Author on the Rise: Melinda Zurcher | Deep River Books

When Melinda Zurcher’s grandfather-in-law passed away in May 2015, she knew it was past time to write a book about him. The conviction didn’t come from sentiment—Paul Zurcher’s life and principles were simply so impactful, Melinda knew they needed to be shared. And so she began gathering the material and proposal for what would become Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Nine Proven Principles from the Life of Paul Zurcher

To an onlooker, the two-year process might seem overwhelming. After all, Melinda wrote while also working on her PhD in education and being a stay-at-home mom to first two, then three little girls. But God was clearly at work, orchestrating details spanning from finding a coauthor to securing childcare.

A Legacy to Share

Drivers in the Midwest may recognize the name Best-One Tire, even if they don’t recognize the name of its founder. Paul Zurcher started a small service station after he returned from WWII. His business grew to include over 280 locations under the Best-One Tire banner. But his success extended beyond business, to his personal life. He deeply influenced his family, friends, and countless others by faithfully following and sharing his nine life principles—all through the day he died at age ninety.

Melinda is one of many Paul influenced. As she watched and learned from him, she thought he should write a book himself.

“The idea for [a book started] over seven years ago, just talking with Paul when we were on vacation,” Melinda says. “I remember talking about it with him, and he kind of joked, like maybe we could do it together.”

The preface of Where the Rubber Meets the Road recounts Paul’s usual answer to the idea of writing a book: “He would always chuckle, and with a twinkle in his eye, respond that was something he would do when he started to slow down.”

Paul never did slow down. He continued working six days a week, visiting his wife with Alzheimer’s, and speaking at events until he died.

He deeply influenced his family, friends, and countless others by faithfully following and sharing his nine life principles

Melinda and her family were on vacation when they got the news that he’d passed in May 2015. She knew immediately that it was time to write that book. “We were packing up to come home. I just felt, we need to do this. This is something we should have done before, and it’s just important to write this story. And I thought, he impacted a lot of people when he was alive.” Writing a book would allow him to impact even more people.

Finding a Coauthor

Knowing the book needed to be written was one thing. Actually penning it would be a new kind of endeavor for Melinda. “I had done some writing, creative writing mostly, for magazines, and devotions, and then I was a teacher, so I wrote some educational articles,” she says. But that was the extent of her writing experience. Where the Rubber Meets the Road would be her first book, and she knew she needed help.

Melinda put together a proposal, timeline, and key stories. At this point, she was referred to Deep River Books. We connected her with author and editor Rachel Starr Thomson, whom we and our authors have worked with often over the years. Thomson, who has published over thirty novels, nonfiction works, and short stories, proved the perfect coauthor.

“I really appreciated having Rachel to help with the process,” Melinda says. “We worked well together. She came down to stay, went to the [Best-One Tire] store… One of us would work on it for a month or two, then pass it back. That helped a lot in helping polish it, and she had a lot of expertise, in writing for so long.”

Choosing and Filling in the Structure

He had those principles, but he lived them out on a daily basis, so his examples really brought them to life.

The team considered taking a biographical approach, and Paul’s biography is certainly part of the book. But a straight biography simply wouldn’t fit, Melinda says. She and Rachel decided to “write a book that Paul would like to read.” That meant a book about leadership development. They ended up with a hybrid: a book structured on his nine life principles and filled with stories from his life that illustrate those principles.

They had plenty of material from Paul himself in the form of a four-inch binder of his speeches, which explained his principles in his own words, illustrated with stories from his life. His friends, business partners, and family provided more stories through interviews.

“We matched up stories with the principles. Then we tried to make it at least somewhat chronological. That’s kind of hard to do, to make it all flow together. . . . I think it all came together because the thing about Paul is that he didn’t just say it, but he acted it out. So he had those principles, but he lived them out on a daily basis, so his examples really brought them to life.”

One of the principles that impacted Melinda most was #3: “To treat everyone with honor, love, dignity, and respect.” She references one particular story from the book, of how Paul encouraged a waitress to pursue her dreams—then followed up with her about it a year later. “It’s something that I saw him do over and over again,” Melinda says. “I would like to emulate him. He really saw people, spoke to them, asked about their life. Anyone who met him felt important, cared for. He really valued people.”

Rubber Met the Road

Where the Rubber Meets the Road | Deep River BooksWhere the Rubber Meets the Road released on August 24. Melinda, with the help of Rachel, has finally finished the book she’d wanted to write with her grandfather-in-law. In some ways, she still has her hoped-for coauthor: Each chapter is preceded by one of Paul’s principles, with a few paragraphs of explanation excerpted from Paul’s 2010 speech “Nine Life Commitments.” More quotes from him are interspersed throughout, along with quotes from his favorite authors.

While all books pass through many hands on the way to publication, Melinda is especially quick to credit the help of those who believed in Paul’s story—from Rachel, who brought her expertise as a coauthor, to DRB team members, to Paul himself. She notes, too, how things worked out so well as she balanced responsibilities. It seemed God wanted her to finish this book:

“It just worked out, that I finished a class, then would work on the book for a month or two, work on it every day. Then I’d give it to Rachel. God always worked it out if I wasn’t sure I’d have childcare or I had class.”

Melinda emphasizes, “This book needed to be written. I didn’t even feel like it was me. It was Paul’s story.”

Paul’s words and deeds impacted innumerable people throughout his left. Now, thanks to Melinda acting on the conviction that she needed to share his legacy in writing, many more have a similar opportunity to learn from, reflect on, and be inspired by his life.

Be sure to check out our page for Where the Rubber Meets the Road to learn more about the book and both the authors, Melinda Zurcher and Rachel Starr Thomson.