Thanks for taking a look at these interview questions. These are the ones I’ve been asked most often by podcasters and reviewers – and hopefully they answer your own questions.
If there are issues I haven’t addressed, or you have something particular in mind – just use the comment section below, and i’ll answer right away !
Q: There are MANY books about happiness – what makes yours different ?
A: Most books in the genre lack details or practical advice. Mine is ALL tools and techniques, practical, simple, yet powerful. No wasted language, no fluff – just solid, step-by-step ways to make life better.
Q: You make some amazing claims. For example, that you know the secret to stop and even reverse aging. Care to explain ?
A: Of course – the “true” fountain of youth (proven by several Harvard Med School studies, among hundreds of other similar scientific research projects and evidence) – is EXERCISE ! There are only two body “settings”, spring and winter. In ‘spring’ mode we burn fat, build muscle, and heal quickly. This happens because exercise produces a chemical called Cytokine 6 (ONLY produced by exercise). In winter mode – the body stores fat, and basically just tries not to die ! It produces lots of Cytokine 10, which fights inflammation, but is terrible for our physiology. If you exercise for an hour a day, hard enough to make you break a sweat, at least 5 times a week, you’ll stay young and healthy (and even REVERSE the aging process) indefinitely. This is health advice anyone can understand.
Q: Your book talks about ways people can overcome challenges and tragedy; could you expand on that ?
A: I’m really glad you mentioned that ! Discuss “playing w/ purpose”, Super Better; also turning negative emotions/events into powerful engines for change
Q: How did this book come to be written ?
A: It took 12 years of hard work, and passion – to better my life and the world (all these answers will be more coherent and expanded upon, obviously – this is just an overview).
Q: So what IS the secret of happiness ?
A: Healthy relationships – first w/yourself, then with others and those around you.
Q: How did YOU discover it ?’
A: In Thai prison, facing death daily for >5yrs – you learn what matters, and how little we need.
Q:The book talks a lot about meaning – how DO you find a purpose in life ?
A: Caring & sharing what you’re passionate about – share what you love with those who need it.
Q: Why is happiness so hard to find ?
A: In the US and the ‘developed’ world, we’re chasing the wrong things. In the poorer countries, it is because people’s basic needs are not met.
Q: How does a person deal with loneliness, anger, depression, anxiety, etc ?
A: Making connections – and having a willingness to share and listen.
Q: Living in prison for so long, how did you deal with violence and conflict ?
A: Same as dealing with all negative emotions – a willingness to show empathy and understanding – a willingness to listen and HEAR what the other person is saying, and show kindness to their needs/wants.
Q: What are some ways listeners can bring happiness into their lives ?
A: Get your relationship with yourself right. Here’s the formula: forgive yourself, , escape the mental traps and cages that keep you miserable, and be kind to yourself.
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’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!
What’s the story behind 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.
A: Read !
The wider your knowledge base, the more work you’ve read, the better your grasp of the world, and the better the quality of your writing will be.
Take the time to read the classics, as well as the major writers in your chosen genre.
I also highly recommend Stephen King’s book – On Writing – excellent advice on the practical aspects of the writer’s craft.
A: I’m often struck by the beauty of the world and of nature, and I think this inspires me – not a direct influence on my work, but certainly there in the subconscious part that’s always generating new ideas.
Things that upset me and make me angry also move me to write – to try and create change.
So on balance, I guess I’m ‘inspired’ to write by things that piss me off (LOL) and the things that I love.
A: I feel very fortunate – I’ve never suffered from ‘writer’s block’, per se.
There have been times when I didn’t feel I had anything to say. I think the best thing you can do at that point is have new experiences, and don’t try to force your writing. Just live life, and when you have something important to say – THEN write. But don’t struggle to jot something down, just for the sake of producing.
A: I was in prison in Thailand, and there was one day where death seemed very close – just a hand’s-breadth away.
And at that moment, I realized how little we really need to be happy. That our lives are so basic, when you strip everything away.
The essence of the book was born right then.
A: I’m in the process of recording the audio-book version of LH, and hope to have it finished by the end of January.
I’m also doing a series of podcasts on shows with related themes – please visit the website for more details on when these shows will air.
A: The power of having a voice, and communicating what you think is important.
When you connect with readers, and they really hear what you have to say – that is a wonderful feeling, and the best part of writing (to me, anyway).