Having his first book published "was a bit euphoric, like when I passed the bar exam: A long and difficult task had been accomplished," said Hal Howard, who is a retired attorney, long-haul trucker and commercial driver instructor.
"Truckin' With Bubba . . . and I Ain't Bubba" rolled off the presses on Valentine's Day of this year. Howard noted that he had always wanted to be a writer. “I guess the lesson to be learned is if you work hard enough and live long enough, your fantasies may come true."
The first person with whom he shared the good news was Chris, the friend who is preparing the book on CD's. They should be available within the next month, he said.
In retrospect, Howard was asked were there any parts that were more difficult to get down than others?
"Well," he replied, "humor is what gets us through life — it eases the burdens — and it's what I wanted to emphasize. People like to read about the experiences of others in their particular line of work. While a number of people have written about their experiences as truckers and how to get a license, I wanted to write about the process and problems encountered in getting a license, the problems encountered by two strangers having to live together in the confines of a big rig, and the problems encountered by a CDL instructor.
“I think," continued the veteran long-hauler, " the Prime inc. program is unique in that the student goes on the road with an instructor for three or four weeks and is required to come back with at least 100 hours behind the wheel before he is allowed to take the CDL test, whereas students at many other schools drive a few miles during the day and then go home at night. I didn't think there would be much interest in a heavy treatise on trucking, but I did want to include some information on the business of trucking and the lifestyle of truckers, which is why the information on these topics appears in chapters 39 and 40 rather than at the beginning."
How did Howard decide on the name "Bubba"?
His explanation is simple. "There are plenty of examples of Bubba being used in the sense that it portrays a not very bright guy, or a guy who habitually messes up, and the first Bubba certainly fit this stereotype. "‘B’ words usually have a more humorous effect than other words. Can you show me another name that has more B's? Several months ago, I was listening to a discussion on NPR about words and their effect. The question was, 'Can you come up with a humorous non-dirty word that starts with any other letter?'"
Howard retired in January 2008 and “I was still struggling with the form [of the book] at that time. I had it pretty well written by the spring of 2009, when I talked to a literary agent. I told her that I considered the primary customer base to be truckers and that there are a little over 6,300 truck stops in America with book racks to be stocked.
“After listening for a few minutes, she said that she thought this would be a gift book. Gift book! I have gift books I have never read and probably never will. She told me I should get a book about how to write a proposal for a nonfiction book, which I did and wasted a lot of time trying to write a proposal to write a book I had already written.
“The biggest obstacle was the one where I was supposed to tell the prospective publisher what I would do to promote the book. I don't have the funds or the draw of a Sarah Palin that would enable me to go on a cross-country book signing tour. If I have to go out and promote it, what's the publisher going to do that
I won't have to do if I self-publish? After bumbling around for awhile, I decided to self-publish. I made the acquaintance of a retired graphics designer who designed the cover for me. I had chosen a self-publishing company and was about to sign with them when a representative for iUniverse called with a more attractive offer.
“After I submitted my manuscript, the reviewing editor pointed out some problems with it and the company wanted to charge me to edit it. I listened and quickly decided that I could make the changes they wanted and save a few bucks.
“The editor told me that, if they made the changes, I could possibly qualify for their Rising Star program. I told her that, at my age, I wasn't interested in being a Rising Star; I just wanted to be a published author. I made three submissions before it went to press.”
And what does Howard hope that the reader gleans from his finished product?
"Some laughs; insight into the process and problems in getting a Class A Commercial Drivers License; insight into life on the road; awareness of the dangers and problems truckers face on the road and awareness of how other drivers cause unnecessary problems and dangers for themselves and big-rig
Was he encouraged in his writing by Prime inc.?
"I joked about it but no one encouraged or discouraged me. When I returned to Springfield in March 2008 to get my Instructor of the Year Award for 2007, I gave the people at the awards dinner 15 minutes of standup comedy telling them about it."
Is a sequel in the works or a book on another subject?
"I am working on a novel about a dope runner who becomes a truck driver. It will be another year before it will be ready. I have written some short stories and am producing them on CDs with other writers in the Loon Lake Writers Group. They should be available soon with the CDs for Bubba."
The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find more news and analysis from The Trucker, and share your thoughts, on Facebook.