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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Saturday morning with Mitch Albom

    Broadway+Books

    Broadway Books

    Saturday at 10 a.m., you can listen to a musician-turned-novelist who paid off his professor’s medical bills by writing a best-selling nonfiction and the kind of stories that make you think twice about the world in his free time. Mitch Albom will be at the Tucson Festival of Books giving a “Meet Mitch Albom” presentation at the Student Union South Ballroom, a book signing at the SUMC North Ballroom Foyer and a performance with his band alongside fellow writers.

    Speaking from Detroit, Albom said one of the main draws for coming to the event was getting together with his bandmates. 

    “We don’t get together very often,” Albom said. “In fact, I thought we were retired, but apparently we’re not. I got a word that everybody wanted to un-retire for one more gig and we wanted to do it in Tucson, so I said, ‘Sure. Why not?’”

    Albom’s books feature bold characters that drive stories that are surprisingly down-to-earth for the powerful messages they pass on. “Tuesdays with Morrie,” which spent four years on The New York Times Best Sellers list, features an old professor who documents the aspects of life that matter just a little bit more while he battles with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease. 

    “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” Albom’s first fiction novel, is driven by a war veteran’s interaction with circus freaks, a girl with a lime green T-shirt and a decaying carnival, after which the vet realizes that a simple life is far from a meaningless one. Albom has written over 10 books and is currently working on another to debut on Nov. 10. 

    While Albom draws from common themes we all deal with, he bases his works — almost — solidly in fiction. 

    “I’m pretty sure I don’t go off of personal experiences,” Albom laughed, “because I’ve written about a guy wandering around in heaven, and a town that gets a bunch of phone calls from heaven, and a guy who travels through time with an hour glass — so I have a much more exciting life going on than I’m aware of if that is the case.”

    Albom began his writing career as an award-winning sports journalist and transitioned from writing nonfiction to novels after his unprecedented success, “Tuesdays with Morrie.” He describes his transition from nonfiction to fiction as driven by necessity. 

    “I had planned to go back to sports writing, to be honest with you, and then ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ became this really big success,” Albom said. “It became so big that it was almost intimidating to consider doing anything else nonfiction. No matter what idea I came up with, it was just going to pale in comparison.” 

    After taking his book to multiple publishers, Albom found one to publish “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” which enjoyed 85 weeks on The New York Times Best Sellers list. Albom drew the inspiration for the main character from a beloved uncle. 

    “Eddie, the main character, was really based on my uncle Eddie that I had that was very much like [the character],” Albom said. “[Eddie] was 83 when he died. He was a World War II veteran; he was a rough guy, talked just like Eddie does in the book, and just like Eddie he would always say to me, ‘I’m a nobody. I’ve never been anywhere. I’ve never gone anywhere. I’ve never done anything,’ and it always broke my heart to hear him say that. I thought he was a really special guy — I loved him, I adored him. But he just didn’t really have any self-worth because he had a really blue-collar job. He worked in factories and things like that, and he really just didn’t think that he mattered.” 

    In the book, Eddie meets every person he touched in his life.  

    “I wanted to write a book about people who don’t think that they mattered finding out that they do,” Albom said.

    When speaking about his writing process, Albom describes the job as just that. 

    “When I talk to young people, [what] they sometimes have a misconception about is [that] writing is waiting for a thunderbolt to hit you, and when it does you just pound the coffee or the Red Bull and write a novel in three days,” Albom said. “You get up every morning, no matter how you feel, no matter what might be on your mind, and you write. You plug away at it, and some days its goes easy, and some days it’s a little more difficult. … You sit in front of that keyboard, even if it means not producing anything, or you draft something up, or you work on different parts, or you try to write a dialogue — whatever it takes. But you don’t walk away from it. And for me, it’s seven days a week.”

    Albom’s books deal with themes about life, god and religion, but are relatable nonetheless.

    “In terms of what I write about, I guess ever since ‘Tuesdays with Morrie,’ the things that have interested me have been the things that have to do with how you live your life,” Albom said. “I like the messages of my stories or books to resonate with things that everybody has to deal with. … I kind of begin with something I want to say about how we approach life, and then I build a story around it. That’s the subject matter, and there’s no shortage of that really for the rest of my life. There are going to be plenty of topics in terms of how we approach our lives and what we value in life — I’m never going to run out of that.”

    Albom is currently writing another novel, “The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto,” which he says is one of his biggest projects yet, to come out in November of this year. Warner Bros. is currently producing another one of his books, “The First Phone Call from Heaven.” On top of that, Albom is working on a trilogy series he wants to have finished within one or two years and regularly works with charities around the country.

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    Follow Lior Attias on Twitter.

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