Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we talked to David Myles Robinson, an author and a retired trial lawyer, specializing in personal injury and workers’ compensation law, about his writing and the recently released novel Tropical Deception, the fourth installment in A Pancho McMartin Legeal Thriller series (read the review here).
David Myles Robinson has always had a passion for writing. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, while in college, Robinson worked as a free-lance writer for several magazines and was a staff writer for a weekly minority newspaper in Pasadena, California, called The Pasadena Eagle. However, as he himself admits, upon graduating from San Francisco State University, he decided against the ‘starving writer’ route and went to law school, at the University of San Francisco School of Law. It was there that he met his wife, Marcia Waldorf. After graduating from law school in 1975, the two moved to Honolulu, Hawaii and began practicing law. Robinson became a trial lawyer, specializing in personal injury and workers’ compensation law. Waldorf eventually became a District Court and ultimately a Circuit Court judge.
Upon retiring in 2010, Robinson completed his first novel, Unplayable Lie, which was published 2010. He has since published four more novels, three of which are legal thrillers set in Honolulu: Tropical Lies, Tropical Judgments, Tropical Doubts, and Tropical Deception. His other two novels are The Pinochet Plot and Son of Saigon. Robinson has also published a book of short travel stories, Conga Line on the Amazon.
Robinson and Waldorf divided their time between Honolulu and their second home in Taos, NM for seven years before finally deciding to see what it’s like to be full-time mainlanders again. They now live in Taos, where Robinson can pursue his non-writing passions of golf, ski, and travel.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
In addition to my seven published novels, I have one unpublished book which is with my publisher and probably won’t be published until next spring or summer. I also have one book in its final editing stage.
What does literary success look like to you?
It’s not very realistic for most writers to think of success in terms of becoming a best seller. Even the big publishing firms don’t throw a lot of marketing money at most books. So we indie writers must invest what we can in marketing and hope the book takes off. I therefore define success at completing a novel and getting good to great reviews from whatever audience happens to read it. So far with my books, I think I have achieved that.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I don’t do much research before beginning a book because I am generally writing about the law and I was a trial attorney for 38 years. However, in my non-legal thrillers I obviously need to do more research, depending on the subject. In THE PINOCHET PLOT, I spent many hours researching the Augusto Pinochet regime in Chile and, in particular, America’s role in helping him come to power. The novel also touches upon a secret CIA funded program called MKULTRA, which used experimental drugs, mostly hallucinogenic, on subjects to determine if the subjects could be controlled. That required a great deal of fascinating research.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It mostly energizes me. When I’m wrapped up in a project I can write for hours at a time and when I quit for the day, I usually can’t wait to get started again the next day. What can be exhausting, however, is the numerous rewrites and edits one must make once the first draft is done.
How often you read?
Constantly. I always have one or more books going. I like to alternate between exciting and fast-paced reads which are in the same genre I write, with some of the classics.
Does your family support your career as a writer?
Since my main genre is legal thrillers, it is fortuitous that my wife is a retired trial judge and is therefore my go-to source for evidentiary questions and rules of criminal procedure. She reads all of my first drafts and is both my greatest supporter and toughest critic.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I can usually pump out a first draft in about four to six months. However one of my unpublished books, which is now with my publisher, took about three years to write. It went through myriad rewrites.
Tell us some more about your book.
Pancho McMartin, Honolulu’s top criminal defense attorney, is hired to defend a man accused of murdering his neighbor, who had been having an affair with the accused’s wife. The neighbor was an environmental attorney who had sued to stop a huge real estate development on Kauai. Naturally, Pancho looks to the players in the development as having serious motives to kill the attorney who may be driving them into bankruptcy. The problem is that everyone he looks at has airtight alibis. Pancho begins trial with no clear idea as to who to accuse, and his client is less than thrilled with Pancho’s defense tactics, which Pancho himself acknowledges are somewhat desperate. Deceptions abound, and Pancho takes huge risks at trial as the outcome looks very bleak for his client.
Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?
TROPICAL DECEPTION is the fourth novel in my Pancho McMartin legal thriller series set in Honolulu, Hawaii. Most of my legal thriller stories have some basis in real-life events, to varying degrees. In DECEPTION, I used a real estate development case from the Big Island of Hawaii wherein the huge golf course and residential development was halted by the local court after the developer had put in tens of millions of dollars and scores of buyers had scooped up lots for over a million dollars apiece. I thought the amount of money at play made for great motivation to murder.
How do you come up with names for your characters?
Often the names are random, or easy to remember and differentiate from other characters. In my Tropical series, set in Hawaii, I use ethnic names to reflect the highly diverse demographics of the Islands. I created Pancho McMartin’s name to stand out as being memorable and somewhat humorous. He grew up in Taos, New Mexico where his parents had moved in the late 60s to be hippies on a commune. Their story is that because Taos is largely Hispanic, they named him Pancho so that he would fit in at school. Pancho’s theory is that his parents dropped acid to celebrate his birth and named him while stoned.
Which scene, character or plotline changed the most from first draft to published book?
I changed the ending multiple times over the course of rewrites. At first I had a pretty abrupt ending, leaving a lot to the readers’ imaginations. I liked it, but my editors ultimately felt I needed to tie things up a little better. Hopefully I accomplished both logical conclusions while still leaving room for the readers’ own take.
What life experiences have shaped your writing most?
Most experts give new writers the advice that one should “write what you know.” I was a trial attorney in Honolulu for 38 years and so writing legal thrillers was the obvious choice. However, I wrote my first legal thriller novel about twenty years ago while still working and found that my writing was very stilted and formal as a result of the years of writing legal memoranda and briefs. When I was preparing to retire and had time to indulge my passion of writing again, I wrote a golf-related suspense novel, UNPLAYABLE LIE, intentionally staying away from the law. After receiving some mild success and excellent reviews, I felt confident enough to venture back into writing legal thrillers. Now I try to alternate my legal thrillers with non-legal suspense thrillers (THE PINOCHET PLOT and SON OF SAIGON).
Categories: BookView Review Interview