ROBERT DUGONI: I HAD NO IDEA MY SISTER’S GRAVE WOULD HIT #1
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Robert Dugoni’s next release My Sister’s Grave is staying as Amazon bestselling book #1 for the last few weeks. The official premier of the novel will be on November 1. One of the most popular author on the planet will be our guest for today’s interview. He found time from his busy schedule around the release for a very special Q&A for our blog.
– My Sister’s Grave will be released on November 1. What is so special about your next novel that the readers love it so much and you reach #1 in Amazon (av. 4.5 stars from almost 700 reviews!)?
– They seem to have fallen for my protagonist Tracy Crosswhite and her relationship with her younger sister, Sarah. What I wanted when I wrote the novel was for the reader to feel the haunting sense of loss when a loved one is taken too early in life. In order to do that, I had to establish Tracy and Sarah’s relationship as young sisters and as young women so they could experience the pain Tracy feels when Sarah disappears and understand why Tracy is so determined to find out what actually happened to Sarah.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– It started with a very simple idea. In Washington State, they were removing hydroelectric dams to restore the natural habitats of wild Salmon. When they remove the dam, the lake that has developed behind the dam drains. So I thought, what if when the lake drained someone found a body that had been buried there years before. From there my mind went to work. I knew I wanted to write a story with Tracy Crosswhite, the female detective from my novel Murder One. I had to decide what relationship I wanted Tracy to have to the body at the bottom of the lake. One I decided it was her sister, I started in on the plot.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process of My Sister’s Grave?
– The biggest challenge was writing the flashbacks. The first thing I decided was that I was not going to try to write from the perspective of a girl or a woman. I decided I would write from the perspective of a child and a young adult. I wrote from the perspective of a person who has suffered a terrible loss and is in pain. Once I did that, I then drew upon all my experiences growing up with three older sisters and one younger sister. The flashbacks with Tracy and Sarah as young girls growing up together come very much from my recollection of my sisters. I also knew I had to keep the flashbacks interesting and relatively short so that I could continue moving the story forward and not slow it down. It was important to show not only Tracy and Sarah’s relationship, but also their relationship to their hometown of Cedar Grove.
– Tell us something more about your main character Tracy Crosswhite? Is she close to someone from your real life?
– As I said above, I have four sisters, so Tracy and Sarah are a little bit of each of them, the oldest, the youngest, the stubborn sister, the caring sister. In addition, in the legal profession I encountered a lot of competent females and I’ve experienced a lot of different personalities over the years from which I could draw my characters of Tracy and Sarah. I’ve seen the different types of pressures on women as they rise up the law firm ranks, especially if they wanted to have children. Finally, I’ve been fortunate to have one of Seattle’s first female homicide detectives to consult with and she has been very open about the challenges she has faced in her career as well as police procedure and techniques. I also had the chance to speak with Former King County Sheriff Sue Rohr and her experiences as a female officer. Tracy Crosswhite is an amalgamation of all of these women.
– How much time you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– From start to finish it took about a year and a half. This novel took longer because I needed more research to try to get things correct. When you look at the acknowledgments in the back of the book you’ll see that I had a lot of help from many different people.
– Did you expect that My Sister’s Grave will be Amazon #1 book two weeks before it’s official release?
– Not in my wildest dreams. I hoped that people would like it and spread the word but I had no idea it would hit #1 and get more than 700 reviews in the first three weeks. I’ve been even more surprised it has remained #1 for the entire month, especially with Gone Girl the movie coming out and John Grisham releasing his new book.
– What is the best possible way to promote a book?
– Word of mouth. You have to get people talking about your book, that’s what sells. People are talking about the surprise ending to My Sister’s Grave and about the relationship between the sisters. They are closing the book and saying they have a haunting feeling and want to know more. That’s always rewarding for a writer.
– How would you describe yourself in five sentences?
– First and foremost I’m a husband with an incredible wife and a father to two wonderful children, that defines me more than my writing ever will. Professionally, I’d like to think I’m a hardworking guy who loves to dream and try to reach those dreams. Since I was a boy I’ve always loves stories, books, movies and characters. All I’ve ever really wanted to do was write novels.
– What are your writing habits?
– I try to write every day that I can. I am more creative in the morning so I usually get up and work out, get to my computer and go as long as the muse continues talking to me. I work long hours for a writer. I’ll write all day, until it’s either time for my kids’ sports, or everyone is getting home for dinner. Late at night I try to answer all my emails and facebook and twitter messages.
– You worked as journalist in Stanford daily and regional editions of Los Angeles Times. What kind of experience did you earn from the medias that currently is helping you as a writer?
– Deadlines! It is important to meet your deadlines. To do that, you have to be dedicated and persistent, even on those days when the writing is not coming easy. You have to produce. This is a job, a career and you have to put your butt in the chair and do the work.
– Do you remember the day, when you decided to end your 13-year journey as lawyer and to become full time author? What exactly happened?
– I remember it like it was yesterday and tell this story when I speak at conferences. I was 35 and living in a home in San Francisco with my wife and young son. I awoke one morning with the sun streaming through the blinds into our bedroom, turned to get out of bed and before I put my feet on the floor I said, “I can’t do this anymore.” Now what I meant was not that I couldn’t be a lawyer. I meant, I couldn’t not follow my dream I’d had since I was 13 – that dream to write novels. My wife, without any further explanation replied, “Then we won’t.” And that was it. I knew that I was going to take the leap and give my dream a shot.
– What is the most touching letter or comment that you receive form a reader?
– “I started your book last night and I couldn’t put it down.”
– You are already one of the most popular writers on the planet. Would you give a couple of advices to newbie authors?
– I don’t know if I’m that popular, but the advice is the same. Learn the craft before you start writing. Writing a novel is a craft and there are some great books out there that will save a new writers hours and hours of mistakes and time. I’m happy to share those with your readers if they want to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The other advice is, “Writer’s write. Put your butt in the chair and go to work.”
– Ask yourself a question (And don’t forget to answer!)
– When you die, what do you want written on your tombstone? He followed his dreams.
– Thank you very much for your time, wish you many more bestselling hits!
Take a look at Robert Dugoni’s books:
My Sister’s Grave
The Conviction: A Novel
Bodily Harm: A Novel
Murder One: David Sloane, Book 4
The Jury Master
Wrongful Death: A Novel
The Cyanide Canary
The Academy: A Short Story