Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Interview with Robert Dugoni, Author of The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell + Giveaway (US only)

I'd like to welcome Robert Dugoni to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell from Lake Union, an Amazon imprint!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Robert! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and #1 Kindle bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite series, which has sold millions of copies worldwide. Dugoni is also the author of the bestselling David Sloane series as well as the stand-alone novels The 7th Canon (a 2017 finalist for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for best novel), The Cyanide Canary (a Washington Post Best Book of the Year), and several short stories. He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction, and the Friends of Mystery, Spotted Owl Award for the best novel in the Pacific Northwest. He is a two time finalist for the International Thriller Writers award and the Mystery Writers of America Award for best novel.

His books are sold worldwide in more than 25 countries and have been translated into more than two dozen languages including French, German, Italian and Spanish.

It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which will hits shelves today:

From #1 Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni.

Sam Hill always saw the world through different eyes. Born with red pupils, he was called “Devil Boy” by his classmates; “God’s will” is what his mother called his ocular albinism. Her words were of little comfort, but Sam persevered, buoyed by his mother’s devout faith, his father’s practical wisdom, and his two other misfit friends.

Sam believed it was God who sent Ernie Cantwell, the only African American kid in his class, to be the friend he so desperately needed. And that it was God’s idea for Mickie Kennedy to storm into Our Lady of Mercy like a tornado, uprooting every rule Sam had been taught about boys and girls.

Forty years later, Sam, a small-town eye doctor, is no longer certain anything was by design—especially not the tragedy that caused him to turn his back on his friends, his hometown, and the life he’d always known. Running from the pain, eyes closed, served little purpose. Now, as he looks back on his life, Sam embarks on a journey that will take him halfway around the world. This time, his eyes are wide open—bringing into clear view what changed him, defined him, and made him so afraid, until he can finally see what truly matters.

At its core, Sam Hill’s story is about how to deal with life’s many challenges. For Sam, this takes many forms: cashing in on his “prayer bank,” hiding his condition behind brown contact lenses, and eventually standing up to a bully, to name a few. What do you want your readers to take away from this novel about overcoming struggles and handling adversity?

Mainly, that we all have struggles, that we all face adversity, but that none of us is alone, and there will always be another day if we choose to find it. Too often, I think, we feel alone and we let our problems overwhelm us. We’re embarrassed to share them. We think it will reflect poorly on us as a whole, that people will shun us and treat us as different. Struggles and adversity are two things that bond us as human beings because they are universal. What we all need to accept is there are problems we can work to solve, and there are problems that our out of our control, like my brother being born with Down Syndrome. Those problems that are out of our control we have to accept and trust that they exist for a reason, whether we can see that reason or not.

You chose to tackle a difficult subject—religion—and paint it in many different lights. Madeline is the devout Catholic who looks to the Blessed Mother for intervention. Sister Beatrice should be the model Catholic but is wrestling her own demons. Mickey and Ernie reject, or at least ignore, their Catholic upbringing. And Sam falls somewhere in between: he questions his belief frequently, but always remembers his mother’s words that everything is “God’s will.” Is there any underlying message about faith you wanted to convey through your characters?

Religion is complicated. Organized religion is something that is perpetuated by men and women and those men and women are fallible. Faith is not religion. Religion is tangible, with its sacraments and its rituals and its masses. Faith is intangible. You can’t touch it. You can’t prove there is or is not a God. You just have to believe or not believe.

During the writing of the novel I was searching for that one thread that would pull a reader through the story to the very end, and I found that thread as I drove my family to church. What does Sam Hill want more than anything else in the world? He wants what we all want. He wants to believe. He wants to believe there is a God, and that all his trials and tribulations have a purpose. He wants to believe that his life is pre-destined, that he will lead the extraordinary life his mother so steadfastly believes in. We all want that to some extent. Faith is also a gift. Some of us receive it from parents or spouses, some from friends, and some directly from God. Some never receive that gift, but live extraordinary lives just the same. I’ve always said that if I had to choose between faith and religion, I’d choose faith.


One of the most common topics in the media lately has been race relations in America, and much of that coverage hearkens back to the Civil Right Movement of the 1960s, the same time period in which the first half of The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell is set. You of course address this at various points in the book, as Sam’s friendship with Ernie unfolds due to him being the only African American student in school. And yet, this is not a story solely or primarily concerned with race. Did you think about the race relation issue when you were writing about Ernie and his friendship with Sam?

I did. What I wanted to show was that Ernie was not black to Sam. Ernie was just Ernie, a kid who wanted to be Sam’s friend. Sam looked past the color of Ernie’s skin and Ernie looked past the color of Sam’s eyes to see the beautiful person within. That is what made them so close, because there were no pretenses or pre-conceived notions of the other. They were just two little boys looking for someone to be their friend and they found each other.

At the same time, race cannot be ignored, just as the color of Sam’s eyes cannot be ignored. It is prevalent throughout the United States, and especially back then. So I wanted to create scenes to let the reader know and understand the very real struggles Ernie faced on a daily basis, despite the willingness of some to accept him because of his athletic ability, and later because of his business acumen. I’ve had African American roommates and friends who told me that racism does not disappear simply because a person is a good athlete or a good student. Others are just more adept at hiding it to get what they want out of that person.

This novel falls into an entirely separate genre from your Tracy Crosswhite and David Sloane books, which are all thrillers. What did you most enjoy about writing in a different style of fiction? Did you have any particular challenges in writing this novel that you haven’t faced in your others?

This was the novel I always wanted to write, a story of the heart. I didn’t try to change anything I’ve learned that is crucial to the success of all novels. Readers want to read about great characters doing extraordinary things. Sometimes those novels are thrillers, mysteries, Westerns, or romances. I read, and I enjoy all kinds of books if those books allow me to become a part of the story, to step into the shoes of the character and feel what that character is feeling. I loved being able to write Sam in first person, and I loved finding out how everyone else revolved around him and his life. The challenge for me was not to overwrite the book in narrative, to show and not tell, so that the reader could completely immerse him or herself in the story.

What’s next for you?

The sixth book in the Tracy Crosswhite series is coming in June 2018. A Steep Price is also a very personal story for Tracy and the detectives that are a part of the Violent Crimes Section’s A-Team. It touches on difficult issues of arranged marriages, breast cancer, and seeking justice for those innocent victims of crime.

I’m also working on a novel loosely based upon two true stories. Charles Jenkins, the ex-CIA agent from the David Sloane series finds himself drawn back into the agency and sent to Russia to hunt down an elusive spy responsible for the deaths of several double agents. Instead he finds himself running for his life and desperately trying to escape—only to return to the United States and be put on trial for treason. It’s one of those books in which the reader can never be certain about anything.


Very exciting! Where can you be found on the web?


It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Robert! Thank you again for dropping by, and best of luck with future endeavors!

Giveaway!

Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell—woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
What is extraordinary or unique about your life?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Robert and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

What's extraordinary about my life is how I was born into and raised in two separate cultures, and that has shaped my ability to be open-minded and conscientious as an adult.

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at Little Bird Publicity!
Giveaway ends May 8th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to continental US residents only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!