The idea of writing a book had long been a fancy of Stan L. Abbott, Newcastle-born and now Durham-based, but it wasn’t until an accident on his bike followed by a stint in hospital that he began to believe his dream could become a reality. Stan’s physical injury caused a chemical imbalance in his brain, which led to him experiencing delusions.
‘When you’re delusional and have this idea that you have super-powers but then reality dawns and you realise the life you thought you’d lived was a lie… it’s hard to adjust,’ explains Stan. ‘I underwent cognitive behavioural therapy and it was my therapist who encouraged me to share this story with the world.’
Although based partly on his real-life experiences, the book is entirely fictional. When the naïve Felix Merryweather finds himself unexpectedly reunited with a woman from his past, he can’t imagine the bizarre chain of events that are about to unfold. Blurring the boundaries between fantasy and reality, The Episode sees Felix drawn into the labyrinthine world of reclusive entrepreneur Lord Lindisfarne – a world born out of his descent into mania following a freak accident.
While experienced in writing non-fiction as a trained journalist, writing anything more than a 2,000 word feature was a wholly different experience for Stan. ‘I have had previous attempts at fiction before but they never got very far, and I think the difference here was I felt like I actually had a story to tell,’ he says.
‘I won’t say there weren’t moments of doubt because when you spend eight years writing something, you’re bound to ask yourself these questions. But there was a point where I thought this is make or break now, so I took myself on a writers’ retreat and rattled off about 30,000 words – that was when I saw the finishing line and thought, I can do this.’
The Episode is a hefty 650 pages, and while Stan says that was a bit of an accident, he doesn’t regret creating such a lengthy tome. ‘By now I’ve read it more than once, and as a book not just a proof, and I do believe that it would have been very hard to do what the book sets out to do in fewer words,’ Stan says.
For any budding writers out there Stan recommends dedicating a good chunk of time to getting some writing done. ‘I do find it works better if you immerse yourself and do it for a few days at a time,’ he says. ‘If you say you’re going to do an hour a day, you spend a lot of that hour re-familiarising yourself with what you last wrote, whereas if you go away and don’t do anything else, you don’t have to go through that process every time.’
Among his own literary inspirations, Stan enjoys reading works by fellow North East authors LJ Ross and Ann Cleeves, as well as some contemporary authors from the US. ‘I often find contemporary women authors from the States very refreshing. I’m also a bit of a romantic at heart, so I take all the crime I read with a pinch of salt – I don’t read them for the gruesome bits, I like them because they’re compelling tales.’
As a Durham local for more than 20 years, Stan has seen the city change since the ‘90s – for the better. ‘Back in the ‘90s Durham wasn’t a great place to go for a night out – you had your town pubs and your gown pubs,’ he says. ‘But I think a lot of that tension has gone and it’s a much more comfortable place to go out now.
‘There are so many more diverse offerings and great places to eat – my favourite is The Rabbit Hole and I’m also a fan of the gin bar Tin of Sardines. It’s great to walk up the Bailey now and see that most of the shops are full.’
To read more about Stan’s book or to purchase a copy, visit his website www.stanabbott.com