Q&A With Michael Hingson

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Q&A With Michael Hingson 

Publicist Mickey Mikkelson was kind enough to connect me with more great authors, one of whom is New York Times Bestselling Author Michael Hingson. Michael is the author of Thunder Dog: The True Story Of A Blind Man, His Guide Dog, And The Triumph Of Trust at Ground Zero & has a new book coming out on August 20th titled Live like a Guide Dog: True Stories from a Blind Man and His Dogs about Being Brave, Overcoming Adversity, and Moving Forward in Faith. Michael is also a technologist & motivational speaker. 

Q: Michael, would you like to give a brief description of your upcoming memoir Live like a Guide Dog: True Stories from a Blind Man and His Dogs about Being Brave, Overcoming Adversity, and Moving Forward in Faith

A: Sure. On September 11, 2001, I escaped from the 78th floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center when the building was attacked by terrorists. While like everyone around me, I did not know what was going on and experienced fear. However, because I prepared for the possibility of an emergency by learning about the complex, talking with authorities about what to do in an emergency, learning how officials would respond to an emergency and insuring I knew all I could so I could escape even if no one else was in my office at the time of an emergency, I knew how to control my fears and concerns. I also knew I needed to remain calm for my guide dog, Roselle, who would be looking to me for direction.

I should explain that guide dogs DO NOT LEAD blind people. It is my job to know what to do at any time and how to go wherever I need to travel. The job of the dog is to make sure we walk safely.

So, I needed to remain calm to convey to Roselle that I was ok and to be able to give her specific commands. All worked well on September 11.

During the pandemic I realized that while I had been a keynote speaker since right after September 11 and had talked about not being fearful and losing control on that day, I had never begun teaching others how to learn to control their fears. “Live Like A Guide Dog” is the answer to that teaching lack. People who read this new book will learn that they can control fear and not let it, as I say, blind or overwhelm them. We all experience fear. However, we can control it if we prepare, learn how to do so and strengthen our mind muscles.

Q: What made you feel as though now was the right time to write & release the book? 

A: Fear is all around us. Some of our political “leaders” foment fear for their own purposes. People tell us it is ok to fear. They say it may be irrational and that everyone fears. However, very few people help us learn that we can indeed control fear and use the tool of fear to guide us and make us more vigilant.

Q: You and your guide dog Roselle are very brave for saving so many people on September 11th. When writing Thunder Dog: The True Story Of A Blind Man, His Guide Dog, And The Triumph Of Trust at Ground Zero, were there any painful memories that you found tough to rehash? 

A: Not really. I have been speaking about that day almost since it happened. My career today primarily is to continue to speak at events to motivate, inspire and to teach. I decided early after September 11, 2001 that if my speaking and appearing could help people move on from that day and from fears they face, and if my speaking could teach people that blindness is not the tragedy people believe it is to be and if I could teach people about the real value of the human-animal bond, then my efforts were worth doing. So, I have talked about September 11 so often that its memories are ingrained in me. I have learned that while I could not control the events of September 11 happening, I have absolute control over how I react and deal with them. So, I have memories and thoughts, but my job is to honor all who lived and who perished that day.

Q: How long did it take for you to write both books? What lessons do you hope readers learn after reading your current & future books?

A: In one sense, Thunder Dog took eight years to write. I began writing notes for it in late 2002, but I knew nothing about book writing. I was encouraged by people including the then publisher of the American Kennel Club Gazette, George Berger. George’s agent wanted me to write a business book. I wanted to create a book for everyone to, as I said above, teach people about blindness, the human-animal bond and I wanted to help them move on from September 11 and other unexpected tragedies they might have faced.

In 2010 I met Susy Flory who was writing her own book about famous dog stories. We joined forces in June of 2010. She and I wrote a proposal we submitted to her agent, Chip MacGregor. Within a week, Chip sold the idea to Thomas Nelson, now part of HarperCollins, and we were off. The book officially was published on August 2, 2011, just two and a half months after Roselle passed.

Q: Are you currently writing your next book now? Is it another nonfiction book or will you try your hand at fiction this time?

A: Not writing anything else yet. We’ll see where we go from here. Currently I am working to ramp up my speaking efforts after Covid.

Q: You are also a technologist & motivational speaker. Would you like to explain what you do as a technologist? Also, would you explain as a motivational speaker, what are your favorite topics to speak on?

A: On the technology side, today I work with a company called accessiBe. %97 of the internet is inaccessible to persons with disabilities. accessiBe has developed an innovative method to address this lack of access in part using the technology of Artificial Intelligence. The accessiBe solution works and it is scalable which is something not available to those who manually code websites. People can learn more about accessiBe including obtaining a free audit of their websites by visiting accessiBe is inexpensive. For anyone who has a website with less than 1,000 pages, the cost is $490 per year. Making your websites accessible is good business as by doing so you open your site to as much as %25 more people who might otherwise be unable to visit and take advantage of what your site has to offer.

As far as speaking, people hire me to talk about the lessons we should learn from the events of September 11. They want me to tell my story. I also often deliver a talk entitled “Moving From Diversity to Inclusion”. This talk describes why people typically do not include disabilities in their “diversity efforts”. They don’t get off so easy if they truly want to be “inclusive”. I can provide you with a more detailed description of the talk if you wish.

When I speak, I believe it is my job to talk WITH an audience, not talk to an audience. Letters of reference I have received about my talks bear out that my approach works.

Q: What is your advice for anyone wanting to be an author, technologist & author?

A: Do it. Do not hesitate to seek out people who can help you. You don’t have to do the jobs alone. Collaboration always makes us stronger.

Q: What’s it like knowing your books are on the New York Times Bestsellers List? It sounds like a dream come true! 

A: It is. I admit it is quite exciting. Even more important is knowing that people continue to read Thunder Dog. I continue to receive emails from people who have read it and who are moved by the story.