28 Ryburn Dobbs Interview 


Charity Bradford: loose-leaf a multi-author podcast journal where we talk about goals, the ups and downs of writing and where we try to warn you off of our greatest pitfalls. So welcome back to loose leaf author podcast. We have another great author interview today. We have Ryburn Dobbs with us and his debut book. The comfort of distance came out on October 27th of this year, I believe.

Ryburn Dobbs: Yep. That's right. 

Charity Bradford: So, um, I was looking you up and it says that you taught biological anthropology and forensic anthropology at several colleges in San Francisco. Yep. And then you also spent 10 years as a forensic anthropologist working dozens of death investigations. And in addition to those pursuits, you also worked as an investigative analysts, specializing in homicides and unsolved cases.

That feels very heavy. 

Yeah. Yeah, it is. But you... 

How's that 

Ryburn Dobbs: you survived. You're still healing. Y

eah, well, yeah, it was very, it was very interesting work, so yeah, it was heavy, but, uh, it was very interesting. I got some good tales for the grandkids when they come along and get older. 

Charity Bradford: I'm sure you do well.

I'm guessing that from your background that played a part in you deciding to write thriller novels. 

Ryburn Dobbs: Yeah, definitely. I always wanted to write, it was always a goal of mine. Um, and it was always something that, uh, that I planned to do at some point I just kind of, didn't give my self permission for several decades.

And so after having about 10, 15 years of really, really interesting, kind of. A casework and just experiences in the forensic world. I thought, no, I actually do have a lot of really cool experiences to draw from. And, you know, things that I can kind of build a book around. I originally did not necessarily set out to write any kind of a crime thriller necessary.

I was kind of going for more of a literary fiction field, but. Uh, as I put it together and as I talked to my development editor, it just kind of morphed into more of that kind of thing, which I think is, is much better. Yeah. So yeah, that's, that's kind of the idea behind it. 

Charity Bradford: Well, it's exciting because that means your writing is going to be authentic and nobody can come to you and say, this guy didn't do this.

Ryburn Dobbs: Well, that was that's funny. It's so that's really funny. It's I did actually, you know, I. I didn't know how to, I don't know how to do all this stuff. Right. This is the first thing I've ever written. Literally that's fiction I've ever written. Um, and it's gotten, it's got really, really positive reviews and I'm very grateful for that.

Um, but there was, I did get one review on NetGalley where the reviewer, the lady just absolutely tore me apart and said, clearly I've never. You know, I don't know how law enforcement works. I don't know how forensics works and I'm like, okay. You know, so, yeah, so that was a good part. I didn't have to do any research on the forensics because every, all of the actual forensic cases in the book are based on real cases that I worked.

It's just, uh, you know, the forensic elements are all just literally things that, that I, that I worked. Um, but the circumstances people involved and maybe the settings are obviously different, but the actual details are the same. 

Charity Bradford: Yeah, that's funny that she would say you didn't know it. It's kind of like, what is she basing that on TV?

Ryburn Dobbs: Yeah. Yeah. It was really disappointing, but it was good. It was good. She taught me to have a thicker skin and you know, it's going to happen. 


Charity Bradford: Oh, well, we'll have to get into that. Uh, as we talk a little bit more today. Okay. So what do I thought when I saw that was with all of your experience? And you said earlier that you had always wanted to write a book and you didn't give yourself permission until recently.

Um, do you ever find that digging back into this crime? Thriller is hard. Like, like I, I don't know. Maybe it's just me. I was like, have you ever wanted to do something a little lighter in tone? 

Ryburn Dobbs: Um, well that's. Well, no, not really. Not necessarily. I mean, Because it is so interesting to me, right. I mean, uh, it's, it just kind of comes naturally and it's it just kind of all fits together.

Uh, I had a lot of, I got a lot of joy from the whole writing experience, you know, really, really enjoyed it. It was, it felt, it felt right. It felt good. And, and the ideas kind of just, they just kind of came and I think there's a lot of, of kind of sub subconscious there. A lot of experiences that I had been there had been buried.

