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?

 www.robertdugonibooks.com

Facebook.com/AuthorRobertDugoni

Twitter: @robertdugoni

 

14 Comments

  1. Connie Miller

    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!!

    Reply
  2. John Schembra

    Good interview. Always interesting to read how successful authors became successful, and their writing process

    Reply
  3. Brian Thiem

    Great interview, George. Robert Dugoni is one of my favorite authors. I was thrilled when he blurbed my first novel for me.

    Reply
  4. Peg Brantley

    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!

    Reply
  5. Debra Bokur

    Excellent interview with an inspiring author. Thanks for the post, George!

    Reply
  6. Jane

    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!

    Reply
  7. John Bluck

    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?

    Reply
  8. Deven Greene

    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.

    Reply
  9. Marilyn Meredith

    Excellent interview! Always fun to read how a successful author “does it.”

    Reply
  10. Jess

    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.

    Reply
    • Peg Brantley

      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?

      Reply
  11. Lenora Worth

    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.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  12. julie Royce

    Terrific interview of one of my very favorite authors. I’m lookinng forward to In Her Tracks.

    Reply
  13. Cindy Sample

    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.

    Reply

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Welcome Award-Winning Author John R Schembra

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

10 Comments

  1. Jim Hasse

    Good choice for an interview, George. I have the pleasure of being in a critique group with John and have read a lot of his work, including many Vince Torelli stories. John and I have similar backgrounds as I had a twenty-eight-year law enforcement career and served in Vietnam. John has been an inspiration to me and I value his friendship.

    Reply
  2. Madeline Gornell

    I second everything the commenters before me said, and would add I’ve found John to be a thoroughly nice and competent person who I’ve enjoyed working with through PSWA. Although, John, I was surprised by Tarzan! (smile)

    Reply
    • John

      THank you Madelin, my friend, and an excellent author!

      Reply
  3. Deven Greene

    Interesting interview. I’m glad your mom got you interested in reading. At least you’ll have something to keep you occupied if you are stranded on a desert island with Tarzan books (hopefully with reading glasses and a comfortable chair). Blood Debt sounds interesting. I ordered a copy on Amazon.

    Reply
    • John

      Thanks, Doc. I appreciate it!!!

      Reply
  4. Thonie Hevron

    Fun interview, George and John. As long as I’ve known you, I never knew you were an ERB fan. Love learning about authors like this, George.

    Reply
    • John Schembra

      Thank you Thonie. I’m going to miss our Nov. crafts fair!!

      Reply
  5. Michael A. Black

    Good interview, guys. John is a talented writer and he also exemplifies the very best of us through his service to our country. He’s the kind of guy that Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote about, so I’m not surprised he’s an ERB fan. Make sure you try out his books. If you liked Dirty Harry, you’ll love Vince Torelli.

    Reply
    • John Schembra

      Thanks, Mike. I appreciate the comments, my friend.

      Reply

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Liebster Award

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.

liebster-award

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?

    The Nominees

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/

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