About the Author:
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.
wunderkind in the segregated South of the 1950s and the forces he must overcome to restore order in his world. Rich in authentic vernacular and evocative of a time and place long past, this absorbing work of magical realism offered up with a Southern twist will engage readers who relish the Southern literary canon, or any tale well told.
Nine-year-old Orbie already has his cross to bear. After the sudden death of his father, his mother Ruby has off and married his father’s coworker and friend Victor, a slick-talking man with a snake tattoo. Since the marriage, Orbie, his sister Missy, and his mother haven’t had a peaceful moment with the heavy-drinking, fitful new man of the house. Orbie hates his stepfather more than he can stand; this fact lands him at his grandparents’ place in Harlan’s Crossroads, Kentucky, when Victor decides to move the family to Florida without including him. In his new surroundings, Orbie finds little to distract him from Granpaw’s ornery ways and constant teasing jokes about snakes.
As Orbie grudgingly adjusts to life with his doting Granny and carping Granpaw, who are a bit too keen on their black neighbors for Orbie’s taste, not to mention their Pentecostal congregation of snake handlers, he finds his world views changing, particularly when it comes to matters of race, religion, and the true cause of his father’s death. He befriends a boy named Willis, who shares his love of art, but not his skin color. And, when Orbie crosses paths with the black Choctaw preacher, Moses Mashbone, he learns of a power that could expose and defeat his enemies, but can’t be used for revenge. When a storm of unusual magnitude descends, he happens upon the solution to a paradox that is both magical and ordinary. The question is, will it be enough?
Equal parts Hamlet and Huckleberry Finn, it’s a tale that’s both rich in meaning, timely in its social relevance, and rollicking with boyhood adventure. The novel mines crucial contemporary issues, as well as the universality of the human experience while also casting a beguiling light on boyhood dreams and fears. It’s a well-spun, nuanced work of fiction that is certain to resonate with lovers of literary fiction, particularly in the grand Southern tradition of storytelling.
Virtual Book Tour Highlights:
Praise for Then Like the Blind Man:
"This is a first novel by this author and I believe he did a marvelous job combining historical fact with fiction to bring us the story of one boy's struggle to cope and understand his life."
-- Miki's Hope (Click here to read more)
"So if you loved Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, To Kill a Mockingbird then why not give Freddie Owen's THEN LIKE THE BLIND MAN a read.? the author did a wonderful job of character descriptions and fitting them into the plot. He showed how a young person sometimes has to take on more adult responsibilities than he should. With faith, you can leave the bad things behind and start living. Lessons to be learned."
-- Books, Reviews, ETC (click here to read more)
"Then like the Blind Man is a peephole back through time to the 1950's South. By grounding his novel so firmly in an era of illusions, public personas and private demons Owens is able to play with the dichotomies of good and evil; of things apparent and those hidden and by doing so clearly illustrates through the character's of Orbie's sharecropping grandparents, who choose to defy convention, and impart to Orbie the only love he has ever known. No, nothing in rural Kentucky is taken for granted and for Orbie it has some of the best of what life has to offer."
-- The Most Happy Reader (click here to read more)
"This was a complete joy to read and one of my favourite "types" of stories. A book about boyhood in Kentucky during the 1950s. Coming of age, southern fiction, historical fiction, racial relations: all "genres" that appeal to me and nothing better than to find them altogether in one well-written book."
-- Back to Books (click here to read more)
"I have to say that my favorite part of this story had to be the southern dialect! The author certainly brings his characters to life with realistic twang that certainly allows me to imagine them living in Kentucky in the 1950's."
-- WV Stitcher (click here to read more)
"The dialect was so wonderful that I found myself reading with certain accents as characters changed and it helped really submerse myself into the story and time period."
-- Our Families Adventure (click here to read more)
"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 and my unincorporated Blind Sight Publications, the phantom home of Blind Man."
-- Confessions of a Reader (click here to read more)
"I witnessed my grandmother wring a chicken's neck when I was nine. It ran about the yard headless, spewing blood and flapping its wings as the life went out of it. For the chicken and for the boy I was too, there was something existentially irreversible about this, something horrific and final. I wanted to write about it, not so much just to describe the horrors of a chicken's death but to say something about how I, a nine-year-old, experienced these."
-- Blogcrics (click here to read more)
"I had a great time on a dairy farm with several of my cousins, milking cows, hoeing tobacco, running over the hills and up and down a creek that surrounded the big farm. I remember too, periods of abject boredom, sitting around my grandparents' place with nothing to do but wander about the red clay yard or kill flies on my grandmother's screened-in back porch."
-- The Book Connection (click here to read more)
"In the midst of writing the novel I became aware of how dependent the world is on one's point of view and how one's point of view is in turn dependent on the world. This to me was fascinating. I wrote the story (as suggested above) in first person and from the protagonist, Orbie Ray's point of view. In it Orbie comes to suspect Victor Denalsky, the novel's villain, of having murdered his father. The reader sees Victor but only through Orbie's eyes. Everything about Victor therefore is a function of how Orbie sees him, and Orbie's description of Victor is in turn heavily influenced by Victor's behavior. Victor tries to manipulate Orbie's point of view, cajoles and challenges it, at times violently, but in the end Orbie's view prevails, though profoundly transformed."
-- The Busy Mom's Daily (click here to read more)
"I find myself at times afraid of success, though this is what I seem to be striving for. Success is not bad, of course. We all (probably) want it. You (probably) want it. I want it. But I wonder whether the efforts made on its behalf are truly fruitful. I have made compromises; I've had to market my book, for example, more than I had envisioned, being self-published. This has eaten into my writing time. In fact, of late, writing time has been next to nil. Sometimes I wonder if there's an easier way to success, whether or not a more preplanned, formulaic approach to writing would yield greater results."
-- Sweet Southern Couture (click here to read more)
Click here to visit Freddie's official tour page.