Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Robert Dugoni

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and #1 Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite police series set in Seattle, which has sold more than 6 million books worldwide. He is also the author of The Charles Jenkins espionage series, and the David Sloane legal thriller series. He is also the author of several stand-alone novels including The 7th Canon, Damage Control, and the literary novel, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell; as well as the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. Several of his novels have been optioned for movies and television series.

Dugoni's new novel is The Last Agent.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Titles are tough. Of my 20 novels, I’ve only titled perhaps 5 that were not ultimately changed, for the better. The title really should intrigue the reader and provide the reader with an understanding of the basic premise of the novel. In The Last Agent Jenkins has to go back into Moscow to try to rescue a woman responsible for saving him in The Eighth Sister. The CIA has changed with technology and requires less and less boots-on-the-ground agents. Jenkins has experience and intuitiveness, which are becoming extinct. Jenkins is one of the dinosaurs, still willing to go back into Russia, still believing that he can survive on his wits and complete the mission. So The Last Agent lets the reader know that Jenkins is going to resort to the training he learned decades before and go back into the lion's den to try and succeed.

What's in a name?

A lot. I’m always amazed that readers pick up the names of my characters and use them as if they know them. My two Russian agents, Victor Federov and Arkady Volkov are memorable but not too hard to pronounce. The same is true of the villain in The Last Agent, Adam Efimov. Readers have emailed me about these names, how much they’ve liked them.

I spend a lot of time going through the obituaries and a couple of sites online that, quite frankly, scare me because they not only provide a name, they provide a fake address, age and other information. I try to get on and off of those websites as quickly as possible.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

The middle! I know that is a bit of a cop out, but I never have a problem with the beginning. In fact, I’m usually so raring to get going after weeks of research that the beginning just flies by. Then, by the time I’ve established the story, the characters have usually led me to an ending I might not have expected, but is usually satisfying and better than what I might have anticipated. Middles, however, are tough. That is the meat of the book, the obstacles and the development of the character arcs. The middle is definitely what takes me the most time because I have to make sure that I’m revealing everything I need to reveal to write an ending that is satisfying.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I see myself in many of my protagonists, or at least how I wish I might react, or how I wish I would respond. My protagonists are a lot more courageous and heroic than me. I tell students I teach that every character is “of” the writer, though not necessarily the writer. How the character behaves is often how the writer hopes he would react in a similar situation. How the character speaks is often how the writer wishes he would respond in similar situations. The same is true of antagonists. The evil is often what would scare the writer, what would make the writer cringe. That’s one of the best parts of being a writer. You get to play every character. I narrated one of my novels and had an absolute ball doing it because I got to play every part.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I love, love sit-coms. Always have. I watched Archie Bunker and The Jeffersons, Friends, Taxi, Cheers, Everybody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld, The Big Bang Theory. I love them because they have to tell a story in less than half an hour. The characters all need to be inter-related, and yet unique and distinct from each other. It’s a tall order, but one that helped me to learn how to make my characters unique, give them quirks that set them apart, and yet have them relate to one another on different levels.
Visit Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Agent.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Agent.

--Marshal Zeringue