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?
Mystery/Thriller, Supernatural, Military
In Blood Debt, San Francisco Homicide Investigator and Vietnam veteran Vince Torelli strives to clean up the violence in San Francisco. But, after a suspect in a double murder is killed during an attempted arrest, he finds himself protecting the good police officers of the city he considers family. His efforts put him in the line of fire when he’s targeted. The brother of the suspect victim wants revenge on the officers responsible, and he’ll stop at nothing. He kidnaps Vince, a man obsessively loyal to his job as well as those he works with and defends, a man as smart and committed to his principles as the criminals he catches almost without fail. Vince knows best, though; a blood debt always demands payment.
How long have you wanted to write? When I was a young boy, my mother instilled in me a love of books and reading. I read mostly adventure stories, in particular, a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and I admired how he could spin such wonderful stories. I vowed at a young age to write my own stories someday, as I knew the joy I got from books. I wanted to someday write books that would give that joy to others.
How long did it take you to reach your goal of publication? Many years! With growing up, school, college, the Army, becoming a police officer, marriage, and raising two children, there just wasn’t time for me to write, though I never lost the desire. The opportunity came when the kids were in college, and I had finished my master’s degree. One afternoon, another sergeant and fellow Vietnam Veteran and I were swapping stories from our tours in the police department briefing room. Other officers heard us and stopped to listen. They told me later that day I should write my stories down, they would make a good book. That night, I began writing.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? Traditionally published. I researched small publishers, on the advice of a genuinely nice lady, and very prolific author I had met at a writer’s conference and was lucky enough to have one accept my manuscript. I have been with them, Writers Exchange, for 18 years, and all five of my books have been published by them. I have two new novels currently in their queue undergoing editing. I hope to have them published by mid-2021. By the way, that nice lady and I are fast friends and have been for 20 years.
Where do you write? A small 4th bedroom in my house was converted to an office/writing room. It gives me the privacy I need to concentrate, with no interruptions from family (other than the dogs). I have a TV in there. I tune to soft rock music, at low volume, as a background when writing. I find I am more proficient when writing with the background music. It helps me concentrate.
Where do you find your characters? How do you name them? All of them are drawn from real life, at least the main characters. I’ve patterned them after friends, family, and other people I know or have known. Obviously, I change the names, but I have had some readers recognize the character and ask me if the character is based on them, or on so-and-so. I usually tell them, “not entirely.” A couple of times, I have used their real names, with permission, of course, because the name suits the character. Those persons really get a kick out of being in the book!
I try to develop names that suit the characters. If a tough guy is needed, I’m not going to name him Chad, or Chip, or Timmy, etc. I chose Vince Torelli as the name for the protagonist in five of my books—a tough, dedicated, homicide inspector with San Francisco PD. An Italian name, to me, rings of toughness. Of course, the character’s personality has to echo the tough name. I also like to have the protagonist exhibit compassion at times, too. I try to avoid cliché names like “Reaper,” “Savage,” and the like.
Real settings or fictional towns? I use both. In M.P., a Novel of Vietnam, all the locations were real, and all the military units, from whichever side, were real and operated in the area at the time setting of the book. All the areas mentioned in the Torelli books, in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, are real, as are all towns, streets, highways, hotels, restaurants, etc. I even used the address of my childhood home in one of the books! I like to think it adds a sense of realism when the reader knows or has visited the areas where the scenes take place.
If you could have written any book already written, which one would it be? Any of the Tarzan books! ERB is my absolute favorite author, and I have read almost everything he has written (80 books), a lot of them more than once. His writing is what got me hooked on reading and inspired me to become a writer. By the way, I have 73 of his books in my bookcase.
One other book is The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. An absolutely amazing book, skillfully written. I felt I was on the boat with him. Some of the best descriptive writing I’ve read.
You’re stranded on a deserted island.. what must you have? All my ERB books, my reading glasses, and a Lazy-boy recliner
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books? As I mentioned, I have written seven books—five published (in Kindle and paperback) and two at the publisher’s. I have posted the first chapters of all my published work on my webpage, including a couple of short stories (non-published). Please take a few minutes to visit the site, learn more about me, view some photos, and read the excerpts. Between the five books and a short story, I have been fortunate to receive eight writing competition awards.
