Interview with Author Allen B. Boyer by Melissa Brooks
Allen Boyer has a busy life as a father of three and a teacher, but he still manages to find time to write. He is the author of the Bess Bullock Retirement Home Mysteries and the Dupree Sister Mysteries. I interviewed him to find out more about his inspiration, his writing, and what he is currently working on.
1. Have you always been interested in writing?
When I was young, I first took an interest in the sound of language. My Dad would read poetry to me before bed sometimes. That’s when I took an interest how beautiful words could sound together. I started writing poetry in college and then moved on to short stories and then novels.
2. What inspired you to start writing mysteries?
Reading James Joyce and Henry James in college taught me that mysteries about people and human nature made for interesting reading. They were my favorite authors in college and two of my inspirations for the Bess Bullock series.
3. What is your writing process like? How does writing a story start for you?
Writing a story, for me, involves putting down random scenes that I see in my head. When I have enough scenes, I begin to try to sew them together with a narrative. That’s how most of my books begin.
4. Do you get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
One series I write is the Bess Bullock Retirement Home series. Each book in the series has a theme to it. The first book deals with defining retirement, then the second book centers on defining love in the golden years. After five books, I simply ran out of ideas.
Then one day I was walking my dog by a retirement home near my house and I saw something that sparked an idea. Another theme to explore in that series. I think there are always ideas out there, but the challenge comes in knowing which ideas will plug into a story or a novel.
5. How did your visits to a retirement home contribute to your writing of the Bess Bullock series?
For me, writing is about using all the sensations. So when I go to a retirement home, I think all of my senses are engaged. Visiting just allows me to soak in the details to include in my stories. The sounds, the smells and the sights all add to making a story richer for the reader.
6. How did the character of Bess Bullock develop as you wrote her?
I had a sweet aunt in a retirement home not far from me. When I visited her, it was clear she could charm the socks off any resident or nurse. That charming quality was one half of Bess Bullock.
The analytic side came from my wife’s grandmother. She would read a book a week, took college courses into her 90s, and lived to be a hundred. She did everything to keep her brain sharp. She was the person who inspired the other half of my Bess Bullock character.
7. How does writing the Dupree Sisters series compare to writing the Bess Bullock series?
Well, Bess is about looking into the little mysteries that she finds in her retirement home. The mysteries usually involve curious behaviors she witnesses, or people with interesting problems looking for her help. No one gets murdered in these books. They tend to be feel good stories that focus on the little mysteries of human nature.
The Dupree Sisters are not in a retirement home. In fact, they are well-connected socialites in Washington D.C. who are in their golden years. They know everyone and everything that happens in the town. They use their social connections to solve murder mysteries. Unlike Bess, they find themselves in more serious circumstances when looking into murders.
I’m about an hour and a half away from Washington. It’s a city I enjoy visiting so I love using it as a backdrop for these books. The first Dupree mystery contained a lot of information about St. Johns Church, also known as The Presidents Church since every sitting president has visited the church at least once. The second book I got to do a lot of research about Blair House. I love incorporating those facts into the stories.
8. Are you working on anything right now? Any plans to add to the Bess Bullock series?
The next Bess Bullock novel, Discrete in the Heat, is almost done. I was hoping to wrap it up this year, but it’s looking like early 2019 is when it’ll be out. I’m also in the early stages of starting another Dupree Sisters mystery. Doing research on a setting for the third book in that series.