Facebook Friend, Robert Coburn, is here for a guest post, forgoing a Q&A for a narrative. Let’s hear about his life directly from the man:
I was born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia. Shortly after graduating from high school, I joined the US Army. Actually, that was a rebound. I’d wanted to join the Air Force and become a fighter pilot (airplanes had always been my main interest as a kid). I applied and they flew me to Sampson AFB on a commercial airline (first ever for me) for three days of testing. I passed everything and was all set to go, except for one tiny problem. I can’t cross my eyes. I stayed an extra day practicing…to no avail. Please don’t ask me why being able to cross your eyes is necessary but it is. Rejected and dejected, I flew back to Norfolk and gave the sad news to my recruiter. He suggested the Army’s helicopter mechanic school and I was soon off to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, to begin infantry basic training and after that, four months in Texas learning how to keep helicopters flying. Then, two and a half years with the 6th Infantry Regiment air section in Berlin, Germany.
It wasn’t until long afterwards and I was married and living in Los Angels, CA, that I decided to take flying lessons. I got my private pilot’s license at Van Nuys airport. After gaining a hundred hours of so, I took an aerobatic course in case I ever found myself flying upside down and needed to get out of it. I added an instrument rating and later got a commercial pilot license. All of this was done to make me a better pilot. I had no plans of changing careers.
The biggest plane I ever flew was my own, a single engine Piper Dakota. Occasionally, when filming tv commercials, we’d charter a twin to fly us to locations. I’d try to grab right front seat and get some stick time but I never added a twin rating.
Later my wife I and moved from LA to Carmel. I was still working in LA and commuted daily from the Monterey airport to Santa Monica airport in my Piper. I did this for nearly two years before I quit my job there. The flying was kind of tough. It was usually a two hour flight. Weather was always a factor and flying back over the ocean at night in a single engine airplane wasn’t the smartest thing you could do. When I quit work I had logged over 1500 hours. I sold my airplane then and haven’t flown since. And yes, I do sometimes miss it.
Most of my working career was in advertising. I majored in advertising while at collage. After graduating I worked for a year writing retail advertising for a department store. Then I moved to the ad agency side. I was lucky to work at some good agencies. Doyle Dane Bernbach in New York and Los Angeles. Rubin Postaer and Associates in Los Angeles were a couple. I was always on the creative side which is the best place to be, in my opinion. There is a lot of pressure but if you’re at a good agency and can do good work, then that doesn’t matter. Actually, it can even help. I always told people who asked about getting into advertising to look at the ads the admire and then find out who did them. Because that would be where they’d want to work.
Of all the places I’ve lived, each holds strong memories. But that was then. Things change. Like they say, you can’t go back. Carmel is especially nice. Not just because the area is so beautiful but that it’s also a nice and small neighborhood.
My wife wrote four detective novels published by Penguin. She worked as a newspaper reporter for the Richmond Times Dispatch. We actually met in Richmond, VA, while I was going to school. After we’d moved to Los Angeles, she became a reserve police officer with the Los Angeles department, graduating from the police academy and working patrol and later as detective in homicide where she handle her own assault-with-a-deadly-weapon cases. An interesting note here, she never carried a gun. Whenever a bad guy needed arresting, she’d tale a couple of big cops with her.
After leaving the police department, she decided that since she had been a reporter and knew how to write and also knew how to investigate a crime, she would write a novel. As it turned out, she wrote four of them. All good reads, too.
Now to my research methods. I use the web a lot. Sometimes that isn’t such a great idea because it can lead you to pretty dark places. Also, I keep an eye out for interesting and hopefully, weird newspaper articles.
The St. Julian Parish series came about from a story I was writing that was initially to be set in central Florida. I didn’t like it. I had been to New Orleans one time for a Honda dealer meeting but never got off of Bourbon Street. However, growing up in Norfolk, Virginia, I was very familiar with the Dismal Swamp which runs from there through the Carolinas. Well, swamps, bayous…okay? I got the name for the parish from an exit for Julian St. in San Jose. Everything was working well with my imaginary parish until I discovered there weren’t any sandy beaches on the Louisiana coast, except for an island outside New Orleans. I took care of that by mentioning in the next book that nobody knew how the sand got to St. Julian. That’s the good thing about having control of your setting.
I have been going to Key West for years. I used to shoot commercials there or in Miami. My wife and I even had a condo in Key West and lived there for a short time. Key West is a quirky little place and I look at it as being a character in itself.
I got into writing novels after quitting my job in advertising. Since my wife had been successful, it seemed like a good idea to me. My first attempt was a bomb. It was set in Hawaii. I tried again and again, finally aiming for Key West. Jack Hunter had come into the picture by then but I hadn’t really defined him…giving him a reason for putting on his pants every morning, that is. I wasn’t getting anywhere and was on the verge of giving up when my wife and I were visiting Key West and I saw a newspaper article about a new publisher there going into business there. AbsolutelyAmazingEbooks. I worked some more on manuscript and submitted the draft. To my absolute amazement, it was accepted. That was A Loose Knot and the beginning of the series.
Since then I’ve written nine novels—seven Jack Hunter and two St. Julian Parish— and several short stories which have been published.
I’ve always been interested in music. Both my father and mother played instruments. I never did. I thought the saxophone was pretty cool looking. So at a late age and while still living in LA, I bought an alto sax and started taking lessons. I should’ve done this when I was six years old. Then maybe I’d be able to play the thing. As far as the flute goes, it’s just a penny whistle. I bought the one Jack Hunter plays in the late 60s when I was in England. It’s a friend and I always take it with me when we travel.
One other creative endeavor I’ve always enjoyed is art. I used to paint when in collage and still have a few of them I did then.
Check out my books at AbsolutelyAmazingEbooks and Amazon.com. They’re available in paperback and ebooks. Hope you like them. Write a review either way.
A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Robert Coburn graduated from Maury High School and then spent three years in the U.S. Army stationed in Berlin, Germany. Upon his discharge he enrolled in the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary VPI as an engineering student. A year later he transferred to Richmond Professional Institute (now VCU) in Richmond, Virginia, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Advertising.
Coburn spent his advertising career at major ad agencies in New York and Los Angeles. He worked at Doyle Dane Bernbach in New York, starting as a copywriter and becoming a Vice President Copy Supervisor. He later joined Rubin Postaer and Associates in Los Angeles where he was a Senior Vice President and Creative Director.
His television and print ads have won major awards in advertising shows nationally and internationally. They include first place wins in The Clios, The Andys, New York Art Directors Club, The Beldings in Los Angeles, and Gold and Silver Lions at Cannes.
After leaving the advertising business, he turned his attention to writing novels. His first book, A Loose Knot–a mystery novel set in Los Angeles and Key West, was published by AbsolutelyAmazingEBooks in 2013. Since then, Coburn has written seven other novels, all published by AAeB. Those titles are: A Deadly Deception, The Pink Gun, Little Boxes, Bad Tidings, An Evil Number, Malice Murder and A Rage of Deaths.
Robert Coburn is a member of Mystery Writers of America.
Outside of writing, Coburn enjoys playing the saxophone and traveling. He is also an instrument-rated commercial pilot. He lives with his wife in Carmel, California.