Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Symon Cope about his career, what inspires him, and the writing process behind his new book, 50 Years Of Pain.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m Symon Cope and I’m 60 years old. As a professional I’ve been working in social welfare and housing since the middle
1980s and currently work with vulnerable adults with physical and mental health issues. I’m also in partnership with my
wife, Michelle Turpin Cope, with our Behavioural Transformation business – Mr & Mrs KnowHow Ltd. – working with
people who are living with addiction, OCD, phobias, and any other type of negative habits, inherited conditioning and
unmanageable behaviour, who want to transform and change their lives.
I’m a sober alcoholic who was a committed drinker for 37 years and have been in recovery for the last 10 years.
Since childhood I have lived with dysmorphia, dissociative (identity) disorder, eating disorders, self-harming, and other
obsessive and addictive behaviour as well as living a double life for over 20 years.
In the last 10 years I have completely transformed my life by working on myself in radically changing my mind-set and
behaviour, continual personal development, with the support of my wife, children, parents, close friends, support groups and professional counselling.
In these 10 years, in addition to my career, we decided that what my wife (who has extensive professional experience and knowledge in physical and mental health public sector), and I have learnt and experienced is too valuable to keep to ourselves, and we wish to share and help others who are going through the same pain that I did. We are not alone and we’re here to help!
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I had it in my head to write a book over many years. But I didn’t really get serious until around 2017.
When did you take a step to start writing?
When it became a real need for me to do it. I knew it was going to be a very emotional experience. Being completely
honest and vulnerable isn’t always easy for a lot of people. Being rigorously honest whilst exposing your vulnerabilities to potentially thousands of strangers, can be terrifying. But so is facing yourself and accepting you’re an addict and/or have behaviour that’s ruining yours and other people’s lives.
Before and during the writing of “50 Years of Pain : 6 Daringly Courageous Ways to Change, Know Your Purpose and Find Freedom Now!” I had a definite purpose and knew how to execute it, which was to write the book. Writing a book like that wasn’t going to be easy, so foremost in my mind it was vital to write the book firstly for me, and then for my readership.
And that’s how it not only became a very personally cathartic experience, but also hopefully a valuable one for other
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
About a year and a half.
How long did it take you to complete your unreleased book from the first idea to release?
About the same length of time, but I’m notoriously slow and a bit of a perfectionist. When I start writing I over elaborate in my style and content across a number of drafts. And after receiving feedback from trusted friends and literary professionals, who I call my “Mastermind Posse,” I start simplifying and deconstructing. And that’s where I’m at this moment. It’s at it’s formatting and proof-reading stage, but I’m still deconstructing….lolz.
What made you want to write 7 Days Of Pain?
I wanted to capitalise on the first book which concentrated on six episodes in my life, which I call ‘lifelines,’ that influenced me to change my life, why I needed to change, what I learnt from those lifelines, and how I used that knowledge to transform my life and source of income. And what I mean by capitalise is expanding, explaining, and presenting another side to my story in a different way.
What were your biggest challenges with writing 7 Days Of Pain?
It’s a book that can be regarded in many different ways – as an autobiography, semi-fictional or semi-factual, realist and surreal, an adventure and drama. But above all, it’s different from all other self-help or personal development books out there. Although it’s a book about recognition, self-awareness, self-discovery and recovery, it’s done in a way that’s more like a fiction than faction.
So, my biggest challenge was walking that fine line between writing about three characters that do and think unimaginable things over seven days of drinking vast quantities of alcohol, explaining how they got to that point in their lives, and as a narrator exposing their pain, distress, self-pity and uncontrollable behaviour in a completely honest way without sharing their negative and self-abusive narrative.
What was your research process for 7 Days Of Pain?
Apart from my own life! Oh gosh! I spoke and listened to quite a number of people who have addictive behaviour (not
necessarily in the stereotypical definition of the term) and mental health issues. That was a large resource and very helpful, even now, in understanding and appreciating what I went through for most of my life. I did go to my local Idea Store a lot before the first lockdown April last year. Reading loads of government and scientific reports on addiction and mental health. A large quantity of note-taking, which included newspaper articles, journals, magazines and books.
