Looking at Life Through Sports

by | Apr 2023

Author Bob Wilber

Photo: Bob Wilber

Author Bob Wilber tells a tale of determination and drama through his second novel.

Woodbury resident and author Bob Wilber takes a swing at a new genre in his most recent book How Far?, a historical fiction novel exploring the lives of two contrasting-yet-connected characters. Following interviews, copious amounts of research and about a year and a half total of putting it all together, Wilber’s newest book came to fruition.

After the success of his autobiography, Bats, Balls, and Burnouts, Wilber knew he wanted to delve into a second book. However, ideas weren’t bubbling to the surface right away—well, not the right ideas, according to Wilber.

“I was lost for a bit,” Wilber says. “I had a couple interesting ideas that didn’t germinate. Usually, if it’s meant to be, it pours out of me, but sometimes it starts to feel like work instead of passion.”

After a few ideas turned sour, the main characters for How Far? came to the author in a moment of inspiration.

How Far Book Cover

“I equate this feeling to what it must be like to write a song,” Wilber says on feeling inspired to write the novel. “You know, when something pops into your head, and it just flows out?”

Of the two protagonists, one is a baseball player from Southern California; the other is a hockey player from Roseau, Minnesota. Although the characters have different personalities, backgrounds and interests, when they meet at the University of Minnesota, they are connected forever.

Before beginning his research for the book, Wilber had never ventured to the small town of Roseau. However, he wanted to ensure he could accurately describe the town and step into his character’s shoes in an authentic and believable way. Wilber took the 365-mile trek to northern Minnesota to learn more about the town and to flesh out his main character.

When Wilber arrived in Roseau, he called the one and only school in town: Roseau Community School District, which houses both Roseau Elementary and Roseau High School. After telling the receptionist that he was writing a book with a character from Roseau, he was put in touch with the superintendent, who created a packed itinerary for the three days Wilber would be in town. The itinerary included interviews with an eclectic collection of Roseauians—from the guy who makes ice at the local arena to the parents of local celebrities and the mayor.

“The final interview was priceless,” Wilber says. “The Broten brothers played at Roseau High School. Their parents still live in the same house they grew up in. I interviewed their parents, and they threw me stories left and right.”

Neal, Aaron and Paul Broten are former professional hockey players with roots in Roseau. After visiting the Broten brothers’ childhood home, Wilber gained inspiration from their parents’ stories. He also had a better idea of what his character’s home
would look like in the book.

To expatiate on the book’s baseball player character, Wilber had conversations with Brian Raabe, a former University of Minnesota baseball player who was later signed by the Minnesota Twins. “He was a great resource for the parts of the book when my baseball character was at the University of Minnesota,” Wilber says. “And he agreed to actually be in the book as my character’s roommate.”

By the time the interviews were complete and the book was written, Wilber spent an equal amount of time in the research phase as he did writing the book.

“I think [How Far?] has a wide appeal,” Wilber says. “People who don’t know anything about hockey or baseball have told me they love these two guys [main characters]. It’s not a sports book … It’s a life book with a sports lens.”

How Far? is available for purchase on amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.


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