A big thank you to my friend, and award-winning author, George Cramer, for inviting me to post at his blog.
If any of you read a book of mine or the short stories, I would love to hear from you. Please post a review at Amazom.com, or send it directly to me so I can post it at other sites.
Thanks for taking the time to read about me and my writing. I appreciate it.
Best wishes, John
Website and links: www.jschembra.com https://www.facebook.com/Books-by-John
I was more than a little surprised when I received a note that Lauren Sapala had nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award. Having not a clue, I sent Lauren a note for clarification. Receiving her response was heartening. Maybe I might get this blog thing right after all.
Visit Lauren at http://writecity.wordpress.com/
Thanks Lauren. I’m going to follow your example in explaining what this is all about. I think the technical term is plagiarism.
The aim of this award is to spotlight up-and-coming blogs with less than 200 followers. There are no set rules for the award, but the guidelines are as follows:
Copy and paste an image of the award onto your blog.
Write a post on your blog to thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
Nominate some blogs for the award. There is no rule for the number of blogs you nominate, but the general recommendation is at least 5 blogs that are similarly up-and-coming with fewer than 200 followers.
Answer the questions from the person who nominated you in your post.
Ask at least 5 questions on your blog for those you nominated for the award to answer.
In addition to the questions and answers, list at least 5 random facts about yourself.
My Answers to Lauren’s Questions
What movie did you see as a kid that had the most lasting influence on you and why?
Hondo – I’ve been lifetime fan of Louis L’Amour and the strong, honest, and usually humble heroes his work personifies. John Wayne’s portrayal of Hondo Lane was magnificent. For many years now, I’ve had a photograph of Hondo’s arrival, on foot, at the Lowe ranch tacked to the wall in my office.
Since you began blogging, what’s the most surprising or unexpected thing about the whole process for you?
How it’s been received. I didn’t expect to gain many followers, none really, but the number is growing. The most surprising thing is the friendliness of the comments.
Do you have anything you do on a daily or weekly basis that keeps you inspired?
If you mean inspired to write, yes I do. It may not be earthshaking but each week day I plug in three hours on my Outlook Calendar for writing. It keeps me focused on writing, editing, and reviewing my work.
What fictional character do you feel most closely resembles your real life personality?
As much as I would like to say Hondo Lane, I can’t. You might find that I most closely resemble Huckleberry Finn.
What’s the most helpful thing you’ve learned in the past year?
My children are adults and I’ve learned to accept that. It makes life easier.
What piece of criticism have you received that has helped you grow the most (in writing or in life)?
Writing – Cut out the adverbs and watch out for author intrusion.
Life – “Mr. Cramer you’re no better than anyone else so be humble.” Mrs. Bannister – 7th Grade Teacher – Conejo Elementary School, Thousand Oaks, California
If you could only take three books with you to a desert island, what would those three books be?
1. The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
2. Anything by Bernard Cornwell
3. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
What advice do you have for someone who wants to achieve their dreams?
Don’t let anyone tell you that you are too old, too young, or that your dreams are beyond reach. Get off the couch and get started. Never forget the ancient phrase, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.” Remembering this has helped me through many a tough time.
5 Random Facts about Myself
1. I never learned how to whistle.
2. One year I went surfing or body surfing in the Pacific Ocean everyday but Christmas
3. I learned how to scuba dive at sixty-two
4. I love long distance rides on my 2001 Ultra-Classic Harley-Davidson
5. I don’t know how to swim
My Questions for the Nominees
1. Who is your favorite author and why?
2. What has been the most difficult obstacle to your writing?
3. Do you have a regimen that you follow with your writing?
4. What do you consider the most significant event in your life?
5. Who was your most influential teacher?
6. What has been the happiest event in your writing endeavors?
7. What advice do you have for someone starting a blog?
8. What advice would give on becoming a writer?
My Write Place – http://www.jkroyce.com
Time To Write Now – http://timetowritenow.com/
1 Dragon Writer – http://1dragonwriter.wordpress.com
Violet’s Vibes – http://violetsvibes.wordpress.com/
Fuzzy Red Socks – http://fuzzyredsocks.wordpress.com/
Sheila Bali’s Blog – http://sheilabali.com/wordpress/