Hope you enjoy the Author Q&A’s below.
Please ask your own questions (by posting in the comments section beneath the q&a), and i’ll answer ’em in no time !
Q: tell us about yourself and the books you’ve written
A: I think everybody asks at one time or another “who am I?” I’m not much better at answering that question than most people – LO L. I suppose I’d have to answer that I’m kind of a loner. I like solitude, contemplation, and I take a lot of pleasure in solitary pursuits like reading and creative projects.
I love eating at good restaurants, and I have a favorite bar – Gentle Ben’s, in Tucson down by the U of A. If things go well for me I’ll indulge my favorite pursuit which is travel.
As for my writing, my first book was written about 25 years ago, I wrote it when I was living in Bangkok. It was called Death of a Dream; Thumbnail Sketches of the Decline of American Society. It’s a very dark book – about a dozen short bios of different people I knew at the time, and the various aspects of the decay of US society they exemplified.
My other books – Rotting in the Bangkok Hilton, (short stories about my time in Thai prison), and the Nature of Religion – a grisly yet fascinating scholarly overview of spiritual beliefs, are both nonfiction.
Q: what are your favorite books and why?
A: it’s hard to separate out my favorite books from books that have influenced me heavily. There are some books I love because they tell a great story – like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, and JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series. Those are like old dear friends to me. I love Robert Silverberg’s work, I’m a great fan of Stephen King, and there are many great nonfiction authors very dear to my heart, like Naomi Klein, Derrick Jensen, Dr. Rianne Eisler – too many others to do justice to.
But if I had to pick books that were a great influence a few do stand out. Cosmos by Carl Sagan. The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski. The Golden Bough by James Frazier. The Art of War by Sun Tzu, and of course the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Niccolò Machiavelli’s the Prince. The White Goddess by Robert Graves. These are both favorites and seminal influences on my life and writing.
Q: what do you read for pleasure?
A: I’m very fond of historical fiction, particularly Bernard Cornwell, the naval series by Patrick O’Brian, and I love the adventure/thriller books of Lee Child.. I also enjoy concise, insightful political writing – which is rather rare – the brilliant work of Matt Taibbi comes to mind. I read a lot of magazines – the Economist, Nature, New Scientist, the Rolling Stone, and my guilty pleasure – Heavy Metal (fantasy comics).
Q: what is the name of your latest book, and what inspired it?
A: it’s called Lasting Happiness: Secrets of the Heart, Mind and Spirit Revealed. It was the product of immense suffering and pain – but it is also the most important thing I’ve ever contributed. I believe that it holds the keys to contentment and joy for most people on the planet. The book is a paradox – profound insights about happiness that emerged from a terrible experience. The years I spent in prison I was surrounded by death and cruelty. The lessons these things teach can transform your heart and spirit, if you let them. If you strip everything away, you realize that YOU are responsible for your own happiness.
If you are at peace with yourself, and you have people you love around you, you have the foundation you need for a happy life. That is the essence of my book, and it was inspired by my need to make it real for myself and others. All the tools and techniques in the book – which I borrowed from brilliant scientists and philosophers, are just methods of making these central truths real.
Q: what’s next for you as a writer?
A: I have two very different projects that are going to take up my time for a while. One strangely enough is young adult fiction, a book about a young girl who can communicate telepathically with animals. I’ll only say that the theme of the book is our need to rejoin the family of living things.
The other project is more mundane – a long series of seminars that delve very deeply into all the subjects that I raise in my book. The way I wrote the book Lasting Happiness, it’s very short and concentrated. Each chapter is the summation of literally thousands of pages of scholarly and scientific work. The seminars I’d like to do – both video/audio and print versions, basically flesh out the almost telegraphic style of Lasting Happiness.
Q: what’s the best writing advice you ever heard?
A: without a doubt, it comes from Stephen King’s On Writing – keep it very simple, direct, and descriptive. If your work is active and easy to understand, you are doing the job right. Communication is the name of the game, and the simpler your writing style is the more likely it is you’re going to be able to reach the people you want as your audience.
Q: describe your desk.
A: it’s a beautiful, elegant thing. Just a simple thin slab of hardwood, tilted at a slight angle like a drafting table, but level enough to hold my computer and several pads of paper. It’s held up by two simple curves of steel at either end– no drawers or other features. I picked it up for five dollars at a thrift shop here in Tucson. One of the better buys I’ve ever made!