There's kind of came out and so, so. No it's and T and the other thing to me too, is to me, it's, it's not, it's not really that heavy because I worked at so much as commonplace, right? To me, it's common place the world that I lived in, but I worked in is something that most people don't know exists, but it does exist.

And so to me, it's just kind of, uh, you know, part of life.

Charity Bradford: So did you find that it was kind of your way of, you said it brought things up that maybe you hadn't realized it was kind of your way of dealing with that and looking at it and kind of solving it for yourself? 

Ryburn Dobbs: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And it was really a way also a way of realizing.

You know, that, that, that I did have, that I did have some really cool experiences. Right. I mean, so I, I didn't talk about my friends six and still really don't, you know, most people don't don't really know that that's in my background. I'm kind of a corporate person at the moment, but, um, but I don't bring it up that much.

And one of the reasons I don't is because I just assume people don't want to hear about that. You know, it's not like dinner conversation. It's actually pretty, you know, a lot of the stuff. Dealt with was pretty heavy and pretty, pretty gross, to be honest. And so I never brought it up, but people would always ask me and my wife wouldn't get on me.

She would say, you know, people really want to do here about this. And I'm like, yeah, but it's not very pleasant, but they're interested. Right. And so once I realized that people really were interested, then that's kind of, one of the, one of the things really also pushed me over the edge to the writing.

Right. Well, you know, and that's what I know. Right. So, 

Charity Bradford: yeah.

Well, I actually love that because, uh, I think there are a lot of us that just have inquisitive minds and it, you know, I'm sure there's different sides of different people who would be interested, but a lot of us, like I liked the process, um, and I know TV is not anywhere near to what really goes on because it's all glamorized, but it's, it's that process of.

You know, breaking down these parts and looking at them closely and learning what they can tell you that I think a lot of people find fascinating. 

Ryburn Dobbs: Yeah. I used to tell my students that, that, that forensics is the actual forensic anthropology, and it probably goes with every field of forensics, but forensics is, is actually less exciting than TV, less exciting, but more interesting.

Right. You know, it's more, it's more tedious and so on. I mean, I have a relative who. You know, it was a VP for Fox Celtra television. And when bones, the show bones came out, he sent me a tape of it like a year before it came out and said, Oh, you're going to love this. This is right up your alley. And I turned it off after five minutes.

Cause I'm like, none of this is reality. Right. Um, so. Yeah, it's a bit of a curse. That's my son and my wife. I'm a hard time watching forensic TV shows with me cause I tend to yell at the TV. 


Charity Bradford: That's fun though. Well, Hey, let's talk about the book. Um, I'm just gonna read the blurb that you have here. So this is the comfort of distance, which is a Sebastian Gray novel, uh, going to be the first in a series.

Ryburn Dobbs: hear.

Yeah. Number two's already a quarter of the way through. 

Oh, that's awesome. 

Charity Bradford: Okay. So deep in the forest of the black Hills, human remains are being discovered one bit at a time rumors of a rogue man eating mountain lion are spreading through the country and panic is starting to swell. Sergeant Hank, Le Gris 

Le Gris.

Okay. I knew I was going to mess that one up. Sergeant Hank Legree of the Custer County Sheriff's office is feeling the pressure. He needs to find out who the dead are and how they got that way. Hank suspects that the bodies are the result of a more sinister predator, but in order to solve the mystery, he will have to reach back into his own dysfunctional family history and pull in the only person who can get to the bottom of these strange cases is a strange and disordered brother.

The brilliant forensic anthropologists, Dr. Sebastian gray. When Sebastian arrives in the black Hills, he takes his brother and detective Tiffany Reese on a whirlwind tour, a forensic thinking and deductive reasoning, not only solving the mystery of the human remains, but the murder of a local thug as well in the process, Sebastian himself is forever transformed by his own success and by the charm and kindness of the lovely detective Reese one day, I hope you give yourself permission to be different.

