By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY -- Tom Winton was a slow starter. It took 11 years to get his first novel published after a discouraging reception.
But once he found success with his first book, "Beyond Nostalgia," the Hobe Sound writer has emerged as a prolific novelist, producing three top-rated books since 2011.
"I'm starting to make half a living at this and it feels good," said Mr. Winton, 64. "I'm not saying I'm Stephen King, but I'm on the cusp."
When "Beyond Nostalgia" first launched, it sold 1,000 copies in one month, and appeared twice on Amazon's literary fiction bestsellers list.
Of 22 customer reviews on Amazon's website, 20 gave "Beyond Nostalgia" a five-star rating, the highest possible. The remaining two gave it four stars.
"There is a success story at the end of this book, but it isn't what I expected," wrote Kathryn Brown.
"I was immensely delighted when a predictable ending found in most romantic novels didn't happen in this one. The story grabbed me from start to finish, so much so, that I found myself reliving moments from my own past, feeling nostalgic about a previous relationship."
His latest novel, "Within A Man's Heart," is the story of a New York sales executive struggling to overcome his young wife's death.
It follows "The Last American Martyr" and "Four Days with Hemmingway's Ghost," both of which have earned Mr. Winton spots on Amazon's "Top 100 Authors in Literary Fiction" list.
It is quite a turnaround for the author who had given up on writing after unsuccessfully shopping his first manuscript, then discarding it in a closet for 11 years.
"Four Days with Hemmingway's Ghost" was No.36 in the top 100 literary fiction on Amazon, and Mr. Winton said his books are in the Lee, Martin, Sarasota, Pinellas and Clearwater library systems.
"Now I'm starting to make half a living at it, and that's good," he said. "I've got a Harvard graduate, one of the most intelligent people I've ever spoken to, approaching me and asking me for help to his write his memoirs."
Now, the author who spent years working on his novel in his car during breaks is encouraging other writers and encouraging them by providing tips and advice via his website, www.TomWintonAuthor.com.
"I'm far from where I want to be, but it seems like I'm on my way," he said.