Author Interview with Ken Williams (Book: Fractured Angel)
Tell us more about your book “Fractured Angel” what is it about?
FRACTURED ANGEL is about a middle class, professional woman searching the streets of Santa Barbara for her mentally ill daughter. In order to gain access to this alien world, one that mistrusts outsiders, she must enlist the help of Kerry Wilson, a social worker and combat veteran. Kerry is protective of his clients and resents the way the homeless are treated in this wealthy community. Lynne’s search opens up a whole different world from the one she comes from. Once Kerry overcomes his resentment of this “intern” his growing feelings for her forces him to face the fact that his emotional attachment for his clients has allowed him to hide from the emotional wounds of war and remain cut off from others. With winter approaching and the threatened closure of a homeless shelter this story races to a dramatic conclusion.
The protagonist of the book Lynne Swanson, encounters some very challenging personal difficulties and emotional challenges, where did you get the inspiration for this character and the story?
This man once came to my office. Middle aged. He was from the Silicone Valley. He wore expensive clothes, shoes, and aftershave. He reeked of money. I was wearing jeans, a blue work shirt and boots. For some reason the clashing difference between us weighted heavily on my mind when we first met. Couldn’t imagine what he wanted with me. He told me he was in town looking for his daughter who had suffered a psychotic break. He said she had sent him a postcard from Santa Barbara. His inquires at the police station had resulted in them telling him: “if anyone can find this girl it is Ken Williams.” He hesitantly handed me a picture of his daughter. It was torn in half. The background was some kind of outdoor party. He had torn it in half to protect the privacy of other family members. My heart broke for the man. I was a father as he was. The love for our children united us overcoming differences of class, as it would race, culture or anything else that separates people. I’ll always remember him turning and slowly walking away. I’m sure that in his wildest dreams he never could have foreseen himself asking someone like me for help.
For me the streets were my second home. The homeless were some of my closets friends. Whenever I took someone from the medical community, media or others they always marvelled with my easy interactions in the homeless camps, shelters or soup kitchens. At times the clashes of the homeless and mainstream society was brutal. FRACTURED ANGEL attempts to portray this duality of the homeless and those better off materially.
On the other hand, we are introduced to Kerry Wilson, a social worker for the homeless. Their relationship and life events are like chalk and cheese in comparison. What was the inspiration behind Kerry?
Obviously a lot of myself is in Kerry. Like I said I spent a lifetime on the streets of Santa Barbara. Decades when the wealth of the city grew exponentially as did the numbers living on the streets. Also, like Kerry I am a Vietnam veteran. So often I had the same attraction for the streets, as does Kerry. The poor and homeless have given up all pretences along their journey. War has a way of smashing egos but it makes dealing with others who value their own egos, or think that wealth is any kind of meaningful measure of a person hard to take. At least it was, and is for me. The struggle for day-to-day existence of the homeless mirrors in some ways my own conflict to put the war in the past. Or, at least make dealing with it manageable.
What was the most difficult scene to write in “Fractured Angel”
The scene where the disabled Iraqi war vet self-mutilates himself. And when they find the starving girl. I had so many vets severally disabled by their war. And so many mentally ill people who ended up hurting themselves including the same way the vet did. It was terrible. I couldn’t believe someone would do that to themselves. And I can’t even count the number of women who suffered anorexia. This one woman came to me to tell me goodbye. When I hugged her, she was so fragile I was afraid I was going to break something in her.
Will there be a sequel to this story; will we be reading more about Lynne Swanson and her daughter?
I have several unpublished books that are set either in the streets, SRO’s—cheap hotels that cater to those about to enter homelessness or, if they’re lucky just exiting that state. I look upon my collection of work as an expose of the poorest of the poor in this time of extreme wealth and devastating poverty.
Tell us more about you, what other interest do you have other than writing?
I’m a gym rat. Healthy or sick I’m at the gym religiously. My wife is my other passion in life. My existence would be dull and gray without her. I write almost daily: Short fiction pieces, poetry, and articles for my column, screenplays and novels. I have four incredible sons. I always marvel how four siblings could each turn out so different!
You have worked with the homeless in Santa Barbara; you must have encountered some very emotional situations. Can you tell us about any stories that have had happy endings?
A year ago a woman wrote me having read my book: SHATTERED DREAMS, A STORY OF THE STREETS. She thanked me for being there for her and her children when they ended up in a shelter. How hard it was living in Santa Barbara being homeless. She said she cried her way through that book. Ironically I would include the number of homeless who I placed in hospice so they wouldn’t die on the streets. At a coffee shop once this man and woman sitting at the table next to me saw me give money to a homeless woman pushing a shopping cart full of junk down the street. They began to tell me a story of how a man in Santa Barbara had taken the woman’s mother under his wing, got her temporary shelter at a homeless shelter then moved her into a hospice facility where she soon died. They wanted to know if I, or the woman I was sitting with knew: Ken Williams! To this day I still get a chill up my spine thinking of that moment.
When did you first realise that you wanted to write for others enjoyment?
A very conservative newspaper began running my articles. I got plenty of hate mail but also many people wrote to tell me how moving my stories were and how much it changed their outlook on the issues of homeless and/or war. I’ll always remember this one time when a woman bought my first book: CHINA WHITE, a story about a Vietnam veteran. Buying it she told me her husband had died in the war. She moved over to a bench and began to read it. I was deeply moved by the quiet tears that ran down her face. Words. Stories. Books. They speak to the soul, to the human condition. Our wants. Our innermost fears. Loves and tragedies.
What will you be working on next, do you have any other projects planned?
SEVEN LEVELS: HOMELESSNESSS, A COMBAT VETERAN, MENTAL ILLNIESS, A LOVE STORY is in fact a love story between a mentally ill woman and a young cop, a combat veteran just back from war. It takes place with the background being an abandoned warehouse taken over by the homeless.
And GAIA’S REVOLT, a story set a few years in the future where Global Warming is having devastating consequences. It takes place in Southern Calif., in the midst of a crippling drought. A near future where the disparity between the wealthy corporate elite and the vanishing middle class and the marginalized poor and homeless is tearing the country apart.
If you could give any guidance to someone who wanted to write for others, what would you suggest?
Find your passion! It all starts and ends with passion. Life without passion is simple gray existence much like it is in the joint. AND write for others. Don’t think that you’re being clever by writing something that only a great mind such as you have can understand, or enjoy. A writer’s first job is to communicate. And, you must write because you must. One doesn’t write to become a millionaire or the author of the newest runaway best seller. You write because you are driven to do so. Simple. It comes from your heart and soul.
If our readers would like to read more about your work, or contact you where can they go?
My website is: kenwilliams-writer.com.
Or my facebook page is:
Buy Fractured Angel on Amazon