Sebastian, you'll be happier. So I'm assuming detective Reese said that. Yes. Oh, exciting. Well, I did buy the book and I have started, I'm only a couple of chapters in and, um, I'm. Excited to kind of see what you're, what you're talking about there with Sebastian and his life changing, because he has a unique set of skills, which it seems come with their own obstacles.

Would you like to talk about that? 

Ryburn Dobbs: Yeah, sure. Um, so Sebastian is a character that has that, that has some. A disorder that is very, very rare. It's called, uh, anxious avoidant personality disorder, which is a it's, it's kind of a mix of insecurity, lack of self-esteem, uh, cognitive distortions. So he's very kind of sensitive and, uh, suspicious of what people are thinking of him and so on.

And the interesting thing about that is, is completely ironic to his, his training, right? So he's, he's trained to look at facts to look at details to, to only kind of use. Things that he knows within his kind of mental calculations, but as it relates to himself, he's very, very different. Um, he, he has a hard time doing that.

And so that is a, uh, that's a personality kind of, it's a type of personality that resonates with me and something that I've kind of struggled with over the years too. And so I wanted to make that part of that character and the, the, and I've mentioned before that. The book originally was going to be kind of a literary fiction, meaning that the focus was gonna be more about Sebastian and his arc from kind of being more shy, more insecure, you know, uh, socially anxious and so on to kind of go into this experience and coming out the other end, not completely changed, but certainly improved or, you know, a little bit different.

Um, and. Working with my development, the letter I pulled some of that stuff back and made it more of a crime mystery. But, but nevertheless, um, that's, uh, I just thought that was a very kind of interesting counterpoint to his life and his vocation and what he does, the actual internal struggle. He has to maintain that perspective as it relates to himself.

Charity Bradford: Yeah. That's very interesting. And I think a lot of times, most of us. Can't see ourselves the way that we would look at everything else. So 

Ryburn Dobbs: it's just, just a little more, it's an interesting problem. Yep. 

Charity Bradford: Do you have a favorite part of this novel, whether it was in the process or coming up with the ideas or a favorite scene?

Ryburn Dobbs: Um, Oh gosh. Uh, I wish I knew you were gonna ask you that. I would've thought a little harder. Um, Well, it's funny. Uh, when, you know, so as part of this process, I got a development letter and somebody who has a lot of experience, and as he was reading the book, he would, he would go to certain parts. He would say, I can tell you're having a really fun time at the, you know, writing this right.

It's kind of coming out and those are, and those parts are the interactions between Tiffany. Uh, detective Reese, uh, Sergeant Lagree and Sebastian, um, where they just kind of go at each other a little bit. And the, the, the dialogue kind of snaps along, um, Uh, you know, Sebastian's kind of, he's not, he doesn't understand jokes very well.

He's kind of, you know, things go go over his head and he gets offended, but, you know, but on the other hand, you have Hank who is very kind of jokey and sarcastic, and you have Tiffany who was very playful. And, and so, you know, in the middle of bunch of, you know, death and destruction and mayhem and so on.

So I think, um, if I could say just generally. Once Sebastian kind of guests to South Dakota, and he starts interacting with those people and working the cases and they start interviewing people and looking at evidence. Those are the things that become really fun. I think, um, if I could point to, I mean, I suppose if I could point to one it's the scene with, uh, Tiffany and Sebastian, when Sebastian's doing the autopsies in the, in the, in the, at the coroner's office, then she comes to visit him and they talk about what he's finding and, and he's trying to explain to her, you know, what he's saying and what it means and so on.

So, you know, he's trying to, he's trying to concentrate and work his craft, so to speak, but at the same time, he's completely submitted with Tiffany and he can barely contain himself. So it's just, it's interesting. Yeah. So, um, that probably doesn't answer your question, but that's, those are the parts that I like best, but it does.

