Bruce E. Norris visits class

Bruce Norris



Bruce E. Norris lives a double life: Broward Schools auditor by day, songwriter-turned-novelist by night. Five years ago, he published his first novel, “What Lurks Below,” the story of a crocodile-alligator hybrid that begins to feed onpeople. On May 12, Norris visited English and Creative Writing teacher Joyce Seigel’s eighth period Creative Writing 3 class to discuss his writing career with the students.

“We invited Mr. Norris to talk to us about the book because our class was reading it, and some of the kids who want to go into writing got to have this great opportunity to really sit down with a successful author and ask him about his career,” Mrs. Seigel said.

Norris had been writing music for rock and punk bands all across the world for years when one night, his son dared him to write a novel.

“I was reading ‘Old Men and the Sea’ to my son years ago,” Norris said. “You know, Hemingway’s words are all jumbled, and I told my son ‘Well, who can’t write a book like this?’ and he said, ‘well you can’t, dad.’ So I started writing this book to prove to him that you can do anything you set your mind to.”

Norris then wrote the first chapter of the thriller, which he showed his son, putting the project to rest. However, when one of his friends visited his house and came across the draft, he urged Norris to continue adding to the project.

“It took me six years to write the first book,” Norris said. “The writing process was slow; there were periods of time when I wouldn’t write for months at a time, and at one point, I even took one year off of the project.”

In order to prepare for Norris’s visit, Mrs. Seigel’s class typed up a list of questions about his career and writing strategies to ask him.

“I wanted to make sure that all of their questions were answered, so we compiled a list of about 10 questions to make sure we covered all of the bases,” Mrs. Seigel said.

Norris also explained the publishing process to the class, though his search for a publisher came easily. When Norris finished writing his novel, he sent the manuscript to Dorrance Publishing Company and heard back with a sales deal.

“I expected a rejection, so when I got a contract back from the company selling the book for $20, I was shocked,” Norris said. “It came out and four months later, it was on USA Today’s National Book List. I’m still shocked.”

To draw inspiration for the novel, Norris read multiple thriller books and rewatched the movie “Jaws,” but his main source of inspiration was experience.

“I never took journalism [classes] or anything– I’ve always written songs. I’d never written a book, so I had no idea what to do. I read a bunch of books to see how they word things, and I tried to perfect it,” Norris said. “But I also drew a lot of inspiration from my family and friends. Captain Virgil, the main character in the book, is my dad. He used to be a tugboat captain at Port Everglades.”

Throughout his conversation with the writing students, Norris advised the students to make the writing process their own.

“The one word of advice I’d give to an aspiring writer would just be to never turn anything down,” Norris said. “You never know what’s going to take you from never having written a book to being a novelist.”

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