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15 master storytellers and Rory Bremner on the struggles that shaped them

“I am immensely excited about this project and can’t wait to read the stories of this stellar cast of writers and thinkers.” – Nathan Filer, Costa Book of the Year



What's this about?

There’s this myth of the famed and successful as some God-like characters leading spotless, unblemished lives. But under the surface you’ll find that these people were often shaped by great personal struggle. They just didn’t become defined by it.

In this book, you’ll meet 16 acclaimed writers, beloved comedians, ingenious artists, distinguished academics and trail-blazing entrepreneurs who will share their secret battles and take you on a journey to the darkest recesses of their minds. 

And as they face their deepest fears, the authors will grapple with questions that haunt us all:


How can we live with our demons? 
How can we grow from our wounds and 
make space for laughter amid life’s tragedies?


Over the past two years, I’ve met some of Britain’s favourite authors and finest new thinkers. Now you can hear the stories that touched me the most, told by the authors themselves.

But isn't this depressing?

Don’t let the heavy subject matter fool you. This will be a riveting read — often heartbreaking, sometimes funny and ultimately hopeful. Its hope, however, won’t be the cheap kind peddled by 'self-help' gurus galore. 

Its hope will be the hope that comes when you let your delusions go, embrace your truth, befriend the skeleton in your closet and maybe dance a little jig with your fears.

The Stories

Head over to the Excerpt tab to get a glimpse into the stories in this book. They are not written yet — this is where you come in. 

Why should I support you?

I’ve never seen such fascinating writers come together in this way before. I haven’t heard more important stories about what it means to be alive today. By becoming a backer, you will make it possible to bring these stories to you - and to everyone who needs their message.

It takes months to write a good story. The authors will give up not just their time but other opportunities, too — and they’ve agreed to do this, without an advance, if they know that the book will get  published.

I am asking for the minimum to produce a beautiful hardback. If we meet the funding target, the book will get published and distributed to bookstores. If we don’t, the book will not happen. 

The Authors

  • Aaron Gillies (comedy writer, “one of Twitter’s most original and humorous voices” — Telegraph)

  • Rory Bremner (Britain’s top mimic, “a one-man opposition party” — Daily Telegraph)

  • Ben Saunders (one of the world’s leading polar explorers, skied to both the North and South Poles solo)

  • Emmy van Deurzen (existential philosopher, psychologist, author of 15 books & honorary professor at the University of Sheffield)

  • Ed Mitchell (former TV presenter with 30 years’ experience at BBC, CNBC and ITN)

  • Melanie McGrath (Mail on Sunday Best British writer under 35, Financial Times Thriller Book of The Year)

  • Cathy Rentzenbrink (author & speaker, shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize; “Brilliant” — Matt Haig)

  • Hazel Gale (cognitive hypnotherapist, national boxing champion & author)

  • John Robertson (award-winning comedian, anarchic improviser, TEDx speaker & former host of UK’s only videogame TV show)

  • David Owen (Young Adult fiction author nominated for the Carnegie Medal)

  • Irenosen Okojie (novelist & short story writer; one of London’s most exciting new authors, according to Evening Standard Magazine)

  • Lily Bailey (author of Because We Are Bad: OCD and a Girl Lost in Thought)

  • Richard Bentall (clinical psychologist & researcher, recognised by the British Psychological Society for outstanding contributions in experimental psychology)

  • Kate Leaver (author & journalist writing about women, pop culture and mental health at Glamour UKViceand  Guardian)

  • Amanda Rosenberg (tongue-in-cheek feminist writer, featured in McSweeney’s, The Guardian and Anxy Magazine)

  • A J Ashworth (editor & short story writer, nominated for the prestigious Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award)

  • Marina Benjamin (former arts editor of the New Statesman, author & Consultant Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund)

  • Emily Reynolds  (author and journalist who writes about mental illness, gender, science and technology for The Guardian, BBC, New York Magazine and more)

E. Z. Skinner is my pen name. My real first name roughly translates as “Christmas tree” and my real last name sounds close to “cheesecake”. In my 20s I went from stock investing in Washington DC to a technology incubator in Southeast Asia, then joined the rat race in London and promptly burned out while building a tax software business. To avoid actually getting therapy, I spent the next two years interviewing therapists, psychiatrists, NHS clinicians, authors, artists and entrepreneurs from South London to Silicon Valley. I wanted to know why we break and how we mend, and I asked anyone willing to tell me. Many people did. Their stories continue to haunt, humble and fascinate me even today. This book is for them and for the rest of us still scrambling to collect the pieces of our own narratives. 

You can write to me at I love letters (the digital kind, too) and I’ll do my best to respond. I won’t lurk in your social media feeds since I haven’t figured out how to use Twitter without destroying my sanity. 

The Stories

· A young man stands on the train tracks plotting a leap to end his life. What’s the logic of self-annihilation and what brings us back from the edge?

· An acclaimed memoirist finds that sometimes the only way you’ve got to cope with a broken reality is to go mad

· An athlete-turned-cognitive-psychologist examines how a fixation with proving yourself can lead to a personal loss you can neither expect, nor repair

· To process the trauma of his best friend’s suicide, a standup comedian cracks “sick jokes from the heart”, turning tragedy into craft

· A gifted writer of short stories discovers that her crippling anxiety may actually mask a deep-seated fear of success

· A crime novelist traces her creative impulse to a childhood accident that made her realise that she can both destroy and be destroyed by those whom she most loves

· One man spends 10 years preparing for the world’s toughest endurance challenge — and accomplishes it. But what happens when you live in the future and that future arrives and it’s not enough?

· A teenage girl tries to disappear by starving herself. What’s this force that compels so many women to stay small?

· A high-flying TV veteran ends up broke, drunk and rough sleeping on the English coast. What makes alcohol so hard to resist even as it ruins you?

· A child notices that certain aspects of her reality don't add up. Could it be that she's the only person who truly exists?


You are amazing. I am lucky. Stories are powerful

Sunday, 13 May 2018


Exciting news…After a week of funding, we’ve reached 18% of our target. At this rate, we’ll get to 100% in 6 weeks - or twice as fast as the majority of successfully crowdfunded books!

This is all thanks to you. I’ve no words to say how grateful I am for your help, encouragement and kindness. I am humbled, flattered, fascinated, excited and deeply, deeply touched by all the generosity during…

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