Want to know how to write an inspiring book? In this week’s author spotlight, I interview a man who has devised and implemented 550 zany capers and record breaking stunts to support charities around the world—from eating 62 ice pops in an hour, to pushing a pea with his nose for 2.5 miles, to eating 2,780 cold baked beans, one at a time, with a toothpick, to walking 81.5 miles backward—all in the name of raising funds—and awareness—for important causes.
Willie Nugent is the man who has shaken paws around the world to raise money for dog shelters. And now, in A World of Good: 550 Madcap Schemes to Save the World Willie shares how he did it, what on earth he was thinking, and how you can do it to—including how he worked with the Guiness Book of World Records—and broke more than one of those records!
Willie: There were two reasons: First, it would be great to be able to raise more money for charity by writing about my fundraising, and Second, I am retired from work now and I was always afraid as I got older I would start to forget some of the things I did.
Lisa: What is your goal in writing and publishing A World of Good?
Willie: I hope people, especially younger people, will see that helping others and doing good is so rewarding. When someone shakes your hand and says, “Thank You,” there’s no better feeling in the world.
Lisa: In first thinking about your book, before it was written, we did a bit of brainstorming about who the audience was and I know you also got some advice from a children’s book expert I had recommended, Rebecca McCarthy. It seems that the book really works for kids and adults, as well as families or classrooms reading it together. How were you able to achieve that?
Willie: I think it’s because the readers—both young and old—can see a bit of me in them. Just an ordinary guy helping others.
Lisa: How do you envision the word getting out to students and teachers? To parents? To kids?
Willie: People who enjoy the book will tell others, publicity through the media.
Lisa: That makes sense. You’ve been able to garner lots of publicity over the years for the charities you’ve helped, so it makes sense to go with what has worked so well in the past.
Why did you decide to work with a writer to help you write the book? What are some of the benefits of working with a writer?
Willie: The simple answer is that, without the writer, it would have been impossible for me to write the book. I had so many ideas in my head but putting them down on paper was impossible. The best thing I ever did was contact you. You gave me the confidence I needed to hear that the book was possible. I’m so grateful you put me in touch with my writer, Kelly Malone. Kelly was with me every step of the way.
Lisa: I hear Kelly went the extra mile—literally! She told me that in order to be able to add details to the story, she actually pushed a toy car with her nose and tried the dry land swim on her kitchen floor. She said she got about three feet with the dryland swim on a smooth floor—and you were on concrete!
Willie: I enjoyed every minute working with Kelly.
Lisa: She said that after trying those stunts, she is amazed how you can make the extremely difficult seem fun—a great life lesson. And that you challenged yourself at every turn—and entertained people in the process.
What were some of the biggest challenges in writing A World of Good and how did you deal with those challenges?
Willie: Remembering everything that happened over the years, especially 30 plus years ago. Luckily, Kelly always asked the right questions and the words kept flowing.
Lisa: What was the most challenging stunt you ever did physically? How does it compare to writing and publishing a book?
Willie: The most challenging stunt was “Crawling ” around the mall in Armagh. It was my first big stunt, I didn’t know what to expect. Sitting back in the armchair reading about it in my book is so much easier. Instead of drinking horrible green stuff during the crawl I can now take a nice cup of coffee.
Lisa: Your friends and family play a big part in supporting you throughout all the record breaking attempts and charity fundraisers. What role are they playing in supporting you with writing and publishing or getting the word out about the book?
Willie: My family and friends are the greatest. They have all bought the book. Some of them are in the stories and photos. They are telling everybody about it. My former workmates at Tower Hill are all buying it. I can never thank them enough.
Lisa: You mention one of your biggest charity endeavors, Shaking Paws Around the World, where you travelled extensively, paying for all the travel…
Willie: I love “Shaking Paws around the World.” Dogs treat everybody the same way. No matter what country I go to, the dogs come running with their tails wagging. They don’t care who you are or what you are, or if you’re rich or poor. I love raising money for them.
Willie: When I think back, one of my scariest moments was in attempting the Motionless Record in a shop window in London. After about 5 hours I felt like I was going to faint. I remember seeing all these children standing outside the window watching me and thinking to myself, “If I faint and fall through the window, some of the kids could be hurt.” Lucky enough, I didn’t faint and I set a new World Record.
Lisa: Twice you broke world records only to find out the record had been broken but not recorded yet or the record was broken later that year—bumping you from the Guiness Book of World Records. How long did it take you to get over the sting of that? Did it make finally making the Guiness Book of World Records extra sweet?
Willie: I remember my father saying many years ago, “Never look back. You can’t change the past but you can help change the future.” So when I failed a World Record I moved on and tried another one.
My dream of getting into The Guinness Book of Records was my secret weapon. So although it hurt at the time my dream kept pushing me on. When I finally made it everything was all worthwhile.
Lisa: It seems to me that’s excellent advice to an author as well! What was the most fun challenge you took on and what made it so fun?
Willie: The Dry Land Swim across Westminster Bridge in London! When the tourists who had gathered saw me in my swim costume, they thought I was going to jump off the bridge into the river Thames. What a surprise they got when I got down on the ground and swam along the footpath. We all had a good laugh.
Lisa: The photos really add to the book. Your designer did such a great job of integrating photos and images and helping the stories come alive through them. How did you find your designer? What was the process of working with her?
Willie: Kelly Malone found my designer, Marisa Jackson. When Marisa sent me the proof, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was so lucky to have her as my designer.
Lisa: What are your plans for A World of Good? I know you plan to use the book to fundraise for charities and that all profits are going to charity. Can you say more?
Willie: I hope my book raises lots of money for charity and I hope it helps others to do the same. I will be visiting dog shelters, “Shaking Paws around the World.” I’ll take part in fun runs and sponsored cycles.
Lisa: How can people buy A World of Good?
Lisa: How can people inquire about using A World of Good to create a fundraiser for a charity?
Willie: You can contact me by email.
Lisa: Thank you, Willie. I’m very excited that you have generously offered a fundraiser for Willett Free Library in Saunderstown RI. Readers of this blog who want to “meet Willie” by Skype and ask more questions can join us on April 30 at Willett Free Library in Saunderstown RI.