Interrogation—Warren Moore

Who: Warren Moore

What: His short fiction has been published in venues ranging from Spinetingler to The American Culture, and Out of the Gutter, as well as in three print anthologies edited by Lawrence Block. His 2013 novel, BROKEN GLASS WALTZES, has just been republished by Down & Out Books. Moore lives in Newberry with his wife and daughter.

Where: South Carolina

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Congrats on the (re)release of BROKEN GLASS WALTZES. What was the inspiration for this story?

One rainy night in November of 1990, I was driving around Lexington, KY, listening to the Misfits. Suddenly, a scene popped into my head—it would become the first four pages of Chapter 10 of BGW. I knew I could build a book around it, and saved the scene under the title “Die, Die My Darling,” which was the song I was listening to when inspiration hit. The next day, I went to the University of KY library and found that the Misfits had lifted the title from a 1965 Tallulah Bankhead movie.

I put the title on hold, and started reverse-engineering my way from that scene. “Who are these people? How did they get there?” So I got hold of Kenny (the narrator)’s voice, and mainly tried to get out of the way. After a while, the new title showed up and resonated in my head, because it felt both literary and pulpy. I finished it a couple of years later, as I was working as a magazine editor in Cincinnati; I lived over the river in Kentucky, not far from Jean’s apartment in the book.

Why set this story during the brief window between hair metal and grunge?

Well, as I’ve said on occasion, it wasn’t a period piece when I wrote it! However, when I was going to clubs and seeing bands, they were typically Midwestern metal. Grunge hadn’t really caught on in the hard rock scene there, and certainly not in the kind of clubs I was visiting—those bands (including the kind of metallic art-rock band I was playing in at the time) were gigging over near the U of Cincinnati, and except for the Afghan Whigs, those guys weren’t getting regular shows. So if I wanted to write about a guy making a living playing rock in the area, it was still pretty much hair metal. There were a couple or three hard rock bands that played the bigger rock bars on a regular basis, and I took bits of them as the model for The Selekt, Kenny’s group.

How did BROKEN GLASS WALTZES find its new home with Down & Out Books?

It was a roundabout process, really. As I said, I finished the book in the early 90s. So I read a few years’ worth of Writer’s Market, and saw that I apparently needed an agent. I shopped the book around for a while and collected rejections, many of which were along the lines of “People who read don’t like metal, and people who like metal don’t read.” After a few years of this, I put the book in a drawer and basically stopped doing fiction. For the next few years I focused on scholarly work, and did some freelance journalism to help pay the bills while I did the Ph.D. When I wrote the occasional story for departmental readings and such, I’d stick it on my website.

Somewhere around 2011 or ’12, I was on FB, and someone who had found those stories asked if they could publish some of them sat their webzine. That reminded me of BGW, and in the meantime, indie publishing had blown up, so I thought I’d give it another chance. I had a near-miss with a Name Publisher, and was encouraged enough to give it another shot. The first indie publisher I ran across was Snubnose Press, and they liked it.

So the book came out in 2013, just as the challenges of trying to balance paying the bills and running a publisher caught up with Snubnose. No hard feelings—it just happens sometimes. And presto! I had an orphan. Another publisher was interested, but it collapsed before they could bring it to light. They suggested that I give Down & Out a shot. I met Eric at B’con ’15 in Raleigh; we hit it off, and I’m really happy the book is getting the chance I always thought it warranted.

You’re also an English professor. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever given a student? What’s the worst advice? 

I think the best writing advice I’ve given a student is the best advice I have for any writer: Read a lot. Write a lot. Tell the kind of story you’ve learned you like to read—Contempt for material or for an audience shows through. You don’t have to become a grammarian, but learn how the language works, because that’s the toolbox you have.

The worst advice? Probably when I’ve recommended grad school to some of my brightest students. Not because there’s anything wrong with grad school per se, but because the academic job market for my field is somewhere between lousy and “Stephen King novel.” The kids are amazing and bright, and in a just world, they’ll succeed, but I write noir. Just world? Pfft. I fear I may be giving them directions to a very difficult pathway.

You’ve also been a journalist, tire salesman, stand-up comic, advertising copywriter, magazine editor, and drummer. How do those varied experiences inform your writing?

I really think it may be the other way around—that my writing, or more broadly, my love for putting words together, has driven most of the stuff I’ve done along the way. I’ve made up stories and songs pretty much since I was a toddler. And with the possible exception of drumming, all those jobs I held focused on communicating – getting narratives, stories (or reasonable facsimiles thereof) from my head into an audience’s. Even with drumming, I often think of the parts I play—fills and such—as statements or comments, an element of the musical dialogue taking place onstage. Increasingly I suspect that a huge amount of our lives is a function of rhetoric. (Sorry for going Poindexter there—occupational hazard.)

Do you listen to music when you write?

I listen to music almost incessantly, whether writing or not. When I’m writing, though, I tend to listen to music I’ve known for years – these days, that’s mainly ‘60s garage and psychedelia. It creates a comfortable sensory background and allows me to focus on what’s inside my head.

What’s your favorite drummer joke?

I think they all resolve to this one:

What did the drummer get on the SAT?

Saliva.

What’s next for you?

Well, as it happens, my new story “The Birthmark and the Brand” just appeared in BETRAYED, a charity anthology from Authors on the Air Press. On 5 December, my story “Ampurdan” is appearing in  ALIVE IN SHAPE AND COLOR, an anthology edited by Lawrence Block. And with luck, there should be a collection of my shorter work emerging from Down & Out in 2018.

I also wanted to add that I really appreciate your having me on here at the blog. It puts me in the company of some really good writers, and I’m glad to be there!

Find Warren Moore: Website, Facebook

Some Recent Interviews:

S.W. Lauden is the Anthony Award-nominated author of the Tommy & Shayna novellas, CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). His Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in Los Angeles.

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