Author finds answers in questions

Local author Allan Bopp has penned a thought-provoking book made up entirely of questions aimed at sparking ideas while creating a conversation between writer and reader (Photo by DAVID GUNTER).

SANDPOINT — Everyone takes part in some kind of internal dialog on occasion. Author Allan Bopp turned his into a self-published book that covers topics both sacred and silly.

In his case, the unspoken conversation transpired in the form of questions that popped into his mind over the course of several years. Instead of filling in the blanks for the reader, Bopp chose to pass them along — intact and unanswered — in a just-published paperback titled, “Why Do We Like Thin-skinned Watermelons, but not Thin-skinned People?”

The author tackles some truly weighty subjects in chapters such as life and death, war and peace, and the environment. He takes a goofier turn as he addresses questions related to hair, advertising, and stupid words and phrases.

Throughout the book, Bopp calls in a lofty support crew of famous authors and essayists whose quotes lead off the various chapters and chime in at key points during the read. There are even a few songwriters who get their philosophical licks in, such as the Keb’ Mo lyric that starts off the chapter titled Religions: “There’s more than one way home; ain’t no right way, ain’t no wrong” the line announces.

In many cases, the quotes act as a preface to the writer’s own viewpoints on the stuff of life. Just as often, he keeps the dialog rolling by following one question with another.

It only seemed fair, then, to pepper the self-published author with a list of questions in order to learn how he came up with the book idea and what he learned about himself as the text took shape.

Q. Was the book inspired by the quoted authors and essayists included, or did you find quotes that fit after the fact?        

A. For the most part, I found the quotes after the fact and matched them to the subject matter. I felt that the quotes expressed what I was trying to get across to the reader in a more eloquent and succinct manner than I could.

However, there were some times when a particular quote prompted a thought pattern that resulted in another series of questions.

Most of the quotes from Thoreau were like old friends that had an influence on my thinking and my view of the world way back when I was a teenager — 50 years ago.

Q. How many answers did you find for your own questions as you continued to write?

A. Most of the questions pointed to a specific answer in my mind. Some questions were open to a variety of answers. Even though many of the questions were rather blatantly “leading questions,” the reader is always free to answer the questions in any manner that he or she likes.

Q. Even so, it seems that your personal viewpoint is masked, if you will, as a series of questions. Was that your intent at all?

A. Often my personal viewpoint was very thinly masked. I was aware of this as I was writing. I suppose I chose to present my ideas in the form of questions, rather than presenting myself as an author that was an expert, or somehow knew so much more than everyone else that I was entitled to write a book and essentially tell the reader the proper way to believe and perceive the world.                                      

Q. You used humor effectively to couch some of your most pointed questions. Is that part of the way you naturally tick?

A. It comes naturally for me since I am kind of a goofball at heart. In some cases, I was trying to make a point but did not want to offend anyone — although I realize that some people will choose to be offended anyway.

Q. You’ve dedicated the book to your older brother. Did he influence this project as far as topics covered or general direction?   

A. Not really, though if he had lived longer he may have. In early 2011, I sent him three chapters to get his opinion. I had not previously shown the book to anyone or even revealed its existence to anyone. He seemed to like it and approved, but he suggested that it needed more references. He suggested that I visit him the following winter in North Carolina and we could “work on it together.”

I was looking forward to this, since we had not spent a lot of time together for many years. Unfortunately, he passed away before that could happen.

Q. What did you find out about yourself in the course of writing the book?

A.  I found that if I keep my mind open ideas will often arise in my consciousness and ultimately have some value. If I record them and refine them a bit, they may even be fit for public consumption.

I realized that my thoughts would not have much of a positive effect on the world unless I put them into a form that could be spread around more than I could do by personal contact.

Q. What, if anything, would you like for your readers to find out about themselves?

A. It is my hope that people will read the questions with an open mind and have the courage to reexamine their beliefs and perceptions of the world and of their lives. If, after considering other possibilities, they decide their original beliefs and perceptions were valid for them, that’s OK with me. I just think that it is a shame to go through life with the view of the world that you were trained to have without being willing to look at other viewpoints.

Q. Do you think the reader comes away with a more complete picture of who you are as a person after reading the book?

A. Yes, I think that will probably be the case for the most part, although some of the questions do not truly point to my basic beliefs.       

 With some questions, I took an idea or statement and projected it out to its seemingly logical conclusion. That extreme result may or may not mirror my belief on that subject. In some cases, I was just trying to make a point.         

Other questions were just concocted on a goof because I found it amusing. Not everyone will share my sense of humor. Even one of the ladies that worked a bit on editing the book — a lady in her 70’s to whom I had not been formally introduced — told me that I had a very strange mind. Of course, I thanked her for the compliment!

Q. Where is the book available locally and also electronically?

A.  In Sandpoint, it is available at Vanderford’s and at the Common Knowledge bookstore. In Bonner’s Ferry, it is available at Bonner Books. Online paperbacks are available at createspace.com and at Amazon.com.

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