When Jeff Norburn isn’t working for the City of Quesnel as the director of community services, he is writing crime novels that involve hired hitmen, murder, theft and characters he admits are downright deplorable human beings.
Norburn published his debut novel five years ago, and he recently published his second novel.
Norburn published Mustang Shuffle, in 2014. His first novel involves a stolen car with a dead body in the trunk, identity theft, home invasion, embezzlement and murder.
His new novel, Triple Barrel, which was published at the end of October, is described on Amazon as “a fast-paced, intricately plotted thriller that weaves multiple converging storylines. Funny, unpredictable, and wildly entertaining, the novel offers insightful reflections on family, commitment, and unconditional love — not to mention tips on how to lose at poker, the hazards of melting cheese on fish, and a whole lot of gunfire.”
Norburn is excited to have the novel published. He finished writing the novel four years ago and then refined it and changed it many times before putting it out in the world.
“The saying is a book is never finished, it’s abandoned,” he said. “It just reached a point where I felt I was happy with where it was at, and it was finished.”
It took Norburn about a year or more to write the novel, and then he would pick it up and then set it aside for a few months, making changes here and there.
“Sometimes, it led to significant changes where I was adding characters, deleting characters, adding scenes, deleting scenes and sometimes just simple line edits — it sort of varied,” he said.
As a child, Norburn always wanted to be a writer.
“I always as a kid wrote stories and took creative writing in school, and that was definitely something that I always enjoyed as a hobby,” he said. “And that’s really why I do it — I enjoy writing.”
Both of Norburn’s novels are crime novels, and he says crime is a genre he reads a lot of and gravitates toward when it comes to movies and books.
“I always say any movie can be improved by adding gangsters and guns,” he said with a laugh.
The idea that started this novel for Norburn was the idea of someone who hired a hitman and couldn’t afford to pay them.
“That was sort of the central idea that I started with, but I do tend to like to have multiple characters and diverging story lines — that was definitely evident in Mustang Shuffle, and it continues in this book where I have a lot of characters, and the story is told through changing points of view, and then all these story lines converge,” he said.
When developing a story, Norburn focuses on the plot and builds characters who will fit into that story.
“When I’m starting, because crime novels or this type of fiction tend to be very plot-driven, you do initially feel like the characters are game pieces, but as you sort of go through that process, the characters start to get fleshed out and start to become fully realized people — otherwise people won’t accept the novel if the characters don’t seem real to them,” he said. “In the early stages, a lot of it is driven by ‘I need a character to do this.’ Where somebody might create a character and say ‘what happens to them,’ I tend to create the plot, and then the character is kind of ‘who would do this’ and I end up creating characters who would do the thing I need them to do in the novel in order to make the story work.”
In Triple Barrel, Norburn’s favourite character us Gavin, the main bad guy.
“I tend to find myself entertained more by the villains or the bad guys in the novel than the good guys,” he said. “I find Gavin pretty entertaining. He’s a terrible person, but it’s part of what makes him entertaining. I also made him a poker player, and I play poker as a hobby. I made Gavin quite a terrible poker player who loses money continuously, which is why he can’t afford to pay the hitman that he’s hired. He’s a deplorable human being on every level, but still, I find him quite funny.”
When Norburn starts writing, he sits down and writes in big blocks of time.
“It’s actually amazing how much time can pass,” he said. “I can sit down and write and suddenly realize that eight hours has gone by, so it’s very much something where I can go remarkably long stretches of time without eating or really noticing the time. It becomes quite self-absorbing.”
He says the editing process is quite different, as that is something you can chip away at here and there.
When asked what part of the process comes easy to him, Norburn says he writes because it’s fun, and he enjoys the writing, although he doesn’t know if that comes easy.
“It’s something I enjoy doing, the same way a person might enjoy painting,” he said. “It’s a creative outlet. I enjoy figuring out the plots and how it all comes tighter. I don’t know if it comes easy, but it’s something that I like doing, so I enjoy doing it.”
He says the most challenging part is probably the editing, which feels more like work than the initial writing.
“But even that is satisfying,” he said. “Each revision, it gets tighter, and the flow works better, and you address issues that you think need to be addressed. There’s satisfaction in that.”
Norburn has started writing a third novel, which he says will be a bit of a spinoff from the two previous novels. He has pulled some characters from each earlier novel.
“More minor characters in Mustang Shuffle end up playing a larger role in the new novel,” he said. “Of course, it’s still in early stages, and it can change quite a bit. It might end up being completely different, but that is my plan, to pull characters from both novels and write a novel that involves those.”
Norburn plans to sell copies of Triple Barrel at the upcoming Christmas Farmers Markets at the Quesnel and District Arts and Recreation Centre. The novels are also available at Books and Company, and there is a copy at the Quesnel Library. The novel is also available — in e-book and physical versions — through Amazon.
Norburn describes Triple Barrel as “a fun, fast-paced crime novel” but cautions it is not for children, as there is quite a bit of profanity in it.
You can learn more about Norburn’s writing through his blog at jeffnorburn.wordpress.com.