A poet and fiction writer, my work has been published in Poet Lore, Crystal Clear and Cloudy, and Flying Colors Anthology. I am a past attendee of Pikes Peak Writer’s Conferences and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and a member of Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop in Denver, Colorado. In addition, I am/was a licensed professional counselor and psychotherapist, who for many years counseled perpetrators of domestic violence and sex offenders, and provided psychotherapy for individuals, groups and families. I hold a master’s degree in contemplative psychotherapy from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.
I was born in Kentucky but soon after my parents moved to Detroit. Detroit was where I grew up. As a kid I visited relatives in Kentucky, once for a six-week period, which included a stay with my grandparents. In the novel’s acknowledgements I did assert the usual disclaimers having to do with the fact that Then Like The Blind Man was and is a work of fiction, i.e., a made up story whose characters and situations are fictional in nature (and used fictionally) no matter how reminiscent of characters and situations in real life. That’s a matter for legal departments, however, and has little to do with subterranean processes giving kaleidoscopic-like rise to hints and semblances from memory’s storehouse, some of which I selected and disguised for fiction. That is to say, yes, certain aspects of my history did manifest knowingly at times, at times spontaneously and distantly, as ghostly north-south structures, as composite personae, as moles and stains and tears and glistening rain and dark bottles of beer, rooms of cigarette smoke, hay lofts and pigs. Here’s a quote from the acknowledgements that may serve to illustrate this point.
“Two memories served as starting points for a short story I wrote that eventually became this novel. One was of my Kentucky grandmother as she emerged from a shed with a white chicken held upside down in one of her strong bony hands. I, a boy of nine and a “city slicker” from Detroit, looked on in wonderment and horror as she summarily wrung the poor creature’s neck. It ran about the yard frantically, yes incredibly, as if trying to locate something it had misplaced as if the known world could be set right again, recreated, if only that one thing was found. And then of course it died. The second memory was of lantern light reflected off stones that lay on either side of a path to a storm cellar me and my grandparents were headed for one stormy night beneath a tornado’s approaching din. There was wonderment there too, along with a vast and looming sense of impending doom.”
I read the usual assigned stuff growing up, short stories by Poe, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Scarlet Letter, The Cherry Orchard, Hedda Gabler, a little of Hemingway, etc. I also read a lot of Super Hero comic books (also Archie and Dennis the Menace) and Mad Magazine was a favorite too. I was also in love with my beautiful third grade teacher and to impress her pretended to read Gulliver’s Travels for which I received many delicious hugs.
It wasn’t until much later that I read Huckleberry Finn. I did read To Kill A Mockingbird too. I read Bastard Out of Carolina and The Secret Life of Bees. I saw the stage play of Hamlet and read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle too. However, thematic similarities to these works occurred to me only after I was already well into the writing of Then Like The Blind Man. Cormac McCarthy, Pete Dexter, Carson McCullers, Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Conner and Joyce Carol Oates, to name but a few, are among my literary heroes and heroines. Tone and style of these writers have influenced me in ways I’d be hard pressed to name, though I think the discerning reader might feel such influences as I make one word follow another and attempt to “stab the heart with…force” (a la Isaac Babel) by placing my periods (hopefully, sometimes desperately) ‘… just at the right place’.
Freddie Owens’ latest book is Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie’s Story.
Visit his website at www.FreddieOwens.com.
Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life! Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process. Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning? Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?
Thanks for inviting me to this interview. It's a delight to answer your questions. As for origins, two memories served as starting points for a short story I wrote that eventually became my debut Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie's Story. One was of my Kentucky grandmother as she emerged from a shed with a white chicken held upside down in one of her strong bony hands. I, a boy of nine and a 'city slicker' from Detroit, looked on in wonderment and horror as she summarily wrung the poor creature's neck. It ran about the yard frantically, yes incredibly, as if trying to locate something it had misplaced as if the known world could be set right again, recreated, if only that one thing was found. And then of course it died. The second memory was of lantern light reflected off stones that lay on either side of a path to a storm cellar me and my grandparents were headed for one stormy night beneath a tornado's approaching din. There was wonderment there too, along with a vast and looming sense of impending doom.
Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?
Well some genre writers claim that making an outline of a book first makes the writing easier. I don't think I could do that myself (at least not easily). I should first make clear that I don't consider Then Like the Blind Man to be genre fiction; I consider it literary fiction, this in spite of the fact that reviewers and booksellers tend to categorize it variously as historical, coming of age, mystery / suspense and even thriller. In writing it I remember I had a large flat tabletop covered with scraps of paper and pages of copious notes semi-haphazardly-organized into semblances of chapter sequences, which I would mull over obsessively, from time to time getting rid of whole sections or adding new ones. You might have mistaken me then for the mad but brilliant mathematician John Nash (who Russell Crowe played in the movie A Beautiful Mind) with all his walls covered in papers and desperate red lines connecting imaginary dots across miles of paranoid space. An author like Eudora Welty could well have cited me for having provided a blueprint for sanity and solution for trouble. She might also have commended an effort, though gross and faltering, at navigating the darkness. You might recall the comparison (I can't remember where it came from) that describes writing a novel as being a lot like driving at night with headlights. You might not be able to see the journey's end, but you can see far enough ahead to make it. I like that comparison, and I come to no conclusions. You might throw plans out the window and succeed (as Welty did so brilliantly) at including the mystery of life or you could end up with the sort of hodgepodge nobody understands. And what good would that be? To me the main questions are: Do you have a vision? and if so, What is it?
Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?
After many years of 'almost' and 'no' or 'yes but we wouldn't know how to market it' from agents and publishers alike, I've opted for 'certainly' and 'yes' instead, taking all my marbles to Amazon's Independent Publisher's Assistant, Createspace, which has become the home base of the phantom publisher Blind Sight Publications. In other words, Blind Sight Publications (aka Freddie Owens) published Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie's Story
Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?
Well, since it is a first book and self-published, most everything about the process was a surprise. I'm going to brag a little here so feel free to skim or skip these next few sentences. My book got excellent reviews. These came from very reputable reviewers like The San Francisco Book Review, Publisher's Weekly, Midwest Book Review and ForeWord First Book Review. Most recently it got a starred Kirkus Review, the star signifying they regard the book one of exceptional merit. Customers liked it as well. As of this writing it has 166 customer reviews on Amazon with a star rating of 4.3, not bad. It was put on a list of 2012 favorites at the San Francisco Book Review, was regarded as an outstanding coming of age story at ForeWord First Book Review and became a quarter finalist in Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award competition for 2013. It also won best in literary fiction for 2013 from Indie Reader Discovery Awards.
All this was excellent – and blew my socks off (truth be told), the book being a mere self-published venture. But what was even more surprising was how little all this seemed to matter in terms of the book's making it into the so-called big time. Sales have been only very moderate to mediocre, though it recently climbed into the bestseller ranks on Amazon, which is not necessarily difficult to do because some of Amazon's categories only require a handful of sales for such ranking. You can work hard and write a very good book and even get praises from more than a few reputable reviewers but these alone don't guarantee success. That for me was the biggest surprise. A bigger surprise than that might be that it lands upon the right desk out there somewhere – and really takes off.
Q: Can you describe the feeling when you saw your published book for the first time?
Well, I was proud of it, of course. It was a pretty big delicious moment, remembering all the hard work that went into it, years and years in fact, and remembering the time I almost gave up on it having received so many rejections from agents and publishers alike. I savored that moment; believe me I did. I may have even had a glass of wine.
Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?
I've been fussing around with a scene or two for what I hope will be the sequel to Blind Man and have been ruminating about the sequel itself, where it should begin and where it will go. Just because it's literary fiction, doesn't mean it needs to end with the one book. No, if the story can, it will - continue.
Q: Fun question: How does your book contribute to making this world a better place?
Well, this sounds more like a serious question than one meant for fun – but I'll make it fun anyway. It reminds me of what sorcerer Don Juan said to Carlos Castaneda when Carlos presented to Don Juan a copy of his first book, The Teachings Of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way Of Knowledge, which described his apprenticeship to Don Juan. I don't remember the exact words – and I'm too lazy at the moment to go look them up – but I think they were something along the lines of "In Mexico, you know what we do with paper?"
Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?
There is a message but I prefer the reader discover it without my help. I can give one hint however, which is that the book's protagonist, Orbie Ray, poses a question to his Granpaw: If you wanted to destroy something, why would you want to save it too? The answer to this question encompasses what for me became the main 'message' of the book. Go find it out. To do so, obviously, you'll have to read the book. That, to me, would be just dandy.
Q: Thank you again for this interview! Do you have any final words?
I seem to have contracted a style, yet I'm not quite sure what that style is - except that it won't let me write certain things on Facebook. I have contracted a name too it seems. And a face. And a body. And forty seven different flavors of who am I. I have a mother. I have a father. A sister. And a brother. Friends. Three dogs. A knife. A spoon. Dental Floss and a pair of fancy tight jeans. Is the world waiting for me to save it? What is this thing called World anyway and who was it told me it was false but that I should work like hell to save it? Purifying forty seven flavors of who am I. I've no idea what this means or even if it's allowed on Facebook. Mother, sister, father, brother, friends, dogs - a small sharp knife with a bent point that refuses to fit in the slot. Did God come to tell me She is real? The world false? Did Buddha? It's just an ordinary Wednesday night and I seem to have contracted a style - and a name - and a body - but when I look for the one who did, I can't seem to find him anywhere. Yet here came all these words.
Good night, my friends. Sleep. Sleep like you've never slept before.
Oh, and here's a link to a book trailer with legs. http://bit.ly/1dnWwwN
Freddie Owens is giving away a Kindle Fire HD!
- By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
- One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive the Kindle Fire HD.
- This giveaway begins January 24 and ends March 28.
- Winner will be contacted via email on Monday, March 31, 2013.
- Winner has 48 hours to reply.