Inside the Literary Mind of William Burgdorf
January 3, 2018
When I conduct research for my historical novels, I am continually uncovering topics that beg to be written about. The more I write, the more I need to write.
“What’ll we do with this huckleberry?” asks the Cowboy whose Winchester presses again Byron’s belt buckle.
“We take ’em to the boss. He’ll figure out what to do with him,” answers the Segundo.
The Bierman brothers deal with characters the likes of which only the West breeds and nurturers: the Earp brothers, Texas John Slaughter, Governor F.A. Tritle, Ike Clanton, Curly Bill Brocius, Al Sieber, and La Araña.
“If there are those who can’t defend themselves and wind up vulnerable, then Arizona Territory ain’t the place for them to stay,” says Byron. “It is what it is.”
Arizona Territory, 1880s, is enough to challenge anyone, but little do Byron and Braxton Bierman know that every turn on the trail brings them to defining moments. From Tombstone to Prescott, and Springerville to Phoenix, they face friends, foes, and nature. Braxton’s last line in the story is, “Brother, have I got a lot to tell you.”
Reader, The Arizonan has a lot to tell you too.
Here is my interview with William Burgdorf, author of The Arizonan. As one reviewer said of his novel: Author William Burgdorf transforms his reader back in time to the Arizona Territory in 1880. From cattle drives to cattle rustlers, the gun-toting Bierman brothers use every trick in the book to survive in this God-forsaken country. If you like Westerns, you won’t be disappointed In this uniquely written tale.
Q: Tell me about your newest book and what was the inspiration behind your writing it?
Burgdorf: The Arizonan (third novel in The Bierman Saga) was released in November 2017. It is a story of the Bierman brothers and their adventures in Arizona Territory of the 1870s. I was raised in Arizona, grew up during the era of television westerns, and experienced cowboy heroes like Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, Stewart Grainger, Slim Pickens, Gabby Hayes, and Richard Widmark, among many others, on the big screen. When John Wayne stepped out in Stagecoach, Hondo, Searchers, Red River, Fort Apache, and The Shootist my heart was forever tied to westerns.
In The Arizonan, The Bierman Saga comes to a close. The twins, Braxton and Byron, approach the territory differently; tangle with natural and man-made challenges, with outlaws and lawmen, Indians and army, and many unique Southwestern characters. Oh, along the way they find love.
Q: Why and when did you decide to become a writer?
Burgdorf: A great question. I was a professional in the corporate arena for forty-five years. I was successful in areas of sales, marketing, leadership, career development, and human resources. Then I retired. I found myself at loose ends, lost and wondering what I was going to do next. I discovered that the local junior college offered evening classes in writing. So, I decided to reinvent myself and do something that challenged me. My double major in history in undergrad studies fed my desire to share historical facts and my love of westerns gave me the license to create. So, I determined to give it a go.
My sister is a successful writer of historical romance novels. She’s worked hard and achieved outstanding recognition for her works. I figured if my little sister can write, I’d try as well.
I attended a class conducted by an engaging successful and renowned author. He discussed the intricacies of writing as the week after week ignited and cajoled writing skills that lay dormant. Oh, I’d written sales and training materials, but not short stories, novellas, or novels.
His revealing the avenue of indie publishing further fueled my desire. Without having a bureaucrat or hired employee to determine whether what I write is acceptable or not, I can create, publish, distribute, and sell my novels and let my readers determine their acceptability.
At the conclusion of the class, I wrote my first novel, The New Mexican. . I published my first novel in January 2017, and it sold online. Company A and The Arizonan completed the Bierman trilogy in November 2017.
Q: What book has been the greatest influence on you and your writing and why?
Burgdorf: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. I thoroughly love the descriptions, details, dialogue, and characters. Gus and Call became almost life-like for me. The story develops, grows, introduces characters and plots compelling the reader to complete the novel.
Q: Where do you find ideas for your books?
Burgdorf: My ideas are in American history; specifically in Western U.S. History. When I conduct research for my historical novels, I am continually uncovering topics that beg to be written about. The more I write, the more I need to write.
Q: Where do you find ideas for your characters?
Burgdorf: Ha. My wife asks me the same question while she proofs my novels. The only answer I know is they just appear. As the story unwinds in my mind, the characters appear at the right time. I need to give them description, detail, depth, and backstory, but they arrive and claim their legitimate place.
My characters tell their tale. I’m simply invited along to type on my laptop. The story belongs to them. While many writers plot, graph, and plan their novel, I turn the narrative over to the characters and attempt to keep up. I write until they’ve told their tale, and I utilize dialogue, dialogue, dialogue to give them the responsibility to tell the story.
Q: How would you describe your writing style?
Burgdorf: Much to the shock of some and chagrin of my mentors, I write in the first person. It is my intent that the reader sees, feels, hears, and understands like the characters. One of my critique friends says, “Burgdorf’s descriptions are so realistic I felt saddle sore and tired after riding the desert with the boys from Company A. If I didn’t know better, I would think Burgdorf was there with them. How else can it be so realistic?”
This is my intent. Enjoy the journey.
Q: What do you consider the most difficult part of writing a book?
Burgdorf: I am constantly challenged to slow down and enjoy the journey. In my writing, I am scurrying to get from point A to point B and my mentor reminds me I might be leaving readers behind. The story unfolds and spools out in my mind as the characters tell their tales. Just because I see the scenes displayed on the big screen in my mind doesn’t mean the readers have the same vantage point. I need to slow down and give more details, descriptions, back-stories, and dialogue, dialogue, dialogue to make certain they are included. My mentor reminds me that what I pack into one chapter can be better shared in three or four.
Q: What are your current projects?
Burgdorf: I am rewriting and editing my new novel Humps and Hooves (a historical western novel of the Texas Camel Corps in the 1850s). Preparation for this novel included discovering the actions and idiosyncrasies of camels. It was amazing research. Weaving my tale of the soldier’s shock and amazement, the coming to grips with the camel, and the ultimate bonding is full of humor and pathos. I’m hoping my readers enjoy reading the tale as much as I did writing it. I’m planning on publishing in early 2018.
Also coming in 2018 is my new trilogy, The Westerman Tales. This series follows mysteries solved by a range detective – Chadborne Westerman. The first book is Red River Station followed by Barbed Wire and Woolies. The historical fiction western mysteries revolve around the great Texas cattle drives, the Chisholm Trail, the Great Plains, and westward expansion. I’m already over two hundred pages into Red River Station which was a real location on the Red River where the Chisholm Trail crossed from Texas into Indian territory heading for the railheads in Kansas.
Finally, I’m chomping at the bit to write about the Texas Navy. During a trip to Galveston this past year, I discovered that during the Texas war for independence there were two sanctioned and official Texas navies. Their importance in Texas defeating Mexico is little known and begs the telling. The Salty Star will be my attempt.
Please click HERE to find The Arizonan on Amazon.