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Q&A with CAC Alumni and Published Author Norris Lyman (’03)

Join us as we ask Norris about his book, his dog and where life has taken him since leaving Mustang Mountain.

Thanks for meeting with us, Norris! Writing a book is a pretty big project. What inspired you to pursue this?
Really, I’ve always liked telling stories and talking. One of my favorite pastimes is reading to my nieces and nephews. You know, when you curl up in bed and just read them a story – I’ve always liked that. I’d been kind of randomly putting stories together for a long time, but then I got my dog Tank nine years ago. He’s the most animated, smart, wonderful companion.

So it makes sense for the main character in your book, a small Yorkie-poo named Tank, to be based on your dog. How’d you come up with the storyline?
The book is loosely based on a true story. When we lived in Colorado, Tank and I went to the dog park where we came upon this St. Bernard. I’ll never forget it – he just bounced around for a little bit, but then the St. Bernard barked and it scared Tank half to death. We went back to the dog park every couple of days and he was scared every time. Eventually, he warmed up to the St. Bernard and I thought, that’s a cool segway into a story about overcoming bullies.

That’s a really interesting take! How does the theme of overcoming bullies come to play in the book?
Well, it’s essentially an anti-bully book. Tank gets bullied in the park and ends up going on an adventure around the city. In the end, he learns that you don’t have to be big to be confident or to stand up to a bully and that most of the time when you stand up to a bully, your friends will come back you up. Your bully isn’t just trying to be mean, but they are actually trying to find friends.

You kind of make writing a book sound easy, almost as if it just flowed out of you. Was it really that easy? What was the process like?
Oh goodness, no. The process took almost three years. I had no idea what I was doing and really didn’t have a mentor. Google is just about the worst thing to turn to when you’re writing a book because everyone has their own opinions about the way things should be done. The crazy thing is, I actually wrote about 90% of the book three years ago. Everything was working, but then I went through about four different illustrators trying to get my vision and my imagination on paper. Everything just kind of got put on hold.

The illustrations in the finished product are a really cool watercolor style. How’d you land on that?
My wife put me in contact with one of her artist friends, Jessie Ward, and she drew a few mockups in different artistic styles. I chose watercolor because I love the vibrant colors and it almost gives the book an imaginary feel, which is exactly what I wanted. After we got linked up with the artist, the editing process went pretty quickly.

Why was writing a book with a message about bullying so important to you?
My wife and I have a lot of friends who have kids, and we’re always hanging out with them. I grew up watching Boy Meets World, and every episode had a meaning – a message. It’s important to me because I think the world has gotten off track with a lot of pointless things. I think all good stories should have a moral lesson or compass, and I wanted to write something like that for parents to read with their kids.

What were some books or writing styles that inspired you as you worked on The Real Big Tank?
I wanted to write this book in the style of Winnie the Pooh, The Giving Tree, Where the Wild Things Are and even Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I remember my parents reading those to me growing up and I want that same experience for kids who read my book.

We have to ask. Where’d the name Tank come from?
We named him Tank because of his attitude – he just won’t be stopped. We call him Eight Pounds of Awesome.

Any projects in the works?
Yes, I’m hoping to create the Big Tank Book Series with lots of stories about Tank and his many adventures.


To learn more about Tank, Norris and The Real Big Tank visit