Q. Please tell us about your book, Three Thousand Miles for a Wish?
My book is about my journey to Mecca on the Hajj in a quest to find happiness. It is a unique story that covers the experience of Hajj from a very personal and emotional perspective.
Q. Why did you decide to write your story?
I was blown away by this journey. As soon as I arrived back into the UK from Saudi Arabia I said; ‘My God, I have got to put pen to paper and write about this. And share this story with the whole world’. It was an instant compulsion to write, even though i had never written before. When something magical happens in a person’s life, there is that immediate desire to stand on a roof top and shout it out to everyone who will hear. Writing this book was my way of standing on a roof top and shouting it out to everyone who will hear.
Q. We go through life full of privileges and expectation, losing balance only when things don’t go our way – and you tackle this really well in your narrative. What did this journey – the physical one to Hajj and your writer’s journey – teach you about yourself?
The biggest thing that I have realised about myself by going on the Hajj and penning it onto paper is how mortal I am as a mere human being. But at the same time, with the power of belief, how immortal I could make myself feel. It’s an incredible thought.
Q. I won’t lie to you. This is emotional stuff – I wept like a baby in parts. Were you afraid of opening your heart and soul to readers? Was it a liberating or frightening experience?
When i was writing this book it felt as though I had ripped open my heart and let every emotion inside me flow freely onto paper. With no restraints, no barriers – it was liberating. But in the cold light of day, I saw that by opening up my soul to readers I was exposing myself as a person. It was extremely difficult. It still is. But I see this as my sacrifice. A small sacrifice if it means that I can help one reader realise that, after despair comes hope.
Q. And what has the reaction been from your mum? And others who’ve read the book?
Ermmm… I have read parts of the book to my mum, skipping all the bits that would make her throw a slipper at me! Like any mother would, she feels proud that I have achieved something and have become a better person.
From other readers, who are mainly non-Muslims but include Muslims, I have had a great reaction, so far. The story has moved some readers to tears and I think that is because they can perhaps relate to some of the very human things that I write about. I have had emails from readers all over the world, including California, Sweden and Canada, telling me that the book has really captivated them. Simple words like that really do make me smile and think that all the hard work I put into this was totally worth it.
Q. Going back to the process of writing, having worked in a corporate environment as a lawyer did you feel hindered or at loss in any way to reconnect with your creative side?
When I reconnected with my creative and expressive side I knew I was home. This is me. I am a writer and I want to spend my life writing. Writing for goodness and writing to make people smile.
Q. Tell me more about the publishing process and why you made the decisions you made to self publish?
Whilst finalising my work, I sent a sample to a few traditional literary agents to see what they thought. Unfortunately, all of them rejected the work. By this time it had been over two years since I returned from my journey and I knew that if I was to publish this book, it had to be now. Having done some research I found that most literary agents were not taking on much new work and were financially struggling (due to the rise of e-publishing and bookshop closures) and even if I did get a traditional publishing contract it would take a year and a half to publish my book. I see myself as an entrepreneur, and felt that I could do anything the publishers could do and that’s when I decided to just bite the bullet and publish as soon as possible. And I did.
I managed to reach the Top 40 position in Amazon UK’s bestsellers list and I’m not quite sure whether going with a traditional publisher would’ve helped me achieve that – especially so soon. I certainly feel that I made the best decision by doing this my own way.
Q. Can humans ever be happy?
That’s a very difficult question to ask and I ponder over this in my final chapter. What is happiness? I have a very high happiness threshold (great(!)) and I believe that happiness only occurs in short bursts. If life ends with death, then how can someone be truly happy? I believe real happiness can only ever occur in the hereafter, but in the meantime, if you have found contentment, then you are one of the lucky ones.
Q. What’s your advice for anybody reading who’s planning a life changing journey?
If there are any other life changing journeys apart from the Hajj, then I’d like to know ! If you’re planning a life changing journey then leave everything behind. All the materialism, bad relationships, worries – everything. Walk away from it all and put your body and soul into this journey. If you do, then you’ll be sure to feel something magical.
Safiya Hussain is a 28 year old entrepreneur, lawyer and writer. She currently works and lives in North-West England. her first book ‘Three Thousand Miles for a Wish’ became an Amazon UK top 40 bestseller. She enjoys being around people and aspires to be a full time ‘saver of the world!’. You can visit her website http://www.safiyahussain.co.uk/ or follow her on Twitter @safiyahussain