My new novel is called Son of Saigon. It’s about two older guys, Hank Reagan and Norm Rothstein, who are living in a high-end retirement community and hating every minute of it. When Mai, Hank’s former lover from his CIA stint in Saigon shows up to ask for his help finding the son he never knew he had, Hank enlists his buddy Norm to set off on what they both assume will be an unsuccessful quest to find Hank Jr., who disappeared over twenty years prior. A road trip, romance, encounter with a Mexican drug cartel, and a new beginning for Hank and Norm ensues in a story which is at times dark, funny, violent, and poignant.
Tell us something about yourself.
I grew up in Southern California, mostly in Pasadena. When my family moved to Hawaii in 1968, I moved north to attend college at San Francisco State. In 1969 I moved back to Pasadena to attend Cal State LA and work for a minority newspaper called The Pasadena Eagle. My editor and mentor, Richard Vasquez, was just putting the finishing touches on his novel, CHICANO, which was published by Doubleday and became a best seller. I was definitely hit by the writing bug, but I had planned on becoming an attorney and, after much soul-searching, decided to stay on that course. After Cal State LA I attended one semester at the University of Hawaii and then I moved back to San Francisco State University where I narrowly avoided the draft based on my lottery number. I graduated with a degree in political science.
After college I attended the University of San Francisco Law School, where I met my wife, Marcia Waldorf. Upon graduating in 1975 we moved to Hawaii. I became a trial lawyer specializing in personal injury and workers’ compensation law, and Marcia, after a stint at the Public Defender’s, was appointed to a judgeship.
I completed my first novel about twenty years ago, but it was pretty awful. My writing had become stilted by the years of writing legalese. When I attempted another novel, which I began shortly before I retired, I purposely decided to write about anything other than the law. So I wrote about my other passion, golf. UNPLAYABLE LIE is a golf-related suspense novel. With the publication of SON OF SAIGON, I have now had five novels published, with a sixth due out at the end of this year.
Marcia and I moved back to the mainland once we were both retired, and we now live in Taos, NM, where I can write, ski, golf, hike, and take road trips we weren’t able to take during our forty years in Hawaii.
What inspired you to write this book?
I had just become eligible for Medicare and began thinking about mortality. The lifestyle in Taos is very active, and I have friends with whom I ski and golf who are well into their 70s and some in their early 80s. I decided to write a book about a couple of old guys who, despite being in good health and having plenty of money, had thought their lives were over until Hank’s former lover came along and changed all that. There are multiple layers and subplots, but to me, the overarching theme is Hank and Norm becoming kick-ass old dudes. I like to say that Son of Saigon is my middle-finger salute to old age.
How did you celebrate when you finished writing the book? When it was published?
I don’t really celebrate when I finish a book. It’s more just a sigh of relief that all the editing and rewriting is finally over. My literary agent didn’t think it was mainstream enough for her to sell to a big publishing house, so she recommended I go with the same indie publisher, Terra Nova Books, which had published my prior novel, THE PINOCHET PLOT. She referred to Son of Saigon as a “boomer buddy story,” which I like. Terra Nova published the book in August, 2018.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I loved writing, even as a kid. I think my first short story was for an assignment in English class in junior high school. In high school I wrote for the school paper and ultimately became editor-in-chief. While in San Francisco in college, I did some free-lance work for magazines. And then I became a staff writer for the minority newspaper in Pasadena. I continued to write poems and short stories during the years I practiced law.
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I don’t like making outlines. I get an idea into my head and then begin writing. It’s much more fun for me to enjoy the process not knowing exactly where the book is going. Of course, this approach will often lead me into inescapable corners which force me to regroup accordingly. But that’s all part of the fun.
Do you have a daily or weekly writing schedule, or do you write only when you are inspired? How many words or pages do you complete in a typical day?
When I’m into it I can sit down and write for hours at a time, day after day. I don’t have a set schedule. I’m retired, after all, and I don’t want my writing to feel like work.
How many drafts did you write before publishing your most recent book?
That’s hard to say because I will generally self-edit the substance of the book as I go along. Once I finish the story and like what I’ve written, I send the draft off to my long-time independent editor who may or may not make substantive suggestions in addition to grammatical and stylistic edits. Then I rewrite, hopefully one last time before sending it off to my publisher.
What software do you use to write? Or do you prefer to write longhand or dictate your work? What made you choose the method you use?
I simply write using my Word program.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
If you mean my life, I can’t really say I would do anything differently. My life experiences, while not always good, were critical to making me into who I am. I think I have made mostly good choices with regard to my life. I loved being an attorney and now I love being retired and writing. Having Marcia, my wife, by my side for the last 44 years makes everything worthwhile.
Do you read reviews?
I sure do. It was the early reviews of my first novel, by people who didn’t know me, which gave me the courage to keep writing. Obviously I’d prefer good reviews, but as an attorney who’s been beaten up in court on more than one occasion, I think I can handle most anything.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
My advice about writing is not original with me. Write what you love and write for yourself. My advice about publishing, from my limited experience, is that it is no longer as important as it used to be to have a mainstream publisher. Unless you’re one of the anointed few, you’re going to be pretty much on your own for marketing your work whether you have a traditional publisher or you self-publish.
Do you have friends who are writers? How do you help each other to become better writers?
I have some acquaintances who are writers, but I’m not much of a joiner. I don’t participate in writing groups or seminars. When I’m not writing I’m having too much fun with other endeavors to spend time analyzing how other writers write. My motto, such as it is, is ‘Just Write.’
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
Mostly everyone? Just kidding. For Son of Saigon I think it will probably be more enjoyable to the baby boomer crowd, although the “kick-ass old dude” aspect of the book is but one of many layers. I would say anyone who likes suspense and action and dark humor will enjoy it.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
I maintain a blog on my website: davidmylesrobinson.com
The book is available at Amazon.com