Picture the scene – it’s 2016 and I’m currently laying on my back floating in a pool of water and Epsom salts. For those who haven’t tried it before, float spas are the ultimate in relaxation. Because the water is mixed with such a high density of Epsom, your body has natural buoyancy and you float with absolutely no effort. It’s one of the most relaxing things you can ever do and often, puts me into a meditative state.
So here I am, floating, my mind is clear and suddenly an idea came from nowhere – ‘I should write a book’, I thought. It had never been something I thought about before, but it felt like something I’d love to do, although I wondered if it was a little unrealistic. I almost immediately started to write down a few ideas and over time started to put together a few chapter ideas, but it eventually got side-tracked into the chaos that is life.
Some time passed and I received an email from my now, amazing editor – Leah, ‘Have you ever thought about writing a book?’ she asks. My heart skipped a beat and I instantly wanted to reply with a solid “YES” but decided to play it cool and wait 10 minutes before getting back to her. We met and the room was buzzing with ideas. We were both in complete alignment, so I set off to write my sample chapter of FEARLESS. A few weeks later and my chapter got approved and I was offered my first book deal, brokered amazingly by Northbank.
The next year was a journey of imposter syndrome, procrastination, caffeine, eureka moments and concentrating that hard my tongue came out (it’s hereditary). It’s no exaggeration to say that I put my heart, soul and vulnerability into this book. I was fortunate enough to take it with me on my travels and wrote parts of it in Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, San Francisco, in my kitchen and in the car on our way to IKEA.
August came, which was submission month and I waited anxiously for Leah’s feedback. Thankfully it didn’t need much in way of changes – the biggest thing was rounding up some of my inspirational friends to get some of their quotes in the book to give it even more depth and variety. It was like herding sheep but we eventually got there! Simultaneously, Leah sent across the first draft illustrations, which I opened with bated breath (because I’m a bit of a design control freak) and I instantly was blown away and for the first time in my life, had no suggested edits. The book was then sent to print, and things went quiet for a few months, awaiting publication.
The book was published January 9th and despite already having 20 author copies at home, I went to Waterstones to buy a copy, just to check it was all real. It was a bittersweet moment because sadly my Grandma passed away a few days before. She was one of my best friends and the book was dedicated to her. Scholastic were amazing in getting a preview copy to her back in December, so we were blessed that she was able to have seen the book before she passed.
The book launch came on the 16th and I remember travelling up on the train, in the middle of my grief thinking about how much the book meant to my Grandma and how much she wanted the launch to go ahead with or without her, but it still felt quite conflicting and I started to feel really anxious.
I arrived and was so overwhelmed by the amount of love and support in the room. It was packed with so many loved ones – my family, boyfriend, friends, Scholastic and Northbank were all there to celebrate my book. I had to pinch myself, it just felt so surreal – I was suddenly transported back to that moment in the float spa, only 4 years ago. I had a dream but questioned if it was realistic, yet here I was, celebrating my first book, surrounded by so many wonderful people.
Speeches came and Leah and I both said our bits. I then went on to do my very first signing, which was amazing. In fact, I enjoyed it that much I’ve already popped into a few book shops unannounced to sign copies on the shelves.
The evening went by so quickly and thankfully I didn’t end up blubbering, which was my biggest fear. I left feeling so elated and loved and without realising it before, it was exactly what I needed and absolutely worthwhile. I know that Grandma would have been there as her spirit now lives on in thousands of dedication pages up and down the country.
Liam Hackett is the founder and CEO of Ditch the Label, one of the largest anti-bullying charities in the world. FEARLESS! How to be your true confident self is available now from Scholastic.