I also read quite a lot of classical fiction by writers such as Kafka, Dostoyevsky, Conrad, Woolf, London, stuff that enters our heart of darkness, loneliness and despair as human beings. Sounds a bit heavy doesn’t it? But it was about not hiding from my own heart of darkness and identifying all the things I went through, did to myself, experienced, wasn’t in isolation, basically I wasn’t the only one with these feelings and conditions.
But when lockdown hit, I trawled the internet for postings on everything from self-harming, suicide, murder, dreams,
alcoholism, phobias, addictive personalities, loneliness, hunger, anger, fatigue, personality disorders, environmental issues, music, dance, art, poems and dream therapy, essentially anything and everything that was helpful about myself, my conditions and how I used to live.
What has to be noted is that the book stops at the point of shocking enlightenment, when I realised I had to stop living the way I was otherwise I’d kill myself. So I don’t tackle how to transform but why I needed to. And it’s a helter-skelter ride supported by a huge amount of research and self-discovery, but you may not know it by reading the book ….. hehehe.
How did you plan the structure of 7 Days Of Pain?
The chronology of the book was difficult to plan and execute. Because the central story involves this seven-day drinking binge, as told by three characters throughout the book. And then the rest of the book is about the history of these characters that leads them to this point in their lives.
So, I had to be disciplined and meticulous in weaving their histories into the seven-day narrative but not losing track of what’s happening. I had to have a structured timeline for each character, what was going on in their lives, how it related to some of the themes in the book like hunger, anger, and loneliness, as well as their mental, physical and spiritual state up to the seven-day binge, not losing track of that and keeping true to the chronology of the seven days. Not only that, but I had to also interpret the confusion of those seven days.
As a reader you’re not quite sure what’s true or not, how much of it is reality or make-believe, haunted by the past or rooted in the present, because living life as an addict or living life with any type of uncontrollable behaviour, is full of selfdenial and deceit, a jumble of consciousness and confusion, a life of fantasy and imagination, but you think you’re being perfectly functional and normal. So, I had to think about all of this as well as my own specific personal remembrances, myths and actuality. Memory and connection (or rather disconnection) play a large part in this book.
And then I had to make sense of it all!
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did 7 Days Of Pain need?
Not so much this time. I had a friend who edited my first book originally. He taught me a heck of a lot about writing. And then I employed an editor after him who was brilliant. She went well beyond what I paid her for. But because I’m
eminently coachable (blah blah) I took away with me what I’d learnt from my friend and original editor and did most of it by myself. I have to say, it probably entails a lot more rewrites and eventually you do need other people to critically read it because you lose objectivity and perspective if you just do it by yourself. So, after the second draft I had two of my Mastermind Posse read it and give me valuable feedback. Then after a number of other drafts I put it over to my editor to proof-read it, but even then to made a substantial amount of notes which she didn’t have to, and I’m amazingly grateful for.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Believe it or not, just do it for yourself. Don’t think about anyone else, or who might read it, or what the merits of the
writing, content or subject are. And then if you got a lot out it, and it has meaning for you, then believe me, there’ll be
someone else who will too. That’s when to start progressing and moving forward with it. That’s when the ambition takes hold and the goals and dreams start.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Oooooooo… Shall I tell you, or shan’t I? Oh go on …… I can tell you that because of the titles of my first two books, I don’t specifically want to be defined as the “Pain” specialist, although we all live with pain. However, I do have an idea for a third book in the series which enters the next stage of my development and sobriety.
But I’m thinking of writing a book about Love in culture and art, from the positive to the negative and everything in
between. We have a blog about it so it’ll be an extension of that.
Also, we’re developing a new transformative behavioral online course at the moment and I can see a book coming out of that too.
So, a lot in the planning stages
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Totally, but it depends on what you mean by proud? I’m not pleased with myself for the sake of it. I have a purpose and
vision that’s connected with making a difference. At the time of needing help I sought it out and learnt that one of the
things to maintain health and sobriety, is not only gratitude but being part of the rest of society, being in service and
helping others. My life was full of demons for many many years, and at some stage in my life, I realised I had to let them go and not allow them to come back, in order to live a healthy, fulfilling and loving life. And that’s what I want and wish for others. If I can achieve that, be part of that goal, by helping people transform themselves away from the unhappiness of their lives, then I’m proud of my accomplishments and the effort, although it’s no real effort at all.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Our business website is being upgraded at the moment. But for now here it is :
My first book can be found on Amazon:
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