Suzanne Paul’s life has all the elements of a best-seller so it’s not surprising that her new memoir and motivational book has become such a success.
The story of Suzanne Paul’s triumph over adversity to become a multi-millionaire businesswoman and popular television presenter followed by her more recent financial difficulties has been reported many times. But it was the lesser known tales in her new book But Wait, There’s More that had me laughing out loud and even moved to tears. Who knew that she almost accidentally became an escort not long after her arrival in New Zealand? Or that she had a major meltdown before her first episode of Dancing with the Stars and had to be cajoled out of a locked bathroom by Lorraine Downes?
Alongside the many hilarious anecdotes and poignant stories the book also has some serious messages. Suzanne’s original plan was to write a purely motivational manuscript but she was persuaded by her publishers, Penguin, to weave her memoir throughout the book to highlight its self-help advice. The finished book has autobiographical chapters rounded off by a section that covers the lessons Suzanne learned during that particular stage of her life along with tips for people who might be facing similar challenges. This combination of peeking into Suzanne’s fascinating life while learning about ways we can enrich our own has proved a hit with local readers. Within a couple of weeks of its release the book had topped the New Zealand Non-Fiction list.
I met Suzanne in Christchurch when she was in the middle of a book promotion tour. In person, she is even more diminutive than she appears on television and looks much younger than her fifty-something years. She had just spent the weekend demonstrating Natural Glow at a Woman’s Expo and was ‘thrilled’ by the feedback she had received about the book. “Women are already saying they have found it inspirational and that it is giving them the kick up the bum they need to get a bit more motivated. This is exactly the reaction I wanted.”
Suzanne knows more than most about picking herself up during challenging times. Since being declared bankrupt following a failed tourism venture in 2005, she has been working hard to rebuild both her life and her business empire. “At 50 years of age I found myself in such a bad place. I had lost everything and was very down. Everything seemed quite hopeless and I couldn’t eat or sleep. That’s when I started thinking back over my life. I had nothing when I was 35 and before that I had lived in a bed-sit with nothing. I asked myself how I used to think, feel and act when I got myself out of those circumstances and started writing it all down. This took about a year. I thought if I can just do the same things again, surely I’ll get the same results?”
As she wrote down the keys that had led to her previous successes, Suzanne started to put her own advice into practise and found that it still worked. “That’s when I thought that if I turned all my notes into a book, that other people might get the same results.” Not that she found writing the book a cathartic or therapeutic experience. “I knew that I would have to relive the emotions around some of my more painful memories to be able to write about them. I cried almost every day and was glad when the writing was finally finished. At this stage this will be my first and last book.”
Suzanne is not a fan of “happy clappy” self-help books that say positive thinking is all there is to it. “The information in my book is more about common sense. When things go wrong in people’s lives, being told to get happy just doesn’t work. What I would like to teach people is how they can pick themselves up, even if they don’t feel positive or jolly and bubbly.”
If people have time to sit and think about things that make them feel “crappy”, they have time to do something else, she says. “As soon as you’re thinking rubbish and you know you are feeling horrible it’s time to get moving and do something else. It’s not your circumstances that affect you – it is how you think about your circumstances that affects you. There is always a different way of looking at things, but if you keep thinking and acting the same way you’re always going to get the same result.”
Suzanne acknowledges that taking action isn’t always easy. “I got so annoyed when I lost everything but was back out demonstrating in the malls the next week and people said things like, ‘it’s all right for you’, like I was some kind of robot. Life’s not like that. I felt like I could throw myself off the bridge and might have cried for two hours while I was putting on my make-up, but I put on a brave face and made the best of it.” And yes, she still has the odd down day. “That’s when I pick up my book and have a word with myself.”
The other big message in Suzanne’s book is that if you can dream it, you can live it. “I know of many people who have gone through a mid-life crisis when they suddenly think, I wish I’d gone to Thailand, or learned to play the piano. I show them that age isn’t a barrier to making their dreams happen.” But people do need to know what it is they want in the first place, she says. “If you don’t know what you want, how are you ever going to get it?”
Suzanne says that one of the downfalls of motivational books is that people often read them, try something once, and if it doesn’t work, they give up. “People will say that was a load of rubbish, it didn’t work, but I hope the main message people get from my book is to pick themselves up and try again. Life’s winners aren’t people that are any luckier or work any harder than the rest of us. Life’s winners keep having another go.”
Having another go is something Suzanne is certainly not afraid of. After reclaiming the rights for Natural Glow, the product on which she originally made her fortune, she is now adding new products to her range. Next year she plans to launch Suzanne Paul Petites clothing – one of “about ten” major plans she has on the go. Money is her motivation, so she can pay back her creditors and eventually have enough money to have a good life herself, she says. “It is mentally hard to pick yourself up from bankrupty when you have nothing, no bank account, credit card or even a mobile phone in your own name. It is also hard to persuade people to have faith in you again. When I kept saying to the creditors I would pay them back I think everyone thought it would happen the next week. While I know it will be a long time before I can pay everyone back, I have never doubted that I will do it.”
Suzanne hopes that her big plans for But Wait, There’s More, that include releasing it to other countries and getting it on the Oprah show, will make the book an international best-seller. “People are fed up and depressed all over the world, and motivational books often sell for years and years. I believe that if you keep putting it out there that eventually things will happen. If I am going to encourage other people to make their dreams come true I have to keep pursuing my own.”
Suzanne said about the story :
“It’s a lovely well written story, Thanks Jo
Kind Regards, Suzanne”
Suzanne Paul, New Zealand celebrity and entrepreneur