Award Winning Author Robert Dugoni
Highly Acclaimed Author, Robert Dugoni, Shares His Thoughts
Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon Internationally Best-Selling Author of 20 novels in The Tracy Crosswhite police detective series set in Seattle, the David Sloane legal thriller series, and the Charles Jenkins espionage series as well as several standalone novels including The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, a #1 Amazon kindle download and The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post best book of the year. Several novels have been optioned for television series. Robert is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for fiction and many other awards.
I’m known mostly for my mysteries and thrillers, specifically the Tracy Crosswhite series, which is now eight novels. But I’ve always enjoyed other genres. I grew up mostly reading literary novels like The Great Gatsby, A Prayer for Owen Meaney, and The Old Man and the Sea. I got the opportunity to write a literary novel with The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, and it did very well. I have a second literary novel coming out next September, The World Played Chess. I’ve also written a successful espionage series with Charles Jenkins, a spinoff character from my legal series with David Sloane.
My 8th Tracy Crosswhite Novel, In Her Tracks, will be out in April 2021. The World Played Chess will be out in September 2021.
What brought you to writing? I’ve always loved to write. My mother would hand me classic literary novels when I was young, and by the seventh grade, I knew I wanted to write stories. In high school, I edited the school newspaper, and in college, I majored in journalism, and creative writing, then went to work for The Los Angeles Times. I ended up in law school and practiced law for a while before getting back to writing. It took me several years to get established, and since 2013 I’ve written full time.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I now write at home. My wife and I added on a beautiful office with a lot of windows and ambient light. I treat it as a job, though I love what I do. I write full days, five days a week. The one distraction I allow now is golf. It gets me outdoors in the fresh air with good friends, and it’s a great distraction.
Tell us about your writing process: Monday through Friday and some weekdays when the muse is flowing, I write from seven in the morning until around four or five. When I am writing the story, as opposed to doing research, I read Stephen King’s novel, The Green Mile, every morning until I hear the muse. Then I begin. When writing the first draft, I don’t edit myself. I treat it almost like an outline. I write as fast as I can, learning about the characters and what they want and need. Then on the second draft, I go back and begin to add and cut as needed.
What are you currently working on? I have a Tracy Crosswhite mystery novel, In Her Tracks, coming out in April. A literary novel, The World Played Chess, is coming out in September, and I’m completing the third novel in the Charles Jenkins series, The Silent Sisters.
How long did it take you to write your first book? It was an ordeal. I must have thrown out 1000 pages and wrote 19 drafts over several years. I did it backwards. I wrote before I studied story structure and really understood how novels were told. Now I can write three novels in a year. I understand story structure after studying The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler and other craft novels.
How do you come up with character names? I often use the obituaries because you know the names were real. There are also websites, like fakenamegenerator.com, but I don’t stay on the site for long. It just seems like the kind of sight where someone is sucking you in.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Honestly, the hardest part is not trying to write from the opposite sex. I get asked questions all the time about how I write from the perspective of Seattle Homicide Detective Tracy Crosswhite. My answer is I don’t try. I write from the perspective of a person who has been grievously injured in her life and is struggling to find a life for herself and later, for her family. Tracy wants what we all want in her personal and her professional life. I always try to keep that in mind.
Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? Actually, it’s usually the opposite. They usually please me. When I’m really into a story and into a character, and I let that character tell the story rather than try to force the story, the character will often do things I never thought of or considered. That’s one of the best parts of being a writer, having characters surprise us.
Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? I did in the David Sloane series upon very bad advice. I won’t do it again. Readers don’t like it. They feel you’re trying to manipulate them. I did it because I was told that married protagonists aren’t interesting. I’ve come to realize that simply isn’t true. Marriage comes with its own trials and tribulations, and it is those that make the characters real.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I’m a pantser. I’ve tried outlining, but I’m usually off the outline very quickly. Instead, I do a lot of research, and from the research, I usually find my characters and often scenes that become the story.
What kind of research do you do? I try to travel to all the locations I write about. Beyond that, I do a lot of research, reading books, papers, watching documentaries and television shows.
What is the best book you ever read? Probably Lonesome Dove.
How do our readers contact you? Your website, blog links, any links you want to be posted?
Great interview. Reading ‘The Jury Master’s got me hooked. After the last one in that series and knowing he was searching for a new publisher, when he finally landed one it was a great day!! Since then, well, look at him go!! Just so HAPPY to see!!
Good interview. Always interesting to read how successful authors became successful, and their writing process
Great interview, George. Robert Dugoni is one of my favorite authors. I was thrilled when he blurbed my first novel for me.
Congratulations on all of those new releases! One of these days I’ll figure out what works for me. In the meantime, I’m thrilled to learn more about your books! I have THE CONVICTION, IN THE CLEARING, AND MY SISTER’S GRAVE, and will most definitely grab some more. Thank you, and continued success!
Excellent interview with an inspiring author. Thanks for the post, George!
I’m so looking forward to the next Tracy Crosswhite novel and beyond excited to hear there’s a 3rd Charles Jenkins book on the way!!! I love reading authors from the PNW and Robert is one of the best!
It’s revealing that your protagonists please you. I assume the characters come alive and begin to talk. If a character would have to do what an outline says, then he’s muzzled. That’s why a detailed plan may hinder storytelling. It would block the character’s critical emotions, actions, words, and thoughts. I guess your typing or handwriting must almost happen like you’re on autopilot as the story unfolds, dreamlike. So, is it as if your brain wrote a dream script, but you don’t exactly know how your inner self did it?
Thank you for your interesting interview. I remember meeting you in 2012 (I think that was the year) at the San Francisco Writers Conference, where I took your course on writing thrillers. I asked you a question, which you answered thoughtfully.
You are not only an excellent writer, but you are a wonderful and inspiring teacher. You are one of the few lecturers I remember from that meeting.
Coincidentally, my first novel is being released next month. Thank you for all you do.
Excellent interview! Always fun to read how a successful author “does it.”
Great Q&A. I took Robert Dugoni‘s writing seminar at Killer Nashville. It was the best I’ve seen. How I wish he’d put together a writing book using those notes—or a pamphlet, or pdf. He’s the best conference teacher/speaker I’ve come across. He seems to care about his readers and other writers.
Wow, Jess. That would really be cool. And to get the word out, he could hold some online webinars. Do you think he’d let us have at his calendar?
I love that you read “The Green Mile” for finding the muse. And that you’re a pantser.
I’m a pantser, and sometimes that gets me into trouble. But I can’t write any other way.
Terrific interview of one of my very favorite authors. I’m lookinng forward to In Her Tracks.
Thanks for sharing your writing journey with us and congratulations on the success of your multiple series. I’m looking forward to the next Tracy Crosswhite mystery.