Robert W. Norris was born and raised in Humboldt County, California, where he played basketball in high school and junior college. In 1969 he entered the Air Force, subsequently became a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, and served time in a military prison for refusing to fight in the war. In his twenties he roamed across the United States, went to Europe twice, and made one journey around the world. During that time, he worked as a millhand, construction laborer, stevedore, mailman, baker, saute cook, and oilrig steward.
Norris has lived and taught English in Japan since 1983. He has an M.A. in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from Newport University in Newport Beach, California. He is the author of three novels, a novella used as an ESL textbook, and several articles on teaching English. He and his wife live near Fukuoka, Japan, where he is a professor at Fukuoka International University.