Please introduce yourself and your book.
My name is Peter Bowling Anderson and I’m the author of the book Life at 8 mph: How a Man with Cerebral Palsy Taught Me the Secret to Happiness. It’s the story of the five years I spent working for Richard Herrin in Texas. He has CP, and at first I didn’t want to work for him, but over time I grew very close to Richard, and the job turned out to be the best one I’ve ever had. We helped each other in numerous invaluable ways, including finding our wives. Richard showed me that each person has a purpose because everyone else has a need that can only be met by that particular individual.
What inspired your book?
Richard’s dogged determination and boundless optimism inspired me to write this book. I knew that Richard’s story would inspire people and motivate them not to give up in the face of adversity. No one could face tougher obstacles than Richard, so if he can continue to press on, why shouldn’t I and everyone else?
How do you deal with creative block?
I think it’s important just to begin. Put something down. Don’t just sit around fretting over not landing on the greatest line ever written—write something. Anything. Get the ball rolling and the creative juices will slowly begin to percolate. There’s a great line by T.S. Eliot: “We must be still yet still moving.”
What are the biggest mistakes you can make while writing a book?
Not letting others give feedback along the way. Don’t wait until the end of the book to show it to trusted confidants. A writer needs objective guidance while shaping the manuscript. Also, outside input can help when choosing a title. Often, the writer is so close to the subject matter that he/she needs a fresh perspective to see the work as a whole.
What’s your approach to storytelling?
When writing, I like to create something that makes me laugh and I think readers will find interesting. I also try to keep the action moving so it doesn’t become self-indulgent and boring.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
When dealing with emotions in writing, it’s important to try to write as “soberly” as possible or else it can turn mawkish in just a few lines. It’s fine to write poignant passages, but don’t let the emotion overwhelm the writing. The sentiment of the piece should be discovered by readers on their own, not hammered into their heads.
How has your creation process improved over time?
It’s a work in progress. I hope to improve at it on every project, every day. I’ve learned to edit myself better, to weed out needless drivel. I try not to let a book ramble on too long, maybe 300 pages max. I try not to go too many pages without something humorous.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you, and how do you deal with them?
When receiving negative criticism, it’s hard, but I try to accept it as a positive tool to reach my goal. No one gets it right the first time, so editing and rewrites are a part of the process.
What are your plans for future books?
My future plans for books include a project about an HIV/AIDS/leprosy clinic in India where my wife and I have volunteered several times. The clinic is called Nireekshana, and for many years it was the only clinic in the area willing to treat these patients.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.
I’m a huge Rafael Nadal fan; I hate spicy food and crusts on bread; I need a noise machine to fall asleep; I’d love to live by the ocean in South Florida one day; I only wear soft T-shirts; and I think Cormac McCarthy deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature.