How did you become a writer?
Answer: I became a writer because I’ve always loved stories. When I was twelve, my mother, a former English teacher would hand me all these classic books to read. The Count of Monte Cristo, The Old Man and the Sea, Of Mice and Men, and others. I fell in love with stories. As I got older, I began to reader John Irving’s novels, like A Prayer for Owen Meaney and The World According to Garp. I read Patrick Conroy’s books, The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides and The Lord’s of Discipline. I loved Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove.
I fell in love with characters and stories and when I got to high school I had a choice to make. I wasn’t a very good athlete, though I worked hard, but I was a good writer. My senior year I gave up basketball to be editor of the newspaper. I was accepted at Stanford University and wrote for the Stanford Daily, then briefly for The Los Angeles Times. But all my brothers and sisters were becoming professionals – doctors and pharmacists and lawyers. So I thought I needed more education and became a lawyer. Once a lawyer I again did a lot of writing and speaking. I was telling stories to the court and to juries. Then I woke up one day and realized I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I wanted to be a writer. My wife and I made the decision to try. I moved to Seattle and began writing. It was a long process, but eventually, after many rejections, I got an agent and had my third book accepted – a true story called The Cyanide Canary.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
See above. Also Stephen King, but more of his contemporary novels. John Grisham and Scott Turow as well. Loved Christopher Vogler’s book, The Writer’s Journey and Sol Stein’s book, On Writing.
When and where do you write?
I have two offices, one at home and one at the law firm I used to work at. It’s important for me to “go to work” every day. It helps me to treat writing as a job, though the best job ever. Plus I like the feeling of getting out of the house. I keep an office at home if I have things to do during the day – appointments, or signings, or appearances. This is because I can get more done than if I have to commute both directions to my other office. I like to maximize my time writing.
What are you working on now?
Promoting the release of a new series with Charles Jenkins, former CIA agent from the David Sloane series called The Eighth Sister. Working on the copyedits to the next Tracy book, A Cold Trail, and writing the next Charles Jenkins book, The Last Agent.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
Not really. I get stuck at places, but usually because I don’t write from an outline and I’m trying to make my character’s job as difficult as possible. For instance, I recently wrote a great series of scenes where Charles Jenkins goes back to Russia but the person he seeks to help is in Lefortovo Prison. I got stuck for two days on how to get the character out of the prison. But I wouldn’t call this writer’s block.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
“Write every day. If you get stuck, but you know future scenes in your book, then write those future scenes so that you’re always working toward a completed manuscript.” – Mike Lawson, Seattle Writer.
What’s your advice to new writers?
Learn the craft. Learn traditional story structure as espoused by Joseph Campbell and popularized by Chris Vogler in The Writer’s Journey. Learn it, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time.
Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon Internationally Best-Selling Author of 17 novels in The Tracy Crosswhite series, including, My Sister’s Grave, the David Sloane series, and the Charles Jenkins series, which includes The Eighth Sister, as well as the best-selling The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, The 7th Canon and The Cyanide Canary. He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction, the Mystery Writer’s Spotted Owl Award and a two-time finalist for the International Thriller Writers and the Harper Lee Awards, the Silver Falchion Award, and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award. www.robertdugoni.com