Charity Bradford: And I love how you mentioned that your editor could tell where you were having fun with the story that it came out, uh, in there. I, I have to share this. So I was reading some of your reviews and this particular review was actually why I was like, I'm going to go ahead and download this, even though I knew I couldn't read it before we met.

Uh, so this is from. Someone on Amazon. And, uh, let's see if I can find it. She says one of my absolute favorite lines showcasing that dash of comedy is found on page 247, in which a police interrogation is taking place. One of the main characters Hank says to a suspected criminal, well, slap my button, start the rodeo.

This is just fine. I just saw that. I thought that's, that's awesome. So, so you've got, you know, this crime and these horrible things that are happening, but you have all this humor thrown in and you mentioned that he spent with Tiffany, so there's a touch of romance as well. So it seems like you have everything in this book.

Ryburn Dobbs: Yeah, well, I, well, that's somebody asked me, I think, um, uh, maybe I was doing like a filling out of the questionnaire for an interview, but somebody asked me, you know, what I liked most about the book and or what I could, why I would recommend the book. I think it, what it was and looking back, I did not plan it this way at all.

I truly did not plan it at all. I wish I could say I did. But it really does have something for just about anyone. It's, it's got a mystery. I know probably everyone says that, but it's a mystery. It's got a strong characters. It's got humor. Um, it's got some, some suspense, you know, with mountain lines and things like that.

So I really do think it has, has a lot of, a lot of those things. And that's the other thing too, about that dialogue with the interview where the guy says, slap my butt and start the rodeo. I mean, That's our cops talk, right? Not all, it's not all that, some of them that's how they do. Right. Which is, and I've, I've seen that.

I mean, we were talking before, you know, this kind of world is dark and dreary, so to speak, but law enforcement and forensics, people live in it. And so they kind of develop these mechanisms to deal with it. And it is at the end of the day kind of really just a job. So, um, and maybe that's what that one reviewer didn't get, but that's, that's pretty, uh, 

Charity Bradford: Yeah, I could see that though.

I can see how they would have their ways of coping with everything they're dealing with. Yeah. So do you have a set number of books in the series or will you just continue with it until you run out of. 

Ryburn Dobbs: Um, I'm debating that. Uh, I, I, I, in other words, I really don't know. I mean, if it's, if it is, you know, some of the comments I've gotten in a number of reviews is, you know, I can't wait for the next one kind of a thing.

And so I do feel compelled to at least give it a couple more, um, kind of in my mind, I have like three that I definitely want to do. And then there's something completely different that I want to do. Um, the total they're going to deal, uh, that I will want to do, um, So we'll, we'll see if that's what happens.

Um, actually I was thinking three and then what I wanted to do was maybe do like a, I was going to call it the casebook of Sebastian gray, where it's really just a series of like 10 or 11 short stories that focus more on the forensics and so on. And, and of course they would all just be right out of my, out of my case.

Yeah. That's excellent. That's a great idea. Yeah. 

Charity Bradford: Yeah. So what do you think is the most challenging thing about writing? 

Ryburn Dobbs: Uh, well, I mean, I can only speak for myself. Um, the biggest thing for me has been literally the probably 30 years that I put it off because I just didn't think I should didn't think I could and think it'd be good enough.

And so on once you, once you do it, once I did it. I realize that that, that disappeared. It completely went away because I had so much fun doing it. And I realized that I was, you know, reasonably good at it. And, you know, you know, probably need a ton of work know as I, as I continue, I'll Polish what I do, but reasonably good at it and definitely really, really enjoyed it.

So the hardest part was getting started for sure. Um, and, and now that that's kind of behind me, that'll never be a hard part again, except that, you know, procrastinating sitting down and putting the words on the page, but, um, that's been the hardest part. So 

Charity Bradford: what is, okay, so we talk a lot on our podcast about imposter syndrome and that's what it sounds like.

You're talking about why you waited so long. Was there anything in particular that helped you get past that, that helped you take that first step?

