Monday, November 28, 2011

Interview with D.M. Kenyon

What is The Lotus Blossom about?


[DMK Responded: ] The Lotus Blossom is about a girl who grows up in a suburb of a city and like most of her friends gets into texting, gossiping about kids at school, tanning salons and fashion.  She has been raised to participate in our mass-media driven consumer culture and does not give a second thought about it until one day she meets a meditation and martial arts master named Rinchen.  When she first meets him, she does not think much of it other than that he seemed rather odd.   One night after a party, she volunteers to take a drunkclassmate home because he is not able to drive.  He tries to attack her.  The heroine of my story, Maddie, who later becomes known as "Lhamo", not only escapes the attack, but becomes very angry and beats the guy up pretty badly (he is so drunk he can't really defend himself very well).   This shatters her belief that the world is a safe place and that she is just a cute girl.  She comes to realize that she has real power and that she can be just as dangerous as the guy who attacked her.
She ultimately comes to train with Rinchen and learns many of the things that the ancient samurai learned including how to be aware of everything around you, how to deeply care about people and how to fight if you have to.  This wakes her up in ways that she could not have possibly imagined before meeting her teacher.   The idea of the book is to take a look at whether or not we are training children in the right skills.  What would happen if kids stopped playing Call of Duty and actually learned real warrior skills?  Real warriors are not murderers. They are protectors and heroes that save people even from themselves. To me, a true warrior does what he or she does because she loves people and never acts out of hate.  Anger and strength are not the same thing.  This is what Lhamo learns in the book.
It kind of sounds very rosy and nice, but eventually a couple of really bad things happen to her and she has to really dig deep to apply what she has learned from Rinchen.  Another thing that she has to struggle with is that the more she wakes up, the harder it is to hang out with her old friends.  She starts to see some of them as kind of foolish, but has to learn to love them just the same.  This is harder for her than learning how to fight.

Where is your book available?

[DMK Responded: ] Currently, The Lotus Blossom is only available over the internet at Smashwords, Amazon and The Book Patch, but it can be ordered through any major bookstore including Barnes & Noble.  Smashwords makes the book available in e-book format through most bookstores and websites.

Where did you get the idea for your book?

[DMK Responded: ] I am a father of four children, two are my natural children and I have two step daughters.  My two natural children grew up in a dojo because, at the time, I was the children's instructor for a large Aikido school in St. Louis.  I was also studying to be a Tibetan Buddhist lama, a type of teacher, as well as practicing law.  That is quite a mish-mash of cultural stuff.  As a lawyer, I started to realize that I was really expected to behave like a knight or a samurai.  In other words, there were ethical rules that could never be broken and people depended on me to fight for their rights and to protect them.   I also started to learn about Budo, the art of war, and that deeply influenced me.  I learned that conflict was an inevitable part of life, but it did not necessarily have to be destructive.  The most important thing to do in a fight is to try to destroy hate.  If you can destroy hate, peace happens all by itself.  
My kids started in the dojo when they were four years old and trained for about five or six years.  My son loved it, but my daughter not so much even though she was arguably better at Aikido than her brother was.  They both grew up to be very smart people, but more importantly, they are deeply, deeply committed to serving humanity.  My son is studying to be a doctor and my daughter is still in college. She just spent the summer working for the Children's Defense Fund and hopes to work for the wellbeing of families when she begins her career.  Secretly, I think that she will probably become a lawyer like her mother and her father.  In any event, both of my kids are warriors of the right kind and I am very, very proud of them. (Can't you tell?)
My two step-daughters had a different educational background.  Whereas my kids went to Catholic school (there mother is Catholic), my step-daughters went to a public school in the suburbs.   I noticed that there was huge difference in what they were taught and how their friends behaved.  I noticed that my step-daughters actually have a much harder time figuring out what is real and what is trivial fluff.  Their friends are more into buying things and having things than they are into making a difference in society.  Their world at school is all about safety, comfort and wealth.  And yet, the people in that world do not seem to be all that happy.  It is kind of shallow and sad to me. 
Now, you know that no kid is going to listen to their parents lecture them about putting down a cellphone or turning off the television.  If a parent can't get through, well, a step-father will be positively ignored.  So, I decided to teach them what I wanted them to know by writing a book about a girl just like them who learns what I wanted them to learn.  Sneaky, heh?  I threw in some romance, fast motorcycles and action to keep their interest and there you have it -- The Lotus Blossom.

How did you come up with the title?

