Frequently Asked Questions

Why did you write Stop Worrying and Start Living? 

The short answer to this question is probably because I am the one person that most needed to read it!!  Although to be honest, I didn’t set out with the intention of becoming an author or sharing my story with the world, let alone publishing a book, (although I always had the capacity to write in a vaguely interesting sort of way). I am a very private individual and always preferred to handle my ‘stuff’ alone.  That was until one day, this book in its entirety, the content, the structure , the chapters, the images and layout,  ‘downloaded’  (the only way I can describe it) in my head while I was struggling to stay upright and continue breathing in a marathon spinning class (indoor cycling)  in Johannesburg South Africa.  From then on, I felt compelled to bring it to life.  The book nagged and cajoled day and night until I agreed to ‘give birth’ and almost miraculously the events in my life seemed to conspire to help me to do just that.

The book nagged and cajoled day and night until I consented to give birth and then almost miraculously the event in my life seemed to conspire to help me do just that

The long answer to the question is more philosophical. I think that there comes a time in all of our lives where we feel that something is missing although on the outside we may appear to have it all. This leads us to question, who am I really?  Where am I going? Is there a point to life? Do I have a purpose beyond my career, my family, status, friends and the ability to accumulate material wealth?  What does it mean to be truly at peace? In a Western culture which implores us to meet pressing deadlines and to keep perpetually moving forward, these questions often go largely unanswered until life gives us such a large wake-up call that we are forced to think again. Sometimes that wake-up call comes too late!

Burning questions about the deeper meaning of life inevitably lead us to explore matters of the spirit. A place where science leaves off and the unseen world of the supernatural or mysterious take over. When my wake-up call came loud and fast in the form of severe burnout, I dealt with it in the ‘traditional way’ – medication and counselling. But that didn’t quite cut it in terms of a full recovery. It was probably only about 20% effective overall.  Something else was missing, something bigger but I didn’t have a clue about where to turn, who to talk to or which spiritual religious beliefs to identify with. As a self-confessed agnostic, nothing seemed to make sense – each path that presented itself seemingly littered with confusion and contradictions and self-appointed gurus which failed to answer one fundamental question.  WHY?  So my book is probably THE book that I would have liked to read at that particular point in time.

Of course there are thousands of courses, programmes and self-help books in the world today which each have their own recipe for happiness and success. And whilst they may provide many useful nuggets of inspiration their usefulness fades rapidly when we are flung back into turbulent white water rapids of life again. To truly find a firm footing we need a philosophy whose roots go deep down. To discover that, we each need to go on a journey, one that is depicted in all the myths and fairy tales of the world and one which can take many years.

This book is a succinct record of my journey, its highs and lows and lessons learned.   I hope it will provide a foundation of understanding for anyone who finds themselves lost, floundering and embroiled in confusion.  I’ve been in that dark place and looking back, would dearly have loved someone to shine the flashlight on the path to help me take the next step onward. My hope is that it will provide a platform of understanding, a bridge across a turbulent river for perhaps only one person to help them find a firm footing from which they can build a foundation and decide on which path to take.

How long did it take to write the book?

I started writing in May of 2011 and finally self-published towards the end of 2012.  It took about 18 months in total.

Did you find writing easy?

Yes and no. It was relatively easy on some days when the ideas just seemed to flow out of my head, through my fingers and onto the keyboard. But on some days it was downright difficult.  I learned a lot about the creative process!   It’s important to be disciplined (which is a challenge for me) if you’re actually serious about writing a book.  Creativity too, doesn’t always keep regular hours.  I would often go to bed feeling relatively stuck at a particular point in the writing process, only to find myself waking at 2 am in the morning with a stream of ideas which provided the input I needed or the answers to problems I’d been mulling over.  I kept a note pad and pen next to my bed the entire time but sometimes, there was just so much information, I had pull myself from my slumber and start writing them down, working until about  6 or 7 am before they drifted off again into the ether.

Why did you write the book in New Zealand?

