Stig Abell reveals why he deleted 40,000 words of his new novel

Virgin Radio

10 Apr 2024, 12:58

Stig Abell talks to Chris Evans at Virgin Radio

Times Radio Breakfast co-presenter and journalist Stig Abell told Chris Evans about his second novel, Death In A Lonely Place, and why he hit the delete button on a huge part of it.

Stig joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar ahead of the crime story’s release tomorrow (Thursday 11th April). He said: “I wrote the first one back in Covid, really, and it's a guy, Jake Jackson, who leaves the city and tries to find this life where there is no technology. He moves to the countryside, no internet, no connectivity whatsoever. And how much can he renounce the world? How much can he find peace? How much does he want to? And in the second book, an old case of his comes back to life.” 

He continued: “But the questions still remain. I was trying to think why I ended up writing these books. And a lot of it is, if you scrape away all the stuff you have to do in life, all the bleeps and blurts of your phone, all the work obligations, all the things that have just sort of added on, all the accretions to your life that have somehow barnacled onto yourself, what happens if you cut them all away? What would you say is important? What would you cling to? What can you walk away from? 

“And so, although it's a crime novel, and there's a mystery, and there's a conspiracy, and there's murder, and all the things you want in a crime novel, actually, at the heart of it is the question.. how much of the modern world do you need? And how much do you have? And how do you strike a balance between those things?”

Revealing that he has already “written the third and the fourth ones” in the series because “if it's on my mind, I'll need to get it done,” Stig told Chris that the new book required something of a redraft after a meeting with the publishers. “I handed it in, and they gave me a call and said, ‘Can you come in for a meeting?’ which you don't want to hear,” he explained. “They said, ‘We really love the first half. We really love the second half. But we think they're different books.’ I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ And I thought, ‘God, they're right.’ 

“You should always listen to experts. There's no point in having a dog and bark yourself. You've got to trust people. And these are editors, they know what they’re talking about. So they said, ‘We love the second half of the book, it became a country mystery, very claustrophobic thing,’ and they said, ‘We think these books should be more about breadth and ideas, and if you make it too narrow, it'll be uncomfortable.’”

Stig revealed: “There's 85,000 words in a novel, and the last 40,000 I just deleted! I did CTRL, ALT, and I went ‘Yeah, they’re right’ and I went BOOM.”

He added: “I got rid of it. I kept one scene, which is my favourite scene in the book, where Jake gets trapped in a priest hole! He's in an old house and he gets pushed into this thing, and it's basically my greatest fear in life. 

“I had like six or seven pages of me basically writing mid-panic attack thinking about it.”

On ditching the original second-half of his novel, he said: “I was a bit sort of mouth open for a day or two. And then I just thought, ‘No, they're right.’ And also, I got to write 40,000 words more. It's a genuine pleasure doing it. 

“They were right, and so the story goes off in a different direction. It became a different book.”

Death In A Lonely Place is out 11th April. 

Stig currently co-presents Times Radio’s Breakfast Show from Monday to Thursday (6am - 10am) alongside Aasmah Mir. 

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.