Ryburn Dobbs: Um, well, I think start getting, going, starting and doing it long enough, just pushing through long enough to start to feel that joy and just start to feel good about it to the point where. You know, th this feels right, this feels good and I'm having fun. And at the end of the day, if no one ever reads it, that's fine, but I'm having fun.

And then, and then kind of continuing in that path and it, those feelings don't change. Right? It's like even the hardest day of riding, I'm just, absolutely. My wife would notice. She's like, wow, you're smiling and whistling and all these things, I'm like, I'm feeling great. I feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

So, um, that is, you know, that's kind of the thing that's helped me the most. Um, Get over that and get past it. 

Charity Bradford: Wonderful, wonderful. I know we talk all the time. How, how we have ups and downs and sometimes we're feeling that way and sometimes we're feeling like I just don't want to do it today. And so I'm so glad that you have found your passion for it, and you're still excited about it and I hope that never changes for you.

Okay. So I think you've already answered whether you feel like riding is a blessing or a curse. It sounds like you would be on the blessing 

Ryburn Dobbs: side. Yeah, absolutely. Total blessing, wonderful blessing. I mean, I've always had an aptitude for it. I think, um, you know, not to say I'm great at everything, but I just think it's been a fit for me, but it's definitely a blessing.

And I think it's a lesson to me that, you know, People are built to do things, right. People have talents, they have, they have gifts. And, um, we try to convince ourselves sometimes out of those gifts, but nevertheless, there they are. Um, so yeah, I definitely think it's a, it's a blessing. It's not drudgery at all.

To me. 

Charity Bradford: That's wonderful. It's like you found your calling that's, that's where your muse is 

Ryburn Dobbs: taking you. Yeah. Yeah. And I must say too, a big part of this whole thing is the fact that, um, That you don't have to anymore. You don't have to get permission from somebody to publish. Right. I mean, it was in the old days, right.

It was easy to use that as an excuse, more than anything else. It was easy to say, Oh, I'll submit it, but no one will ever look at it. It won't even get out of the slush pile and it'll never happen. So why bother? Right? You don't have that excuse anymore. So it's kind of, um, kind of exciting time for us.

Charity Bradford: Yeah. And now it's just as much work as you're willing to put in. Yeah, Polish. It that's, you know, that's the only limitation you have is how much work am I going to put into it? 

Ryburn Dobbs: Yeah. Yep. And it is 

Charity Bradford: okay. So I just have one more and it is two part. And I'll give you a moment to think about it. So the first one is, what advice would you give to new writers in general?

And then the second part will be to people who want to write crime thrillers specifically, we can tackle that, however, 

Ryburn Dobbs: um, okay. New writers in general. Uh, okay. Well, I mean, there's lots of great advice. Uh, And the reality is once you start, you're going to, you know, you're going to find the advice. It's going to find you if you're being open about it.

But, but to me, what, what I did, which I think paid off really well is I had this idea in my head, what I wanted to do. And I thought it was, you know, Hey, this is a great idea, but I, you know, I'm an outsider really. And for all intents and purposes, you know, writing publishing certainly is not my field. And so.

I brought in, I meaningfully, you know, mindfully brought in experts, right. So I brought in a cover designer. I brought in a developmental editor. I brought in a marketing person to kind of give me some advice, like copy editor. Right? So, so my advice then is to get whatever outside help you can, uh, you know, you can afford, or you can, you know, have time for whatever it may be.

Um, you know, you can get outside, help. That's relatively, you know, Cost efficient. I think even if it's friends and family, I suppose, but it definitely gets someone else's opinion. And because I was actually paying a pretty high price for my paint, the beans I was getting, I told myself what this person tells me to do.

I'm going to do. You know, I mean, within reason there were a couple of things, but for the most part, my development editor told me, trust me, do X, Y, Z. And I did it. And he was right. You know, my cover designer said, I like your idea, but it's not quite going to go. How about we do this? And she was right. Um, so get somebody else's help get somebody who really knows.

