Interview with writer and debut novelist Tom Corbett

Author Tom Corbett helps me wrap up the
week. We’re talking about his new novel, Tenuous
Tom Corbett
holds a doctorate in Social Welfare and is an emeritus Senior Scientist at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison. During his long academic and policy career,
Dr. Corbett taught numerous policy courses at the University and consulted with
governments at all levels on policy questions including a stint in Washington
D.C. where he worked on President Clinton’s welfare reform proposal. 

His most
recent books include The Boat Captain’s
Conundrum; Ouch, Now I Remember; Browsing through My Candy Store;
 and The Other Side of the World. He is now
working on his second fictional work titled Palpable Passions. Now retired, the
author lives with his wife of forty-five years, Mary Rider, and their dog
Rascal in Madison, Wisconsin.
Welcome, Tom. Please tell us about your debut
release, Tenuous Tendrils.
This is my first venture into fiction after numerous policy and biographical
works. I have always been intrigued and challenged by telling
a good story, an aspiration I have held since high school. This first fictional
work draws on my early experiences during the turbulent decade of the 1960s.
What if I had made different decisions and followed a distinct life
trajectory? Perhaps my life would have turned out something like that of my protagonist, Joshua Connelly. 

This is a deep exploration of the motivations and
decisions made by many young people as they faced the moral questions of their
time and how they found redemption and meaning later in life.
What inspired you to write this book?
I describe my
motivation in the dedication. In college, I asked my literature Professor what
it would take to be a good writer. He responded with a question, “Could I tell
a good story?” That question remained with me throughout my academic and policy
career which I enjoyed immensely. Now, however, it was time to satisfy my
curiosity. If the reviews are to be accepted, it turns out that I can.
What exciting story are you working on
I am deep
into another fictional work tentatively titled Palpable Passions. It follows
two families, one affluent and powerful, the other struggling in Afghanistan
during the Taliban era. Both have struggles and dreams which come together
through serendipity and accident. How their struggles are resolved is the
central story line of this work. After that, I will return to writing about
Public Policy, a book on searching for a solution to poverty based on the work
dome at the research institute which I helped manage at the University of
When did you first consider yourself a
I was always
known as an excellent writer by my academic peers but that was professional
writing. It has not been since I retired that I could explore whether I had
real talent.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
Now that I am
retired, yes. I still get diverted by an occasional academic project.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
At night, in
bed, as I drift off to sleep I play out in my mind where I want to take my
characters next. I find that my best ideas come to me in this half-awake state
as opposed to being fully awake.
As a child, what did you want to be when
you grew up?
Actually, my
most persistent goal was to be a writer. I fell into an academic career mostly
be accident. I also enjoyed having three meals a day and a roof over my head so
a university career seemed more practical.
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?
It is never
too late to follow early dreams. I have had a marvelous time giving vent my
artistic impulses. Besides that, I am finding that I am damn good at it.

Thank you for being here today, Tom!

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