Robert Dugoni is the author of the new thriller The Eighth Sister. His many other novels include A Steep Price and The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell.
Q: Why did you decide to focus on your character Charles Jenkins, who's appeared before in your work, in this new novel?
I had a story fall into my lap. A true story of a CIA agent accused of
espionage. Long story short, I wanted to write a novel and Jenkins, a
former CIA agent living on Camano Island, was perfect for the novel I
was crafting. He’d worked against the KGB in Mexico City. He was now
married with kids and therefore vulnerable.
The Eighth Sister
isn’t based on a true story, though the trial pretty strongly reflects
true events. I also really had a soft spot for Jenkins. I thought he was
a character people would enjoy getting to know.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make changes along the way?
In the sense that I knew there was going to be a trial and Jenkins was
going to risk being sent away for life. Beyond that, I never script how
my stories are going to end. I much prefer to let the characters figure
it out from the way the story flows both in terms of plot, but also in
terms of emotion.
found an ending can have a lot more emotional impact coming from the
characters and if I try to write to an ending, then I’m trying to
squeeze the characters into the plot rather than let the plot come from
Q: Did you need to do much research to write this novel?
A lot. I was lucky to have three people assisting me with the spy craft
and how Jenkins might escape from Russia. I was also fortunate enough
to have visited Russia back in 1998 just after the collapse of the
Soviet Union. So I had a strong feel for the country and the people. But
again, I relied on two additional men who worked in the Soviet Union
for decades to really help me with the details of life there and
that, I spent a lot of time on Google maps retracing places I had been
and trying to recreate them. I must have done something right since
Martin Cruz Smith, author of Gorky Park, called the novel “a roadmap of Moscow.”
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?
I just want them to enjoy it. I want them to pick it up, start reading
and not be able to put it down. I want them to worry about Jenkins,
worry about his family, and find characters to love and to hate. I want
to immerse them in a world they know nothing about, allow them to travel
to Russia and to experience it.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on the seventh Tracy Crosswhite novel, A Cold Trail, which is nearly done and will be out in 2019, and I’m researching and writing the sequel to The Eighth Sister, called The Last Agent.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I’ll be appearing at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona, or readers can go to the store website and get a signed copy of The Eighth Sister mailed to them. I also will be at BookTree in Kirkland and at Towncenter Books in Pleasanton.
There’s more information on my website.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb