1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
There came a time almost twenty years ago that I felt I had actually been quite fortunate to have had so many experiences already during my lifetime that I wanted to share. I had invented and patented some laser technology which could, if introduced deep inside the human body, remove even potentially lethal obstructions, as in clots in small blood vessels and otherwise. I had practiced medicine and surgery around the world. And more.
I focused first on a few of those and wrote short articles about some of them. Mirage in the Desert was about my period of living and working in the Persian Gulf. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow had to do with some of the tragic losses in my life when I lost loved ones under the most painful of circumstances. Something From Nothing was about the strange process of inventing with all of its uncertainty– somehow, one day, coming to believe you actually had stumbled upon something new and potentially important or valuable. Monster in the Midst was about the tragedy of living with a loving spouse who is turned into a human monster by the emergence of violent, psychotic bipolar disorder. But then I felt there was more I could say and at the time, to me, the most efficient way to do that was using free verse. That lead to my anthology of some 88 poems I wrote over the course of about one year. In 2018, finally, I decided to write At the Point of a Knife, a narrative that encompassed a lot of the above in just one book.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
At the Point of a Knife is also the story of a lot of things that can go very wrong, with the backdrop of a lot of others which are very right. I was certain that there are so many people who struggle with living with severe untreated mental illness, even if that manifests itself in a partner or someone else very close. It is tragic in its destruction, and with the stigmas about such things which run so strongly in society, there must be better ways. First, though, something cried out for this tragic type of circumstance to be called out and exposed. Somehow society needs to not only recognize the enormous destruction that these severe mental illnesses cause to it, not only to the affected individuals directly, but it needs to open channels for proactively identifying these ill people who desperately need help, and force them to get it! The costs of not doing so are far too great. Mental hospitals hardly exist any longer in the U.S., but if the stigmas are removed, their benefits are great and the costs of not having them are extreme. Having these facilities is half the battle. Forcing their use in extreme situations is the rest- proactively, not after people die and lives and livelihoods are ruined.
After my experience with losing fabulous children who were so horribly abused by their other, alienating parent, ruining our family and my relationship with them and theirs with me, I came to realize that there were many such circumstances, albeit with differing degrees of adverse impact. In the 90s when my children were so severely alienated and abused, Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) was still being broadly challenged in society, in essence a cover up of an enormous problem which destroys families. Since, through the hard work of many dedicated mental health, medical, social work, justice and other professionals, that has changed to a signficant extent, although the battle still rages in society about PAS. But it turns out, quite conclusively so unfortunately, that if courts don’t both enforce custody and visitation by and with the non- alienating, normal parent and restrict and severely control the visitations with the alienating one, the problem will not only not be solved, it will become permanent. When the abused, alienated children grew up, they retain that ‘blind spot’ in their brains inculcated by the abuse, and they can not re- form relationships with the non- alienating parent. Again, as with severe mental illness, ignoring the problem is horribly destructive and futile, and proactivity, by society, in all such cases is imperative. This is one situation for judicial pro- activity.
My problems, as described in At the Point of a Knife, also included how horribly one rogue judge was able to piggyback on his own sordid past to wield power from the bench which made a mockery of justice. While he turned a blind eye to the above mentioned severe problems squarely before him, the system let him carry on his own psychopathic brand of jurisprudence unabated, while he slashed and burned everything in his sight. Not satisfied with allowing a potential murderer to run loose, a beautiful family to be destroyed, he persisted in destroying a thriving start- up international business involving life- saving technology, a professional career and sought for as long as he could to put in jail his chosen victim. For the judicial system to hide behind veils of opacity, while according no recourse in reality even in situations of gross abuses of power by a few who clearly have no business having been given the trust placed in them, is simply a wrong crying out for change. Juries of peers sit on crucial cases, both civil and criminal, in American jurisprudence. There is no reason that peers, ordinary citizens, can not sit in courtrooms so that when the obvious, gross abuse of power and justice does occur, they are there to see it and have the authority to make those few perpetrators of these quasi- judicial horrors disappear into the oblivion they deserve. Anyone sitting in that Virginia judge’s courtroom would have likely recognized in short order that he was an outlier who did not belong in that position. There were lawyers sitting in the gallery at times, unrelated to these cases, who said as much openly– but they had no power to act. No one deserves that kind of immunity from exhibiting even a minimum level of responsibility in society which places trust in their hands, or the impugnity to openly scorn that society while abjuring that trust.
