Warren Bull has won a number of awards including Best Short Story of 2006 from the Missouri Writers’ Guild, Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave short story contest, The Mysterious Photo Contest in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and Best short story in Strange Mysteries Anthology. He was a finalist for the Young Adult Discovery Award and a Derringer Award. He has more than forty short stories published, novels Abraham Lincoln for the Defense, Heartland and Murder in the Moonlight, and a short story collection, Murder Manhattan Style.
Please tell everyone a bit about yourself, Warren.
Warren: I spent my childhood in Rock Island, Illinois, which is along the Mississippi river. I attended Knox College, where one of the Lincoln – Douglas debates took place, and the University of Illinois. My graduate training was at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and what is now Alliant University in Fresno, California.
I was first licensed as a psychologist in 1983, and have worked for agencies and in private practice with people of all ages as a therapist and as an administrator. I worked as a clinical psychologist for more than twenty-five years but still claim to come from a functional family.
I blog at Writers Who Kill. I’m a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime and an active member of Mystery Writers of America.
When did the writing bug bite, and in what genres?
Warren: I had a very good writing teacher in the fourth grade and I’ve been writing ever since. My mother used to read letters I sent her from college to the neighbors, which I discovered to my deep embarrassment during my first visit home from the holidays. As a psychologist, I shared an office with Casey Dorman who wrote e-novels long before they became popular. Casey’s an excellent writer and a good guy, but I thought if he could do it so could I. I write mostly mysteries because I enjoy mysteries and I’ve written essays, memoirs, general or “literary” fiction, historical fiction and fantasy.
When you started to write what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
Warren: Good question. My initial goal was to get published. Once I got published, my goals evolved and they continue to evolve over time. I’m not very interested in “solve the puzzle” mysteries. I like to read and write about characters in a variety of setting facing life challenges. I’d like readers to identify with my characters and share their experiences. I’ve written about Abraham Lincoln as a great man who is flawed and fully human.
Tell us about your latest book.
Warren: Heartland available at Avignon Press is a Young Adult novel recently chosen as the Book of the Day by Killer Nashville. The paperback edition is available at the link above. Please support the publisher who supported me.
Sixteen-year-old Tom Allen life is imploding. His father has all but vanished from his life; Tom’s stepfather is entirely too involved. Tom’s beloved grandmother suffers a stroke, which leaves his mother emotionally distant. Meanwhile his sister is too sophisticated to worry about his concern. When Tom reads an old family memoir from his grandmother’s cedar chest, he becomes intrigued by his ancestors’ struggle to form one united family from two shattered families. They face man-made and natural dangers while they battle to survive the smoldering conflicts in “Bleeding Kansas” that will soon erupt into the bloodiest war in American history — the Civil War. With the help of friends and family, past and present Tom eventually comes to terms with the pain and possibilities of his own family.
What’s the hook for the book?
Warren: When the two riders appeared out of nowhere, I knew they came to kill my pa.
(The opening sentence.)
How do you develop characters? Settings?
Warren: With historical stories and novels research is essential. There are readers who know all about things like shooting a black power rifle or men’s trousers in the 1840s so if I refer to “cordite” before it was invented or write about a man putting something into his non-existent rear pants pocket, I am going to make readers angry They are going to throw my book against the wall and never buy anything else from me again. I like to have three independent sources for everything.
Who is the most unusual character?
Warren: I have a number of characters who keep popping up in my work because they keep popping up in my head. One of them has been in half a dozen short stories in various venues but he never gives his name. I know it but he wants to keep a low profile. I don’t know that anyone except me knows how often I write about him. He is a veteran of World War II who fought in the battle of the bulge, like my father. He has a post-traumatic stress disorder and a deep – set distrust of authority.
Do you have specific techniques that help you maintain the main course of the plot?
Warren: I use a timeline and a list of characters. I also make a few notes of events that I want to use. Every time I try to use an outline I get bored with the story before I get the novel written. I wish I could use an outline but I can’t.
What colors your writing?
Warren: I worked as a psychologist for more than twenty-five years, which gave me the opportunity to know and work with a wide variety of people I would probably never have met otherwise. I worked with people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, religions and social classes. My clients had many unusual life experiences.
Also, although I am a male Caucasian, I have lived and worked in settings where my ethnicity and gender made me a minority.
Share the best review that you’ve ever had.
Warren: I’m grateful that Murder Manhattan Style has garnered some great reviews. The stories have been compared to the works of Damon Runyon and Raymond Chandler. New York Times Bestselling author Nancy Pickard wrote, “Warren Bull is a short story master, and this collection shows him at his best with quick stories told in crisp, clear prose. There’s variety, drama, history, humor, pathos, compassion and even Shakespeare here, along with surprising and satisfying endings to every story.”
What are your current projects?
Warren: I am working on two very different projects at the moment. I am waiting for copyediting on a short story collection of very dark stories tentatively titled, No Happy Endings, and I am about 1/3 of the way into a middle grade novel about the adventures and misadventures of three sisters whose mom has run off with a rock bank. I am busily researching television schedules, mimeographs and dial telephones in the early 1960s.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
Warren: I have a website http://www.warrenbull.com/
An author dashboard on Goodreads Goodreads Author Page
And an author page on Amazon.com Warren Bull’s Author Page
Thank you for joining us today, Warren.
Warren: Thanks for the opportunity.