Interview With Author Ken Wells
Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Six novels and three works of literary nonfiction. I’ve also edited two anthologies.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
“Swamped!” It’s a teen survival story, co-authored with my niece, Hillary Wells, set in the forbidding Atchafalaya Swamp of southern Louisiana. I grew up there, with one foot in that swamp, and always thought the exotic setting would be a great place as the setting for a novel. In the beginning, I was also interested in writing a boy-centric story since statistics show boys read in numbers far fewer than girls. However, as the book evolved the teen-girl co-protagonist took on a hefty share of the survival effort.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I wrote five of my six novels on a commuter train when I traveled back and forth from the suburbs into Manhattan, where I worked as a writer and editor for The Wall Street Journal.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I read eclectically. Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Conner, Faulkner, Hemingway, Jim Harrison, Twain, Jules Verne, Saul Bellow, Willa Cather, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jane Austen, Zane Grey, Shakespeare, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Ralph Ellison, Kurt Vonnegut, and YA books like “Hatchet,” “Rifles for Wadie,” “Catcher in the Rye,” “The Fault is in Our Stars,” “The Call of the Wild,” the Tolkien Hobbit books, etc.
What are you working on now?
A Southern Gothic novel titled “The Book of Earl.”
Earl Verdin Jr. is a mentally challenged 22-year-old French-Indian giant living feral in the deep Louisiana swamps where he’s fled, heartbroken, from a foster home after the death of his mother years before. From his base in an ancient hollowed-out cypress, he rambles the wild lands around him, living a solitary hunter-gatherer life. One day he comes into a clearing and encounters a beautiful young girl being set upon by two garishly tattooed thugs. Earl—who speaks to God, snakes, and his dead mother—uses his uncanny physical prowess to disarm her assailants and save her from a very bad ending.
The girl is Dee-Anne Didier, a bright, impulsive high-school student, spoiled and in rebellion against an unhappy home life. Revealing the circumstances that brought her to the clearing that day would enrage her domineering father, a rich and powerful local lawyer and plantation owner. So she panics and lies—blaming Earl, whom she knows is slow, for the assault.
Earl, whose uncanny woodsman’s skills allow him to make a colorful initial escape from a pursuing posse, is eventually arrested. He finds himself tossed into the maw of a corrupt Good-Ole-Boy criminal justice system determined, with-Dee Anne’s father’s help, to see him rot in jail. But a boy at heart, Earl harbors a secret of his own and for reasons that confound even his accusers makes a fateful decision at trial where he seems on the cusp of acquittal. His choice sets off a long, harrowing, picaresque journey of sacrifice and suffering that wends through the corridors of a forbidding, violent prison and echoes in the unsettled heart and conscience of a young woman at war with her better nature. To survive, Earl must grow and confront the banality of evil all around him while battling his self-doubt about the path he’s chosen.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I’ve had very good luck with independent bookstores ‘hand-selling’ my books, very good reviews and good word of mouth from readers. I also get decent traffic to my website: www.bayoubro.com
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Writing is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. A good or even great idea does you no good if you are not utterly committed to putting it down on paper.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Success and failure are the same imposters.
What are you reading now?
“Horse” by Geraldine Brooks
What’s next for you as a writer?
Doing basic research on a non-fiction book idea but it’s too early to reveal the subject.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
Shakespeare’s collected works, something by Hemingway, “Catch 22” and “Meely LaBauve,” my debut novel, so as to remind myself that, even if I weren’t rescued, I’d written one very fine novel…:)
Author Websites and Profiles
Ken Wells’s Social Media Links