In the Buddhist world, the image of the lotus blossom is very well known and very well understood as the symbol for enlightenment.  There is also a different kind of lotus blossom in the story, but they both make the same point.  You see, a lotus blossom is better known in America as a water lily or the flower that grows from a lily pad.   This plant has to plant its seeds in muck.  It cannot grow on land and it cannot grow in clear water.  It needs the muck to live, but it also needs the clear sunshine and clean water that is found at the surface of a pond.   It resolves this problem by growing out of the muck and rising to the fresh, clean environment above through struggle.  This is much like the human mind.  It needs turmoil and struggle to learn and gain wisdom so that it can grow into the clear emptiness of enlightenment. In other words, an easy life keeps you in the muck whereas a life of contemplation and hard work brings you to the ultimate awareness.  Our culture does not always understand that.

Who designed the cover?

[DMK Responded: ] I designed both covers.  The book was originally released with the photograph of a young woman's chest with a lotus blossom tattooed on it.  The readers of my book loved that cover because it has very special meaning in the story.  Unfortunately, people who had not read the book thought that the book was about sex and they were getting the wrong idea.  The new cover is based on a 19th Century ukiyo-e print (traditional Japanese wood block print) of Tomoe Gozen, a famous woman samurai.  A lot of people in our country do not know that there were women samurai, but there were.  Tomoe Gozen is among the most famous of them.  This picture, however, has been Photoshopped so that Tomoe Gozen is listening to an iPhone through a headset.  It is a very fitting image for this book.

Do you have to travel a lot for your books?

[DMK Responded: ] Wow! What a good question.  Well, actually I wrote the whole thing sitting at my dining room table much to the consternation of my wife who thinks I should have worked elsewhere.  I live in an antique house and I love my dining room and get great inspiration there.  But to get back to your question, to know the things that I wrote about in the book, I had to go all over the place.  I studied Aikido with some of the art's greatest masters.  I also trained with some of the world's greatest Vajra masters.  It would take days to explain what a Vajra master is, but they are a very special kind of meditation teacher.  I have spent weeks at a time learning from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and I have my own teacher, a very nice man named Lama Lodu, who has taught me for years and years.  I have spent days and days in retreats meditating and learning and days and days being tossed around dojo mats.  I have traveled extensively and met many wise people and seen many wonderful things.  I have also seen many horrible things too.  I once saw a man get killed by machine gun fire and it made me very, very sad.  But, all in all, the world is an amazing place full of wonders and wonderful people and if you are smart and learn from them, they will teach you to find unshakeable happiness.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

[DMK Responded: ] Ha!  This is my first book.  I have written many, many long essays on mostly professional topics.  I wrote my senior thesis in college about my theory that Shakespeare's Richard III and Macbeth are really the same play reworked.  That was about 140 publisher pages long, but never before have I written a stand-alone book.  And here you are at twelve years old and I believe you mentioned that you are on book number three already.  I have always been a late bloomer.

If your book was a movie, who would you pick to play the main characters?

[DMK Responded: ] Wow! Again, a really tough and interesting question.  Well, well, let me see ....  The character of Lhamo should be played by an unknown actress because I would not want people to have an opinion about her when the movie started.  This would make her evolution as a person much purer to the minds of movie viewers.  The character of Rinchen could not be played by just anyone.  It would have to be an actor that commands considerable gravity and reverence.  Sam Harris is probably too old to play the character now because Rinchen in the book is in his mid-forties.  You could take a different tack on this, however.  I could see someone like Robert Downey, Jr. playing Rinchen.  He can portray great seriousness and he has an immense hidden compassion, almost a sadness that could really be brought to bear in the character.  Rinchen is a character who has seen the world, good and bad, and is deeply in love with it, but also deeply saddened by it.  You would have to have an actor who is intimate with the extremes of joy and pain.  Mr. Downey probably fits that description. It would take incredible emotional range to play Rinchen effectively.  Tripp and Megan would be equally hard to cast also because of their depth.  You need thoughtful rebels for their characters and no one flashy.  These kids are humble.  

Do you plan on writing sequels?

[DMK Responded: ] I am not a fan of sequelization although it appears to be a necessary evil if you ever hope to go mainstream.  What I am playing around with is the idea of making the next book the biography of Rinchen which would technically be a prequel.  After that, I want to catch up to Lhamo as she tries to find a career and see what she is able to bring to the working world as a seasoned Budoka.  There is a whole book waiting to be written about a female samurai facing the sexism and a long list of other injustices and inhumanities in the business world.

How long did it take you to complete The Lotus Blossom?

[DMK Responded: ] The Lotus Blossom is 177,000 words long.  That is nearly twice as long as most modern novels, par for the course of novels written before literature was so ridiculously commercial. I started on May 5, 2011 and was finished with the complete draft manuscript around July 10.  Yeah, I know, that is a lot of writing in a very short time.  I got a little obsessed there for a while.  The editing and proof reading took another month and a half and I am still not sure that I have it where I want it, but you have to draw the line somewhere.  The book pretty much just poured out of me.  I broke two keyboards on my computer writing it.