You’ll have to read the book to find the long answer to that question.  I can only say that the events in my life almost seemed to conspire to bring it to life including the manifestation of a log cabin in the rural Peninsula community of Sandspit on New Zealand’s North Island which is peaceful, tranquil and incredibly beautiful. Looking back, I realise now that I definitely needed to be isolated, on the other side of the world, away from everything and everyone I knew to actually get the book finished.

Did you have any help with writing the book?

Yes, I met a Canadian book coach in 2009 called Les Kletke  www.globalghostwriter.com at a Professional Speakers Summit in Cape Town, South Africa.  When I moved to New Zealand we reconnected and he worked with me via Skype to literally ‘coach the book’ out of me.  I’d already started the writing process and as a first time author, found it to be way more difficult than I’d imagined. I’d literally reached a stalemate.  When does one start and stop a chapter?  What was I really trying to say?  What did I want the reader to take away from this chapter?  These are all questions that we don’t consider when we naively start out on such a marathon project.  Despite having a clear outline of the entire book, actually putting it into practice was not as easy as I imagined.  So, the support from Les got me moving, kept me inspired and provided a great sounding board during those crazy insecure times when you wonder what the hell you were thinking of in trying to write a book.

Is there any reason that your book shares the same title as the Book written by Dale Carnegie How to Stop Worrying and Start Living published in 1948?

It probably sounds rather naïve but I actually didn’t know about Dale Carnegie’s book until quite a long way into the book writing process.  It really took the wind out of my sails when I found out. From then on I wracked my brains together with the brains of my editing and proof reading teams to find a suitable replacement.  However, nothing worked quite as well as the then ‘working title’, so Stop Worrying and Start living stuck!

How did you decide on your publisher? 

I chose to self-publish through Amazon Create Space and also to use Balboa Press, the Self-publishing arm of Hay House to aid with the distribution. Writing my first book has been a life changing experience for me.  I wanted to make sure that I kept control of the content, design, and marketing process.  Even though the Self-publishing field is a minefield to navigate as a first time author, I didn’t feel ready to write a synopsis for a publisher to try and convince them that the book was actually was worth publishing.  ( After all JK Rowling was turned down several times before finding the right publishing contract). So I decided to write the book first and think about publishing second.  The upside of that, was that I only had to worry about convincing myself that I could do it.

Do you still keep in contact with Richard Branson?

I have sent a copy of my book to him, as a thank you for playing an important role in my personal journey. But I have not asked him to sponsor me, write a forward or promote the book in any way. It was important for me to connect with readers who were genuinely interested in the subject matter and not because of the Virgin / Branson factor. Also, having spent almost 10 years in fairly front line roles with Virgin I was acutely aware of the enormous volume of requests being sent to Richard’s Office daily, each one looking for donations, sponsorship or support for a business ventures. In fact, I still have people call me and ask if I can connect them with Richard.

Can you?

The address to send any correspondence to is Sir Richard Branson. The School House, 50 Brook Green, London, London, W6 7RR. UK

How did you find some of the artists and illustrators for your book?  

I had a pretty good idea of the look and feel that I wanted to create.  I’m really grateful to artists like Terence John Cleary http://terencejohncleary.com/id47.html and the magical art of American Illustrator Howard David Johnson www.howarddavidjohnson.com/ who helped bring the book to life.

Who created your website?

A wonderful and very patient lady named Jo from Creative Web Ideas on the North Island of New Zealand. You can visit her website at http://www.creative-web-ideas.com/

Will you write any more books?

Yes. I have ideas mulling around in my head. I am sure that the next book will ‘download’ in the same way that the first one did, when the time is right.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Don’t confuse writing and editing. It took me a long time to get that point.  If you consider yourself to be a writer, just write.  Resist the urge to edit yourself until it’s all down on the page. There is no magic formula.  It’s a gradual process.  I worked with Julia Cameron’s book called ‘The Artists Way’ when I first started or when I got stuck. I used her ‘morning pages’ processes,   http://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/ which encourages one to write three A4 pages without taking the pen off the page as you wake in the morning. No editing, no thinking, no stopping, even if you cannot think of anything to say. Just write that!  I found that it helped me to get into flow when I was stuck. Write as if nobody else will ever read it. You might be surprised with the result.