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Family Research Laboratory Director Pens Suspense Novel

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
May 26, 2010

Toby Ball used to spend about two hours a day reading. That luxury, accomplished on his daily subway commute while living in Washington, D. C., made him a great reader. And there’s a saying about readers making great writers that Ball has turned into a reality.

In September his first novel “The Vaults” will be released by St. Martin’s Press. Part of a two-book contract, Ball’s suspense/thriller tracks the path of three men in a wildly corrupt fictional city, who independently investigate a conspiracy dating back to a dark period of gang warfare and official greed.

That wasn’t the plot of his first book, the one prompted by the subway reading. That one was about identify theft.

“When I sent it to out to agents, they said ‘Send me the next one,’” says Ball, program director for the Family Research Laboratory at UNH’s Research Center.

Meaning, they like the writing but not the story line.

So, he married two ideas he’d been kicking around, writing nights and occasional weekends after moving from D.C. to Durham (“We didn’t know anyone here at that point so I had a lot more free time in the evening.”) and came away with “The Vaults.”

Ball started the book in 2001. It took him five years to write. The second took 14 months. A third is in progress. Each book—including “Liar’s Tango,” the one that prompted the ‘send the next one’ response—has been a learning experience, Ball says.

“I read a list somewhere about all the mistakes a new writer makes and went backand looked at that first book,” he says. “I made them all.”

He sent different drafts of “The Vaults” to about 60 agents during the course of two or three years. It was rejected by all but one.

But that’s all it took.

“Before then, when I didn’t have a contract, I kept keep going back and re-writing. I could write forever, there was no hurry,” Ball says. “The moment it felt like the book was done was when I got an agent.”

He envisions the three books linked by one character with each set in a different decade; the second book takes place in the 50s and the third, in the 60s.

“I try to write five nights a week for a couple of hours. All that changes once you have a first draft—that stack of papers in front of you,” Ball says. “Sometimes I think ‘I’m not feeling it today’ but I try to write something even if it’s not great because I know I’ll go back and edit and you can’t edit nothing.”

“Getting a book published by a big house is kind of a long shot; it was a vague aspiration,” Ball adds. “I was writing because I enjoyed it. I wanted to see what I could do. What’s happened is beyond what I expected.”

And while his work at UNH is very different than his writing life, he finds the two jobs easily coexist, although he admits writing “fills up all the extra time I once had.”
To keep track of “The Vaults” release, and other Ball novels, visit www.tobyball.com.  

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