What is your favorite book?

[DMK Responded: ] Well, I am liking The Impenetrable Spy an awful lot at the moment.  I can't say I have a single favorite book because I like most of the books I read for a wide variety of reasons and, if I tell the truth, the vast majority of what I read is non-fiction.  But if you are going to nail me down here, and I am pretty sure you are, I would have to say that it is a toss-up between Mark Twain's Mysterious Stranger(all four versions) and the Horatio Hornblower series by C. S. Forester. I love well-researched historical fiction.  Oh yeah, I went bonkers for Across the Nightingale Floor and the Otori series by Lian Hearn.  You would like the Otori series.  Those books are real swashbucklers. 

About D.M. Kenyon:

[DMK Responded: ] I was born under a full moon as wolves gathered and howled at my arrival into this world ... no, wait, that was someone else.  As a teenager, I grew up on a farm in southern Michigan.  I spent a lot of time hiking and sitting in the woods thinking (and ducking out on chores).  I went to Kalamazoo College in Michigan and studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France.  Then came law school in St. Louis and soon after I got married and had two children.  I was a litigation attorney for about twenty years and got sick of it.  I got divorced when my kids were pretty young and that was a pretty rough time for me.  I really, really, really like being a dad.  I was always worried about my kids even though I had them half of the time.  I decided that I really did not know what I was doing in life so I did what I always do when I feel like I need to know about something -- I studied.  I started with Karate and was studying Zen Buddhism and then discovered Aikido and Tibetan Buddhism (they don't normally go together, but they do in my world).  I met my Buddhist master in the dojo when his students came to ask if he could use the facility as a place for him to give public teachings.  I was assigned by my sensei to take care of him.  I did not know how to take care of a Buddhist teacher, but I did know how to take care of a sensei, so I did that.  He was very impressed.  Several days later, I asked him to be my teacher.  He was sitting on the bench of a bus stop out in front of the dojo enjoying the cool night air.  I sat on my knees on the concrete and asked him to be my teacher. He was very happy and said, "I was hoping you were going to ask me that".  We have been friends now for seventeen years.

Eventually, I got older and it was getting harder to stay in shape.  I wanted to get into starting companies that helped the environment and created jobs for people who did not have them, so I did.  I am part owner of a company called Habitata Building Products and am part of a trade group that works on large green-tech projects.  And now, I write books too.  I am a pretty busy guy.  Lately, I have been thinking about starting a writer's circle of younger and older authors.  This would be a group that takes young authors seriously and gets everyone sharing knowledge and ideas.  When my son was in the dojo, I noticed that he really liked hanging with the older guys.  They always took him seriously.  He was a warrior with them and his age did not matter.  This did a lot for his evolution into the outstanding young man that he is today.  I think that there should be a writer's version of that.
Thank you for taking an interest in me and my book.  As we agreed, now, you have do an interview with me and I am cooking up some hum-dingers for you, young man.  

Your friend,
D. M. Kenyon (David Michael Kenyon)

His Website:
[DMK Responded: ] My blog can be found at www.blog.lotusblossombook.com.  I have a book site just for The Lotus Blossom that can be found at www.lotusblossombook.com.  I am going to be integrating that into the blog site soon and updating it.  I was just getting started when I posted the book site and I am not crazy about it. 

Social Media sites:
[DMK Responded: ] I only do Twitter and Facebook at the moment.  My Twitter name is @dmkenyon  and my Facebook page can be found atwww.facebook.com/david.m.kenyon 

Links to where his book is available:
 [DMK Responded: ] You can get my book on Smashwords: http://bit.ly/nMchLO   Amazon Kindle: http://amzn.to/u07wGQ  and in paperback at The Book Patch: http://bit.ly/pi5DPQ

4 comments:

  1. First, this is an excellent interview of a very important up and coming author. You were right to publish it.

    Second, I just want to say that I first met Spencer Brokaw in an airline terminal in Bangkok. He was on a mission to take out a terrorist cell in northern Laos and I was looking for some Pad Tai. We were both jumped in an alley on our way to get some noodles and he quickly dispatched three thugs and ushered me to safety while I mostly cried like a little girl. I owe him my life. He even paid for the noodles out of money that he lifted off the thugs. And that is what I really mean to say,the guy has class. He saves your life and then makes the bad guys pay, literally.

    If you you don't know and admire Spencer Brokaw, you are a punk.

    Rock on, dude. I still think you are midget that has already graduated from Harvard.

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  2. That was possibly the most funny comment in all internet history. I've never laughed so hard at something I've read on the internet. And you are an upcoming author that everyone should be reading. Keep up the good work!

    Spencer :)

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  3. If we can't have fun, why bother?

    DMK

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