If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

July Interviews

7/1 Lena Gregory, Scone Cold Killer
7/8 Jessica Baker, Murder on the Flying Scotsman
7/15 TG Wolff, Driving Reign
7/22 Leslie Budewitz, The Solace of Bay Leaves
7/29 Cynthia Kuhn, The Study of Secrets

Saturday Guest Bloggers

7/11 Mark Dressler
7/18 James McCrone

WWK Bloggers:

7/4 Valerie Burns
7/25 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!

Look Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.

Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015


I’ll admit it. When the community website CRIMINAL ELEMENT newsletter featured Lawyer for the Dog, I bought the book thinking it was a mystery. (The newsletter’s caption, which combined topics from a number of featured selections, was “Where Politics Meets Dog Lawyering in France… with Cake!” -- so how could I resist?) Besides, the novel was about Charleston, SC, and by a former Charleston public defender, Lee Robinson. How could it not be terrific?

Well, I’m here to tell you it is terrific, even though it’s not a mystery. On July 7, Thomas Dunne Books released Lawyer for the Dog, the delightful story of how protagonist attorney Sally Bright Baynard comes to represent a dog named Sherman in a high profile Charleston divorce case. Once I began reading it, I couldn’t stop. I liked it so much that I contacted Lee and asked if she would do an interview. She graciously consented.

On his website, Dr. Jerald Winakur refers to his wife Lee Robinson as a “lawyer, poet, novelist.” She has indeed distinguished herself in all those pursuits. For more than twenty years, she practiced law in Charleston, South Carolina, serving as the first female president of the Charleston County Bar. Her poetry collection, Hearsay, received awards from Fordham University Press and the Texas Writers’ League. She also has written a novel for young adults.

Lee, welcome to Writers Who Kill.

Lee Robinson
Tell us more about your background and how you made the transition from lawyer to full time author.

I’ve been writing since junior high school. My first national publication was a poem in Harper’s magazine, which I published between my second and third years of law school. During all the years of my busy law practice I kept writing—sometimes only a few hours a week, usually early in the morning before work—and publishing poetry and short stories. The law practice and the writing really nourished each other. In the law practice I heard so many fascinating stories and met so many interesting people. And I think my writing effort—the struggle to express what I felt in just the right way—made me a better listener for my clients.

When I retired from law practice I felt I’d been given this enormous gift of time. But in some ways the freedom was intimidating. I had to live up to the opportunity I’d been given. I had no more excuses for not writing!

Sherman is very much a character in your book. Is he based on a pet or former client?

My sister has an adorable and feisty little dog named Cricket (she can hop from the floor to a table!) who’s a schnauzer mix. And I had a mixed-breed dog some years ago, Beau, a little bundle of white fluff who was very smart and spoiled rotten. Both those canine personalities came together in my mind to create Sherman.

I’ve never actually represented a dog in a divorce, but “custody” battles over pets are becoming more and more common across the country. If people will fight over a painting or an antique, you can bet they’ll go to the mat over a beloved pet.

Your protagonist Sally is a complex woman with a complicated life. How did you develop Sally’s character?

Of course it’s no secret to my friends that Sally is a lot like me. She works hard at her law practice—maybe too hard. She has little patience for stuck-up people. She can be too blunt. But I think the book would have been less compelling if I’d made it too autobiographical. As the great writer John Irving once said, “I have an autobiography on its way to becoming a lie. The lie, of course, is more interesting.”

I do think a novel has to feel authentic and genuine, and I hope my experience as a lawyer helps the reader feel that the story is believable, but I had an enormous amount of fun creating the fictional Sally Baynard—who has adventures I never dreamed of!

Sally’s very influenced by a law professor who told her that every case is a story. Where did you learn that lesson and how has it influenced both your law practice and fiction writing?

I had a fabulous professor who taught Constitutional Law. When he talked about Supreme Court cases, he got so excited I thought he might levitate, and every case was like a great story—sometimes even a novel. In my years of practicing law, I learned the hard way that judges and juries need a compelling narrative; otherwise they lose interest. Detail is fine, but fundamentally every dispute is a story, and a good lawyer must remember that. What’s essential, and what can be left out? What’s at the heart of the story, and what is extraneous?

When I’ve written a poem or a short story or a chapter of a novel, I find it helpful to read it aloud to my husband (a fine writer). As I’m reading I sometimes hear my own mistakes, but often he points out things that don’t make sense or seem superfluous.

