Donna Meredith interviews Tim Norbeck, author of “Almost Heaven”

Tim Norbeck

A Buffalo, New York, native who also spent over thirty years in Connecticut as the state medical society’s CEO, Tim Norbeck is an avid tennis player and history aficionado. He lives with his wife, Michele, and rescue dog, Trouper, in Bonita Springs, Florida.  He began writing novels near his retirement and his first, Two Minutes, was published in 2018. Today, he will discuss his third novel, Almost Heaven, with SLR Editor Donna Meredith.

DM: Writing any book is a big undertaking that takes many months if not years. How long did you work on this book? What motivated or inspired you to write this particular story?

TN: It took me a surprisingly short time to write this rather lengthy novel, Almost Heaven – about six months. The story just flowed so naturally.  I am a WWII buff and had visited the WWII museum in New Orleans.  That visit stimulated the thought process and gave me several ideas for a novel around a war veteran. There’s also a wonderful brother-sister relationship in this book and I modeled that after my own son and daughter who have always been close.

DM: Did any particular character really speak to you as you worked on this story?

TN: Yes, the protagonist, a U.S. Marine returning from the conflict, Jack Morgan. His love of teaching and coaching and lifelong relationship with Henry Parker, a black janitor, and how all blend together in helping Jack become a true humanitarian.

Donna Meredith

DM: What research was required for the writing of this story?

TN: There was considerable research required relative to several aspects of the book.  Those included learning more about certain WWII battles – Iwo Jima, Tarawa, Battle of the Bulge, and Peleliu; the 1936 Berlin Olympic games – featuring Jesse Owens; the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and even facts about breast cancer and neurosurgery.  Also, the visits of Presidents Harry Truman and JFK, and also Martin Luther King to West Virginia, as well as other aspects of West Virginia life, where the novel takes place, required research.

DM: What details were most challenging to get right about the setting?

Details about the effects on all of America, and on the U.S. soldiers returning home after WWII, presented somewhat of a challenge and required a bit more research. There were significant adjustments for their families, their communities, and their governments., and how those factors impacted the townspeople. While the setting was small-town West Virginia, there was also a visit to the famed Greenbrier resort. The setting was also inspired by the song, “Country Roads,” made famous by John Denver, hence the title of the book, Almost Heaven (West Virginia.)

DM: Tell us a little about your writing process.

TN: I could achieve productive writing for a maximum of three or possibly four hours a day, in addition to research time. Some days I didn’t “feel the music” in me and I never tried to force it.  For me, as a writer, designating ahead of time that I should spend a certain amount of time to write each day, is counterproductive.

I write in the same place (at the kitchen table with papers and reference materials spread out, with our dog nearby) but only when the mood strikes me. I think faster than I type, so I always write in long hand.  While I sometimes use an outline, I usually “go with the flow,” depending on how well the thoughts are coming together on any particular day.

DM: Tell us a little about your background and what got you started as a writer.

TN: I spent over fifty years in the healthcare arena and probably wrote and delivered close to a thousand speeches in all fifty states.  Writing my own material and doing all the research involved, including for numerous OP-EDs, Forbes blogs, several magazine cover articles and testimony before state legislatures, prepared me for the transition to writing novels. I’ve also collected a library of reference materials, books of anecdotes and quotes, and historical nuggets to help with my research. So doing research as I did for my speeches and articles, it felt natural to embark on this new adventure!

DM: What writers or works have influenced your writing?

TN: I have read mostly biographies and history over the years rather than novels. My wife is the one who reads novels and nonfiction. My own style is to attempt to leave the reader with something in addition to a good read.  I want to learn something interesting, and leave the reader with something they might remember to share down the road, just as I did with my research for speeches I gave. I do like Hemingway, Grisham, and other authors that write thriller, suspense, and justice-themed novels.

DM: How do you plan to promote this book?

TN: The majority of promotional activity, at this time, includes an author website (www.timnorbeckauthor.com), as well as a Tim Norbeck-Author Facebook page. Additionally, I’ve been doing presentations with the OSHER OLLI (On-line Learning Institute) programs affiliated with colleges and universities throughout the country. Those presentations have focused on transitioning from my career as a medical executive and CEO to a novelist. And, interestingly, just last week I was asked to participate in a Zoom discussion of Almost Heaven for a book club. Of the three novels that I have now published, Almost Heaven lends itself very well for book club discussions because of the range of themes in the book. Additionally, Kiki Keating and her www.kikinetwork.com team have sent out press releases and reached out to media.

DM: What are you working on next?

TN: I have finished a fourth novel, and given that I write in longhand, the typed manuscript is in process. The story is about a man who is dealing with life after a failed marriage, an escape from the World Trade Center disaster, starting a new life in the West, a lasting romance, and meaningful friendships made along the way. Right now, I’m struggling to find the right title for it, but I’m sure it will come to me soon.

DM: What question do you wish interviewers would ask you?

TN: That’s an interesting question in and of itself, and I guess it would be this one: “Do you have or can you describe your unique style that you employ in your novels”?

I pepper quotes, especially introspective quotes, as well as historical anecdotes and stories throughout my works.  For example, just one thought-provoking quote from Mark Twain, which is in No Time For Mercy, “What are the two most important days of your life?” Twain provides the answer but the second part is the teaser: TN: “the day you were born and the day you found out why.” It took me seventy-five years to find out my “why” and I suspect that many people never do find the answer to that question.

I want to leave the reader with a “good read,” but it is also important to me that they find at least one— and hopefully several—interesting nuggets that will stimulate their thinking.

DM: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Tim. Good luck with your writing career.

 

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