Bestselling author Robert Dugoni talks latest release ‘Her Deadly Game’ ahead of fundraiser for Lancaster libraries | Entertainment

Robert Dugoni’s mother appreciated the power of a local library.

The fifth of 10 children, the New York best-selling author said his mother relied on the Burlingame Public Library in California as a free source of entertainment and education for her large family.

“Libraries were a big part of my life growing up,” Dugoni says of his Seattle home. “My parents didn’t have a lot of money and one of the things my mother did I think to keep her sane was take us to the Burlingame library. I started choosing books and I fell in love with reading.”

Classics like The Count of Monte Cristo, The Old Man from the Sea and To Kill a Mockingbird were among his early favorites. Now Dugoni, who’s written enough books to fill a few library shelves, is a regular speaker in libraries across the country. And the author will be making an on-site appearance during the 22nd Annual Council of Friends of Lancaster Public Libraries Authors Event on April 13th.

Dugoni is known for its mysteries and legal thrillers. His latest book, Her Deadly Game, is the first in a planned new series.

“Robert Dugoni is a first-class writer whose legal and journalistic background serves him well as he weaves stories that inspire and engage his readers,” said Mary Ann Steinhauer, President of the Council of Friends. “It is an honor to host him for an event that will benefit our public libraries.”

According to Steinhauer, last year’s event raised $13,300, which was distributed to all of Lancaster County’s public libraries, including the Shuts Environmental Library in Lancaster County Central Park and the Bookmobile. The event has raised $140,000 for local libraries since 2011, Steinhauer says.

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Tickets to the event are $50 and include a paperback copy of Her Deadly Game.

Dugoni their deadly game

Table of Contents

Relatable fights

Her Deadly Game follows attorney Keera Duggan, a former childhood chess prodigy, as she represents an investment advisor accused of murdering his wealthy wife. The case is Duggan’s first defense for murder – and an important one for her family’s law firm, whose reputation is beginning to be tarnished by her father’s alcoholism. To make matters worse, the prosecutor in this case is Duggan’s former lover, Miller Ambrose.

“I think a good show has a world that’s populated by a variety of different characters that appeal to the reader,” says Dugoni. “Her father, her two sisters, her dysfunctional family will be things that I think a lot of people can relate to. That’s what draws people into your stories – the world you create.”

Duggan and her dysfunctional family are compelling characters, as are the two detectives investigating the murder. But Dugoni says having a good antagonist like Miller Ambrose is just as important to a successful series.

“One of the things I’ve learned from watching some British TV shows is that if you have a good antagonist, don’t kill him,” says Dugoni. “Let him come back, because one of the things that draws readers to stories is suspense. And it’s those antagonists that create that tension for the protagonist.”

Writing a large, complex family came easily to Dugoni. On a personal level, it referenced Keera’s struggles culminating in a family relationship with someone struggling with addiction. On a creative level, he thought this detail would add depth to her character and make her empathetic to readers.

“In my family of 10 kids, you can imagine that we have every personality type,” says Dugoni. “And my mother comes from an alcoholic household. Her father had been a drinker since he was 17. …He became a drinker. I saw the pain it caused my mother. I was sent to my grandfather’s house with my brother to check on him and pull all the spark plugs out of his car so he couldn’t drive. It’s a completely different world and the pain for the family is often subtle.”

Legal Impact

Dugoni also drew from other life experiences to provide elements for his novel. Chess, he says, was a popular game with many trial attorneys, so Dugoni made his newest character a chess player. His time as a law student and practitioner taught him to write succinct legal briefs that carry over into his writing. Dugoni says he honed his work ethic in law school

“I’m a grinder,” says Dugoni. “I’m a guy who was never the brightest in my classes. I didn’t know the law as well as other people did. I went to work every day and I worked long hours and I worked hard. I think that’s really one of those things that you have to have as a writer. You have to be disciplined.”

When Dugoni decided to give up his legal career and pursue writing, he began studying the form.

“It’s a craft to write a novel,” says Dugoni. “I often say to courses I teach, you know, Michelangelo didn’t just start chipping off a piece of granite and inventing David. He studied for years. He studied anatomy and biology to create all his masterpieces.”

Dugoni studied storytelling techniques and the moves and formulas that successful thriller writers often employ. Then he found ways to subvert readers’ expectations with surprises and twists to keep readers guessing.

“Once I somehow get that blueprint right, that’s where the fun comes in,” says Dugoni. “I think you can do a lot within the confines of traditional story structures.”

But for Dugoni, no matter how clever the twist, it’s the characters that make the story.

“What really draws people to a book are the characters,” says Dugoni. “Do (readers) identify with the characters? Are the characters real to you? Do you feel into them? If you can do that, you can take readers on many journeys and they will stay with you.”

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