Reading Lawyer for the Dog is like taking a virtual trip to Charleston, SC, and its surrounding areas. What do you think is most important for writers to do in portraying an actual setting?

I spent so many years in Charleston that I only have to close my eyes to see it. I loved living there. I lived downtown, but I spent a lot of time at the beach and on the surrounding sea islands, which have a beauty all their own. Whenever I’m writing descriptions of Charleston I could go on and on, but in my own reading of my favorite authors I find that they’re able to paint a picture with just a few brush strokes. What are the most vivid physical features of a particular place? What would most impress your narrator or character? Hone in on those.

Do you plan to write more about Sally?

Sally will reappear in a sequel, Lawyer for the Cat, which is coming out in 2016. She represents a cat who’s inherited several million dollars and a plantation, and Sally is given the task of choosing between several potential caretakers. Her job isn’t easy, and involves some danger. I won’t say more!

What advice do you give to writers and aspiring writers?

Read, read, read! Read classic and contemporary stories and novels. Read all sorts of genres. Go to bookstores and book festivals and listen to writers present their work. Read magazine articles and blogs. Join a writers group or workshop. Save your money and attend a writer’s conference, where you’ll meet agents and editors and well-known writers.

And spend a lot of time on revision. Get it out on paper (or your laptop) without too much self-editing at first, but then read it as if you’re a critic. Be tough on yourself!

Now that you live in Texas, have you written stories or poetry about that state?

I’ve got a draft of a suspense novel set in the Texas hill country, where I live on a small ranch. It needs a lot more work. I also have many poems which are set here, in my books Hearsay and Creed. (You can hear Garrison Keillor read some of my poems on The Almanac.) I’ve fallen in love with Texas, and pretty soon Sally Baynard may have to come to Texas to handle a case. Of course, she’ll have to have an interesting Texas character as local counsel!

Lee, thanks so much for being with us today. Just to whet everyone’s appetite a little further, here’s a brief description of Lawyer for the Dog: Sally Bright Baynard is appointed by her ex-husband Joe, a Family Court Judge, to represent a miniature schnauzer named Sherman in a divorce case with parties who have a town house on the East Battery and a beach house on Sullivan’s Island. When she agrees to undertake the case, she finds herself juggling the quarrelling couple; care for her mother with Alzheimer’s; suspicions that her ex might still have feelings for her; a handsome vet whose interests definitely extend beyond Sherman; and her fiftieth birthday. Lee Robinson depicts the legal community, Charleston, and a heart-warming dog with humor and skill. A great summer (or anytime) read!

What are you reading this summer?


KM Rockwood said...

What a fun title! When we got married, I had two kids from previous relationships and my husband had a dog whose ownership was in dispute with his ex. Eventually, he gave up his half-interest in the car in exchange for her giving up her half-interest in the dog. It worked out much better that way. And my kids got an instant pet!

Thanks for sharing your writing (and reading) experiences with us.

Warren Bull said...

An attorney I know once spent several hours going through a doll collection randomly assigning each doll to one of two categories because the two people involved in the legal process could not agree on how to divide the collection. Naturally, he billed for the time.

Grace Topping said...

What a clever idea for a story. We read all the time about rich people (and not so rich) leaving their estate to their pets. With your books, we'll get to see how that actually plays out. Thanks for the interesting interview. I think another interesting story is how you came to be living on a small ranch in the Texas hill country and no longer in Charleston.

Shari Randall said...

Thank you for stopping by WWK, Sally! Now I know what book I'll be packing in my beach bag - and your next book sounds equally fun.

Susan F. Craft said...

What an interesting post. You've convinced me to buy the book, Paula. My novel, Cassia, that's being released this September features a mastiff who becomes a hero. I based his character on my granddog, Steeler. Though Steeler is a small dog and not a mastiff, he has the heart of a lion and protected his grandma, placing himself between me and a threatening pit bull. He's my hero. :-)

Shari Randall said...

Whoops, I meant Lee! (long day) Apologies!

Paula Gail Benson said...

KM and Warren, what interesting legal situations. Sounds like they could lead you to writing some interesting stories.

Grace, I agree. I think Lee will be entertaining us with stories about Charleston and Texas.

Shari, you'll find it the perfect beach read.

Susan, I'm so looking forward to Cassia coming out this September. If your mastiff is based on Steeler, he will be adorable!