Award-winning author stops by the town he calls home for debut of his newest novel
Chris Norbury’s first novel won awards. To celebrate the release of his second, he kicked off his book signing tour in Owatonna, where he has lived for nearly 20 years.
The official book launch celebration was held at Central Park Coffee in Owatonna on Feb. 28. Norbury also held a book signing at Owatonna Fitness on March 5.
This book is a prequel to his first book, “Castle Danger,” and the first in a planned trilogy. It follows Matt Lanier, a southern Minnesota farm-kid-turned-professional-musician whose comfortable middle-class world is turned upside down by a conspiracy of powerful, ambitious, violent men.
“It takes place in a fictional small farm town in southern Minnesota called Straight River,” Norbury explained. “Straight River” is also the named of the new work, which is a thriller featuring some twists and turns for its protagonist.
The main character grew up on a farm, and so Norbury has imbued his novel with a lot of farm culture as well as an agricultural conspiracy. “He goes to the big city for college and becomes a professional musician, so he’s sort of left that one world and gone into a totally different one,” Norbury said of his protagonist.
“He comes back to town after his father dies and tries to help out a neighbor, a farmer,” he said. “But the more he tries to help the worse things get, and by the end of the book he’s in deep trouble. He stumbles upon a conspiracy, which is the reason his neighbor’s farm is in jeopardy.”
Norbury infuses the narrative with thrilling plot twists involving the central conspiracy, which is sure to keep readers guessing. “He tries to find out who’s behind the conspiracy, and tries to get them to stop what they’re doing and then they start trying to kill him, so he goes on the run and nobody believes him because the guy who runs the conspiracy is too clever to let his name get involved.”
“I said to myself, what if a normal guy gets plunged into an extraordinary situation that is beyond his control,” he said of the thematic elements of the novel. “How far does he go to test his integrity, to test his sense of duty and honor, and his loyalty to his friends. So, he has a real moral dilemma.”
There is also the aspect of people changing and trust changing over time, as Norbury suggests that some of the folks in the small town that his protagonist returns to have grown older and are no longer as close to him as they once were. “It’s like that Tom Wolfe quote, you can’t go home again,” he said.
While not originally a writer, Norbury was spurred on at the behest of his wife and family and friends. He grew up in the Twin Cities and holds a degree in music education from the University of Minnesota. He’s written for several websites as a freelance writer, and essays he’s written on wilderness canoeing have been published in the Boundary Waters Journal.
Norbury was more than happy to hold his book launch in the town he now calls home. “I do a lot of my writing at the local coffee shops,” he said of deciding upon Central Park Coffee for his first venue. “So, I tell people that there’s a lot of coffee and donuts from the local coffee shops in these books.”
He has also been heavily involved in Big Brothers Big Sister of Southern Minnesota, a program near and dear to his heart. Part of the proceeds of the books sold during his signing go to Big Brothers Big Sisters. “I’ve been involved for 20 years, and Ethan is my second Little Brother,” he said of his current Little, who was on hand to help with the book launch.
“I donate a dollar per sale on E-books and hardcopies and when I do a signing like this, I ask people to round up their change to make a donation,” Norbury said of his support for the program. “It’s a great program.”
Norbury said after he finishes his trilogy, he would like to write a book for middle school aged kids that features a Big Brother and a Little Brother. With his years of volunteer work for the program, this local author certainly has plenty of experience to draw upon.
Readers can find his newest novel “Straight River” as well as his first work, the award-winning “Castle Danger,” on bookshelves and at your local library.