Large companies are also given huge sway in our society. Perhaps even like big government itself, they become too big to control. Unrestrained, they continue to get bigger and more powerful yet. But since there are, alas, too many flaws in societies, manifested by the underlying flaws in the individuals of which they are comprised. Somehow the society must rein in not only the sickest individuals before they can harm themselves and others, they must control those who abuse their powerful positions for their own gain and to the detriment of so many others. My small, but very successful start- up hi- tech company was robbed blind by a few in power in some large companies that knew they could just steal our patented technology and probably never have to pay for it. By virtue of bonuses, stock options and the like, sometimes well deserved, othertimes not at all, those individuals could steal from us, not pay royalties and get away with millions. Their companies benefitted financially as well, but inventing is thwarted and society several disadvantaged when the incentive to invent is stifled, particularly when that is done totally illegally. We had fought for the international patents and we even managed to enforce them in courts. But the losers in all of that simply went on to lie and cheat about their royalty- bearing revenues, having little to fear. If, in the end, after almost endless litigation all over the world, we would win, time and again, they might have to pay, but no more really than what they owed in the first place. That is not justice, it favors the greedy and the rich and discourages the honest and the inventive among us in this type of situation. Patent cheating is theft and that is a crime, and societies should extend that type of control to patent infringement and to wanton breaches of patent royalty license agreements. Those crooked executives who are in it only for their own aggrandizement and care not a wit about who might benefit from new and better technology, including in the life sciences, or even if they ever do, should risk being put in jail for patent crimes. That might put some control in place on what, now, is their unfettered rampage over smaller inventors whose technology represents, collectively, the way forward for societies and stimulates the growth that they all need to stay healthy. Furthermore, the companies that steal this technology, if found guilty of same in the courts, should pay treble, not just once for their crimes and defalcations, and that might get the proper attention of their shareholder- owners who are all too happy now to put their crooked managers in place and look the other way from their foibles.
My story, told in At the Point of a Knife, from my experiences, points to a lot of grotesque wrongs that exist quite openly today and which reap huge destruction on our society because they are not realized and even less addressed in meaningful ways. It is death, injury, mental abuse and the collective pain and ravages of corruption, negligence and distrust. That is what inspired my writing this book.
3) What drew you into the field of developing new technologies and inventions as mentioned in your novel?
My entrance into the field of innovation, via the basic medical science investigations and inventions ultimately happened by accident. My late inventive partner asked me a seemingly simple question, having to do with laser energy, something I used in my clinical practice therapeutically, but the answers were anything but obvious. We discovered that no one else seemed to know those answers either. We experimented, with the laser energy, applying it in the laboratory to human and animal tissues, and we observed what happened. Eventually, quite literally, we stumbled upon a way to control that laser energy which produced the desired results we sought, but avoided the damaging ones which had thwarted prior efforts. We defined what we had done and that lead to patents being written, then prosecuted before patent offices around the world. As is often the case with innovation, it was happenstance. In this case, things went well.
4) What is the biggest obstacle facing the legal field in regards to mental health and those afflicted from it (not to mention the families of those individuals)?
How to make societies more attentive to and focussed on real problems is very difficult. The problems are complex and there are always seemingly forces of evil which miltate to take advantage of those problems rather than to ameliorate them. It is in the end about the people. If they want and can take responsibility, then that is hopeful. But when and if they won’t, they are doomed. Abdicating that responsibility is often disastrous, whether to those powerful in business or to those in even any branch of government too. After all, they are all made up of people, sometimes even the same people. Blindly trusting all justice makes that justice blind. When something is fundamentally wrong, someone has to be both motivated to, but also empowered to be able to do something about it. Letting a judge like the rogue described in At the Point of a Knife to act unempeded is disastrous. Letting a violent mentally ill individual, untreated, reak havoc on those nearest to her, and indirectly even those not so close, is calamitous. Similarly letting those in high authority in private industry trade on their enormous advantages unchecked is extremely dangerous. I believe we all need a much stronger fundamental level of responsibility and personal integrity, or else we are doomed. Society can not determine for any of us specifically what those things look like better than we individually can by deep personal searching within. Education is crucial, since the more each of us knows, the better chance we have.
5) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
The lessons I perceive from my own extensive experiences which are chronicled to some extent in At the Point of a Knife, and in my other writings, are varied and cut a broad swath through society. I have been very fortunate to have seen so much of that over many years. It is, now, difficult to point to any social media which directly speaks to a lot of that. Probably the answer may be that a lot of social media speaks to a little of what I write about and very little current social media speaks to a lot of it.
6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
People sometimes seem to say that writing a memoir or a narrative non- fictional story is cathartic. Actually, I am not sure that is so because it is so painful to do, and the pain persists. It is also a sacrifice, as such, but one I felt compelled to undertake in these ways, manifested by the written words. Also, as before so often in my life, whether in Medicine or in inventing life- saving laser technologies, in trying to be a loving parent and spouse and son, I like to believe I cared enough to make the effort, to face the problem and to react to it, this time in words rather than in deeds. Given how popular writing seems to be, that must be, in general, a good thing.
There are, of course, many genres of books, of stories, as there is variety in life itself. I seem to be inspired by what I have seen and felt. One can only encourage that sort of thing in others.
7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
For me it is important to continue to confront challenges, which is, to live. I continue to try to find what seems best, and to act on that as best I can. I continue to learn since that, too, should never end. I always want to find what motivates me most, and to act on that as much as I can. I continue to be inspired by those around me most, who I love. I continue to seek justice, even all too often in all too mediocre courts. But I continue to seek harmony, compromise and peace. I continue to try to support technology, inventiveness and innovation since, alas, it seems to me we continue to need those things. I continue to tell tales, and to write, as I am doing now.
About the Author
Kenneth R. Fox is the inventor of a great deal of laser medical technology and the patentee of many international patents. Dr. Fox has practiced Medicine in six countries on four continents and has lectured in many others. He has taught both Medicine and Business at several universities in a number of different countries. He is the author of many peer- reviewed medical and scientific articles, quite a few published poems and several short articles, mostly related to various aspects of health, but all based on his personal experiences over many years, as is At the Point of a Knife.
Your can find more at http://www.kennethrfox.com