Fred Afflerbach - A Man of Many Hats
Fred Afflerbach, author of "Roll On: A Trucker's Life on the Road", spoke to an audience of Texas State students last Tuesday to share his experience of going from a truck driver, to a journalist and then a novelist.
Afflerbach, a former student at Southwest Texas State University, did not make the transformation from trucker to novelist quickly or easily.
"My life didn't change overnight," Afflerbach said.
In 1979, 22-year-old Afflerbach dropped out of school at Southwest Texas State to pursue a career in truck driving. He quickly became inspired by the elder truckers who had been on the road their entire lives.
"The more I looked at them, the more I was in awe of them," Afflerbach said. "These truckers did not fit in. They had this wanderlust; they had this look in their eye."
Owner-operator truckers are a group whose days are numbered. Their numbers are dramatically declining as large trucking companies have started taking over. Afflerbach wanted to make sure the stories of an entire generation of truckers, his lifelong heroes, did not go untold.
"I saw how much things had changed," Afflerbach said. "That's what I think was so important about this era that made me want to write about it."
From 1979 to 1985, Afflerbach was an owner-operator of his own tractor-trailer rig. He lived out of the tractor-trailer while traveling the 48 states of the continental U.S. and western Canada. During this time he got to know the ways of the road and the many truckers that inhabited it. It was also the time when he developed his love of writing and began writing for truckers' tabloids.
In 2002, Afflerbach decided to go back to school despite being in his 40s. He enrolled in night classes at Austin Community College and in 2007, he graduated from Texas State University with dual degrees in English and print journalism.
"Roll On: A Trucker's Life on the Road" is Afflerbach's first novel about a fictional long-time trucker named Ubi Sunt. Afflerbach spent two years writing the book, one year looking for a publisher and another year of editing. The book was finally finished in April of this year.
"I didn't really know where I was going," said Afflerbach. "writing it was like driving across the country at night, where you can see only as far as your headlights are. You've got a roadmap and an idea of where you wanna go, and you just keep putting one mile behind the other."
Afflerbach said he plans to write a sequel to the book and maybe even a few other novels about travel. He said writing helps him to live with the wanderlust that he still possesses and cannot escape.
After the speech, students left feeling more informed and inspired.
Amy Botts, a public relations major at Texas State, said she liked how dedicated Afflerbach was to pursuing his dreams, first by getting into trucking, then by going back to college despite his age and eventually writing “Roll On”.
For Ana Strickland, it opened her eyes up to a side of the trucking business that she never knew existed.
"Truckers are stereotyped a lot," Strickland said. "People kind of just think of them as smelly guys that go on the road and travel and haul stuff, but [Afflerbach] had a lot of substance to him. For him to recognize the old truckers and that their stories needed to be told is really interesting to me. The newer generation is totally different, so the older generation should be documented."
Strickland also said that she is interested in reading the novel herself.
"I was thinking while he was talking that his book is probably really good," said Strickland. "Even though I'm not interested in the trucking life, the excerpts he read were really colorful and he seemed really enthusiastic and excited about it."