Um, that's, that would be my advice for somebody who's writing and wants to publish. If, if it's just writing in general, Um, my advice is just get the first draft down, just get it down. Just don't think too hard about it. Get it down and then revise. And you'll be fine. Um, crime, crime, crime fiction. Um, I think my advice there is, uh, research right.

Research is going to be important. Um, I think readers are savvy enough. Most of them are savvy enough to know that, uh, you know, what kind of sounds true, what rings true and what is, seems kind of made up. And maybe there are some that won't, but, um, I think, you know, authenticity is better than just trying to contrive something that sounds like it might be real.

Um, so research is getting important. The other thing is, um, You know, I think crime, and this is just maybe, maybe it's just me, but I think crime fiction was strong. Characters is important because you want to invest in the characters as they try to solve the crime. It's not just a puzzle, it's a puzzle with people trying to solve it.

Right. And that, that becomes the interesting part because the different personalities affect how that puzzle is getting solved. And I think that's part of the pleasure of writing it. So reading it, I should say. So it's as 

Charity Bradford: much character driven as it is plot driven. A good balance. 

Ryburn Dobbs: I think so. And you know, I, the fiction that I read a lot, not all of it, certainly some of it is, um, You know, I mean, one of my favorite writers in the world is you just the plotting, his plotting isn't even that great.

But I mean, but his prose and his characters are just so amazing. I just, I could read it over and over and over, you know, from the beginning to the end, you don't feel like you really got anywhere, but you had a fun time. Right? 

Charity Bradford: That's wonderful. Um, I know I said that was my last question, but I want to make sure that you have a chance to tell people any of the readers that, that might find you through here.

What would you like people to know about you in general? How can they find your book? Um, all those good things that, that we want people to know. 

Ryburn Dobbs: Okay. Well, uh, thanks. I appreciate that. Um, so to know about me in general, uh, gosh, I don't know. Um, I'm not sure knowing much about me is necessary to the process, but, uh, but, uh, but I do think I would like people to give the book a shot.

Right. I mean, if you, if you're like, if you're a certain kind of genre, give it a shot. Um, cause I really do think that, uh, I think people haven't really enjoyed it so far. Um, you know, just what to know about me is I'm just an average person trying to. Trying to write and trying to do it successfully in a way that people will enjoy it.

Um, as far as finding, find my books, I have a website, Robert jobs.com, R Y B U R N. DOB s.com. Um, I'm on Instagram, our jobs author. I'm horrible at social media. It's been, uh, filled for me. Um, I'm on all the, the book is on all the platforms, Amazon Barnes and noble Kobo, um, Apple books. Um, And, um, I'm distributing through Ingram.

So, you know, you can order at your stores, things like that. So that's pretty much it 

Charity Bradford: we'll make sure there's a link down there to your website since, uh, from there they can get to all those other, other avenues. Um, so what I want to do, I want to end, I loved how you said you would like people to give this a chance.

So I thought I would read this. This is also on your. Uh, website, but I found it very insightful and I think others will appreciate this. Um, one of your reviewers from NetGalley said gray has hints of the famous homes without being a replica, which hit the right note for me overall, a great read if you're in the mood for a mystery and I, I just think that's great praise.

Um, And I'm excited for you. I'm excited to see how this goes. And like I said, I've picked the book up and I'm reading it and I'll share it in my newsletter when I finished. And I'm just so glad that you had the time to visit with us today. 

Ryburn Dobbs: Well, thank you. Thank you so much. I truly appreciate it. I'm grateful to be able to talk a little bit about the book and more about the process and, um, you know, just really pleased to do it.

So thank you. 

Charity Bradford: Wow. I hope you have a great afternoon. 

Ryburn Dobbs: Okay, thanks. 

Charity Bradford: I hope you've enjoyed our author interviews these last couple of months. I know I have, hopefully we'll have many more in the coming year here at loose leaf, we've been working on organizing and putting content into our Patrion page so that it'll be ready to go on January 1st.

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