D.L. Norris is a notable author and motivational speaker who has written numerous short stories and articles on health, emotional wellness, family, and cultural history. Norris’s novel, The Long Way Home, captures in colorful, humorous style the actual events and cultural mindsets surrounding her Scandinavian family and personal life experiences. Norris’s expressive writing style quickly engages her readers and encourages them to sit back and enjoy a nostalgic, magical journey. She and her husband are happily retired in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where she continues a passion for writing.
IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.
D.L. Norris: The Long Way Home is a compelling work of fiction set in 1950s Madison County, Nebraska. At the heart of the story is Maggie Davis, a middle-aged widow and recent heiress to a grand Victorian manor. The stately home, which Maggie shares with her spirited nine-year-old daughter Jenna, also serves as a bed and breakfast to a once regular, but now transitory, clientele.
The kitchen table is the epicenter of lively, often contentious, dialogue where no topics are off-limits. An outspoken neighbor and routine visitor delights in keeping everyone on guard with her opinionated tirades but is frequently reigned in by an elderly, equally forthright family member who has recently become a permanent dweller at the manor.
Maggie finds herself struggling with the painful memories of her husband’s tragic death, as well as the stirrings in her heart associated with a new house guest. A scandalous scheme to swindle her out of her property rides on the heels of a sudden, unexpected death, pointing to a member of the family as a suspect. Set against an intriguing backdrop of family secrets, scandal, love, and humor, the story culminates with an emotional twist.
IAN: Is The Long Way Home published in print, e-book or both?
D.L. Norris: The Long Way Home is available for purchase in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats.
IAN: Where can we go to buy The Long Way Home?
IAN: What inspired you to write The Long Way Home?
D.L. Norris: I consider myself most fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend so much time with my Scandinavian family throughout the years – especially the older generation. I would listen for hours to their beautifully told tales of life in Norway and then how they slowly transitioned to life in America once they emigrated. By the time I was twelve, I knew that I would someday write a book about their colorful and spirited lives. They were my true inspiration. Before writing The Long Way Home, I traveled to Tilden, Nebraska—which is the setting of the novel, as well as the actual homeplace of my family—to gain a clearer understanding of the area and the townspeople. It was a touching experience, to say the least. I sat in the old café and visited with other patrons, and even met several cousins for the first time. It became the springboard for completing the work that I had been contemplating for many years.
IAN: Did you use an outline, or do you just wing the first draft?
D.L. Norris: Along with an outline, I pre-determine chapter titles and the ending before commencing with the actual content writing. A brief biography is composed for each character because they have to be “real” for me to determine how they will consistently react, respond, and fit into the storyline.
IAN: How long did it take to write The Long Way Home?
D.L.Norris: About two years, which included travel to Tilden, Nebraska, and finally to Norway to connect with family and conduct the research necessary for the project.
IAN: How did you come up with the title?
D.L. Norris: Travel from Norway to America was a three-month journey for most of my family members. Those that emigrated began their long trek from Sogndal, Flesberg, and Vinje, respectively, on the great sailing vessels Mercator and Tamworth. Literally, they took the long way home to settle in the quaint community of Tilden, Nebraska.
IAN: What do you hope your readers come away with after reading The Long Way Home?
D.L. Norris: Regardless of persuasions, perspectives, and prejudices, there is always room for diversity of thought and expression. It worked so well in my own family that I set out to show the world how it is thoughtfully accomplished. The Long Way Home illustrates the point beautifully.
IAN: How much of The Long Way Home is realistic?
D.L. Norris: The events which occurred in The Long Way Home are primarily factual, derived from the written and oral recollections of family members. Names were changed, but the general account is a fairly accurate compilation of their own stories. They loved, laughed, and grieved together—at the end of the day, they all lived well together.
IAN: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
D.L. Norris: I love the simplistic, direct writing style of Ernest Hemingway—known for the way he mirrored his lifestyle and interests in his characters.
IAN: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
D.L. Norris: Dialogue—and good dialogue is the cornerstone of The Long Way Home. It takes time and plenty of thought to write a realistic conversation that continually compliments the uniqueness of each character. You have to understand how the character “thinks” in every scenario. The most challenging aspect of The Long Way Home was the number of characters and the fact that they all had their strong opinions.
IAN: Do you have any advice for other writers?
D.L. Norris: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” This is a favorite quote of mine composed by admired author Maya Angelou. Write and keep writing. The great story within you beckons to be told.
IAN: Tell us about your next book or work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?
D.L. Norris: The anticipated sequel Home is Where the Heart Is: Return to Tilden is soon to be released and artfully follows the return of Jenna Davis-Wilson to her nostalgic childhood home in Madison County, Nebraska. A spontaneous decision to remain indefinitely at the old Victorian manor ushers in a mix of joy, sorrow, humor, and an unforeseen twist—a charming, heartwarming must-read conclusion.