Saturday, November 4, 2017

Interview With Warren Moore

One of the great parts about going to writer conferences is meeting the other writers.
Recently at Bouchercon, I had the privilege of partaking in Author Speed Dating, where we were paired with another author, and gave a pitch about our work to a table of folks- and then did it 20 times, to 20 different tables.
Bouchercon writeup and pics here.

So my partner was Warren Moore (Professor Mondo)


By the end, we could recite each others' pitch. His sounded good, so I got his debut novel, Broken Glass Waltzes. If you like crime novels about sex. drugs, and rock 'n roll, you'll love this one.

Now let him tell us about it!

Q: Tell us about your latest book.

A. Broken Glass Waltzes is my first novel. It’s a noir piece, set in the Midwestern hard rock scene around 1990. Kenny Rockford is the drummer for Cincinnati’s most popular heavy metal band – the pay is enough to live on, but the benefits are even better. One of them is a girl named Jean Cassidy, who he takes home one night. When he learns she’s married, he decides to walk away. She doesn’t. Complications ensue.

Q: How does it differ from your earlier work, or from other books in the genre?

A. I think BGW is anchored in the classic noir and pulp traditions of writers like Jim Thompson and James M. Cain, but has a contemporary setting and sense of place. Dee Snider (of Twisted Sister) once told me that it really captured the rock and roll lifestyle – though not his, he added thankfully.

Q: What do you use as the setting for your novels?

A. The book takes place in the greater Cincinnati area, where I grew up, and in the clubs where I’ve seen (and played) my share of gigs over the years. It’s a place I know, and a scene I knew. Jonathan Valin’s “Harry Stoner” P.I. series showed me that Cincinnati could have mean streets like any other city, so I figured if the Queen City could handle private eyes, it could handle noir.

Q: How would your main character react to different people?

A. Kenny’s pretty much a working-class guy, but instead of working in a factory, warehouse, or carpet store, he punches the clock behind a Yamaha drum set. As such, he’s just another 25-year-old guy with a job, but maybe with longer hair than usual. He’s not looking for trouble, but has played before enough rough crowds to handle it when it comes to him. Most of the time…
Jean, on the other hand, is much more of a chaos factor. She can go from seductive to terrifying in an instant. If you try to keep up with her, you’ll need a neck brace.

Q: How was your protagonist created as a character? Where did they come from?

A. Kenny and I have a fair amount in common: We both play drums. We both like loud music, baseball, and comics. We both come across as wise-asses, but a lot of that is the shell over someone who doesn’t really know how to fit in when they’re offstage. I’m smarter than Kenny (I hope), but pieces of my life pop up in his here and there.
Jean has elements of several different women I’ve known over the years, but a lot of her, thank God, is just Jean.

Q: What were the major influences that drove you to write?

A. It’s just always something I’ve done. My parents were both strongly interested in art, music, and reading, (they met as commercial art students in high school) so I grew up in a house where doing creative stuff was just something people could do, even if they made their livings in other ways.
As to why and how I write the way I do, my influences would include Lawrence Block, Harlan Ellison, and William Kotzwinkle, along with the above-mentioned Thompson and Valin. (I was born on Thompson’s 59th birthday, so if you find significance in such things, there you go.)

Q: Are there any themes in this book, or in your work in general?

A. Not intentionally, but when I take off my writer cap and put on my English Professor mortarboard, I think a lot of my stories are about isolation and people who have to deal with who they are, or who they may have discovered themselves to be.

Q: What advice can you offer the fledgling writer?

A. Read widely and deeply. Write frequently (and with greater discipline than I have.) Learn things like grammar and spelling; the language is your tool kit, and you should know how to use those tools correctly and effectively (as well as when it’s OK to use a screwdriver as a prybar in an emergency.)

Q: What drives you to write?

A. That’s a tough one for me, because I’ve always written – there are tapes of me making up songs and stories before I could actually write. As I said, I grew up in a home where reading and writing were perfectly acceptable things for a person to do, so I did them and still do.
Having said that, other motivations along the way were to impress girls (didn’t work) and to make some extra money (which has happened here and there.) Now I find myself writing for the sake of the work itself – am I pleased with these things that I’ve made? And that’s becoming a yes more often than it once was. I’m not ashamed of the older stuff I’ve written – it’s good for what it was, I think, but I like the stuff I write now more than I do the stuff I wrote 25 years or so ago. But even so, I would have written stuff anyway; it’s just a thing I do.

Q: How has your background shaped your writing?

A. The home stuff I mentioned. I’ve told folks that I thought we were poor when I was a kid – I realized later that we were simply Bohemians living a semi-bourgeois lifestyle.
Obviously, I can write about rock and roll because I’ve played it (and still do, with the hearing loss to prove it), but I think in a larger sense I’ve spent lots of my life feeling like I didn’t really fit in. That’s probably one reason I’m an academic, because higher ed is an odd sock drawer for humanity, but it may also be a reason why I write about outsiders – I’ve always felt like one.

Q: The publishing world is a strange and scary place. Can you speak to that?

A. Heh. BGW was originally published by a small press in 2013. However, almost immediately upon its release, life got in the way of the good people at that company, and things basically imploded. That’s always a risk in the indie realm, but thank heaven for the people who try, even if it doesn’t always work. So the book was basically orphaned in fairly short order. But I was lucky enough to meet the folks at Down & Out Books, and so the novel is getting what I hope will be the exposure it deserves.

Q: Take us through your writing process from start to finish. Do you have a prescribed way of doing things, or do you have more of a "free form" approach?

A. I’m “Mr. Bad Example,” I’m afraid. I don’t really schedule my writing; generally I do it on an “as needed” basis. Sometimes the need is internal, and sometimes it’s external (as in, “Oh, yeah – I promised someone a story. Better write it, huh?”) While I may have scenes, titles, or lines that come into my head in advance, I typically “pants it,” and my main objective is to get out of the way of my story until it gets me to that scene or line I mentioned at the beginning of the sentence. I’ve written at least one published story while proctoring an exam for my British Literature class. Most of the time, though, I have some kind of music going while I write. Typically it’s either instrumental (Surf or prog rock, Bach, or the American Analog Set) or something so familiar that it keeps me from being distracted. I almost never do second drafts – because I was a magazine journalist for a number of years between my M.A. and my Ph.D., I learned to write very readable copy, editing as I type. As I said, I’m a lousy example.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to discuss?

A. Just that I’m grateful for this opportunity to get acquainted with your audience. Also, if you or they would like to read my thoughts on a variety of issues great and small – usually small – they can find my blog at, or on twitter as @profmondo. Finally, I want to express how important it is for writers (well, this writer, anyway) to hear from readers. It lets us know someone’s out there paying attention, and that means a lot. Thanks again!

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