baseball, a sport I truly love. As a result, it wasn’t until middle school that I began to find a passion for reading, at first exploring the titles often referred to as required reading. I remember falling in love with London’s Call of the Wild, getting lost in The Great Gatsby, finding intrigue in The Good Earth, being heartbroken by Of Mice and Men. Those books helped form a passion for reading I soon began to explore on my own, spending hours in a used bookstore basement, trying to find books that suited my taste. It was there I discovered King’s It. I’ve been in love with his work ever since, which inspired me to take writing classes back in college. Through those classes I found Faulkner, Hawthorne, and many other great writers. Since then I’ve grown fond of Barker, Koontz, Joe Hill of course, Poe, Ketchum, and so many other incredible writers. I like to pick up anthologies and magazines that sample both old and new authors. There are so many talented writers out there so it is difficult to settle on just a few.
What are you reading now?
I tend to get caught up in many books at once. I’ve recently finished King’s Blaze and revisited his Dreamcatcher. I mixed in Kealan Patrick Burke’s The Turtle Boy, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m still working my way through the Post Mortem Press anthology Fear the Abyss, which my story “Parasite” was included in. I’m also taking a look at a book Eric J. Guignard edited, After Death.
Which book do you wish you had written?
That’s a great question. Frankenstein has always intrigued me. It hasn’t always been five-star work, but I’ve loved the way Koontz breathed new life into a continuation of that story. I’m really fond of Hill’s work, so I’d like to say NOS4A2, but I’ve yet to read it. It’s sitting here calling my name as we speak. But I fell in love with Joe’s work when I read Heart-Shaped Box, so I’ll go with that. Consequently, that is the very book that sparked my wife’s love for the genre.
If you could use any other author’s creation in your own work, who or what would you use?
There were these strange bone creatures in Koontz’s Brother Odd that fascinated me. Every time I walked away from that book I was left wondering about the bone creature, what it might be and what it was going to do. I think overall, it was a small part of the story, but perhaps the part of it that was most fascinating to me. I like the weird, obscure things that we aren’t entirely sure what they are. It leaves a lot of room to speculate, and that is a wonderful attribute of reading a good book.
Describe typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
After I get the kids off to school, I start my day by consuming large doses of coffee while I see what is new in the business: what markets are open, what others are saying or doing, checking out what advice the more experienced authors have to offer. I bookmark a lot of pages and sort them into categories for later reference. Listening to those in the know has always been important to me.
Next, I dig right into writing or editing; whichever suits me that particular morning or whichever is calling my name. My characters all have a voice, and sometimes one will be stronger than another on any given day. I listen to whoever is the loudest. But I also do a lot of formatting work, so sometimes those voices have to wait. Other than the standard daily needs about the house, I work until my family comes home, and even then pulling away from the writing is difficult. It seems I’m a bit of an addict to this writing gig.
Unusual habits? Well, they aren’t unusual to me. I talk to the dogs a lot; play out roles of characters with them. They are both really good at helping me out. I sometimes run around the house yelling or take a walk when I can’t get something out of my head right. I need a lot of tiny distractions about my desk, trinkets to entertain me when I can’t get the precise thought on paper.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
No doubt it would be my forthcoming collection, Fresh Cut Tales.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned with regards to your writing?
I came into this business, as a lot of writers do I suppose, thinking I had the next great story that everyone would want to buy. And of course, that would put me on the level of Stephen King, right? Looking back, I wouldn’t refer to it as being cocky, so much as being naïve.
Once I submersed myself into this world and took a good look around, I began to recognize what a silly thought that was. While I admire the man’s work, I don’t want to be the next Stephen King. I want to be the first Kenneth W. Cain. And I will make every effort to ensure that end. I’m determined and focused, unwilling to give up.
What do you like to do to relax?
I’d like to say watch the Cardinals play baseball, but that isn’t always so relaxing. I’m fond of mini-golf, reading outside while my young ones play, visiting a good art museum, or fishing. I love the sounds of nature and people watching. There are so many good ideas that come out of just being present and keeping an open eye.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
With Fresh Cut Tales I revisited eight previously published tales along with eight all new stories. I wanted to take the old and apply what I’ve learned since those stories were published. Hopefully that effort shows.
In regards to what’s on the table, I have several novels I’m in the middle of. The one I’m farthest along with is From Death Reborn, a dark fantasy/horror mix that focuses on the afterlife, good versus evil and how we are all pawns in some bigger scheme. The other, Construct, most would initially say was a zombie tale. But it isn’t. There is so much more to this story that is making it a thrilling journey to pen. I still have a long way to go with both of those, but most of the others are sitting untouched around 15-20k so it will likely be one of those two titles.
I wanted to finish by thanking you for allowing me the opportunity to share with your audience.