Stephen from the Inside Out

I was delighted when, at the end of 2019, my proposal for  ‘Stephen from the Inside Out,’ won the Impress Prize for  New Writers.  I sat there in wonder for some minutes, staring at the email.  Impress Books then published it on 2nd April 2021 – World Autism Day. 

UPDATE – Sadly, almost 18 months after publication, the small press, Impress Books, went into administration.  I now have all the remaining copies, so if you’re interested please get in touch.


I was delighted to be interviewed in the summer of 2022 by Mike Wooldridge,  world affairs correspondent for the BBC News.  Mike conducted the interview for the podcast ‘Things Unseen’ which explores what’s beyond the material, visible world. And it does so through an unseen medium – audio podcasts.

The interview is just shy of 20 minutes and I am so impressed with the editing job they did and also I love the music they used.  Thank you to the producer, Mike Lanchin and also to Mike Wooldridge and Evolution Studios Oxford where the interview took place.



This book is part biography, part social history, part autobiography and comes out of a long-term connection with Stephen (not his real name), who I  first met when he was under section on a psychiatric ward.

Below you will find my back cover blurb and reviews by award-winning poet and writer, Kate Clanchy MBE (for services to literature), Michael Mosley, Television presenter, journalist, author (and also my brother),  and from Matthew Baylis: novelist, screenwriter and journalist.

Emily Mosley, a wonderful artist and my neice, has created both the ilustration on the front of the cover and also 34 more illustrations inside the book.  She read the book to get an idea and I’ve included below, her very lovely and personal response.  below is the draft cover, including the back.


“Susie, my life has been a complete and total waste of time”.

In 2012 when Stephen said this, he believed it to be true. But was it? And how do we decide?

From the outside, it may have looked like this.  Stephen struggled for most of his life with severe mental health issues, endured 25 years inside British psychiatric wards and never felt acceptable outside in the ‘normal’ world.

From the inside, though, here was a man with powerful convictions, deep longings, wide interests and an integrity that would not be compromised, whatever the cost.

This is his story, inside and out; a story of grave injustices, saints and bigots, a faithful dog, a wild woman, a fairy godmother and angels hidden in plain sight.

It is also the story of the author, Susie, who started off by wanting to ‘help’ Stephen ‘get better,’ and instead found herself profoundly challenged by a friendship she did not expect.

Idiosyncratic, unorthodox, tragic, yet at times hilarious – this book not only tells a compelling and important story but will be vital reading for anyone who cares about mental health in our contemporary world or who might just be open to a different way of seeing: from the inside out.


‘Susie Stead’s book is funny, kind and a thoroughly good read.  It takes us on the rewarding but bumpy journey of getting to know an original, but genuinely difficult, person and on the way reveals more than a little about the author – and the rest of us.’

Kate Clanchy – writer, poet and winner of the 2020 Orwell Prize


‘When my sister, Susie, told me she wanted to write a book about Stephen,  a man with mental health issues who she had befriended, I wondered why she was committing herself to such a long and potentially fruitless project.  Why should we care about a man whose life, as he himself put it, “was an utter waste of time”?

Now I’ve read the book I really understand. It is funny, sad, inspiring and deeply moving. Although I knew, from the beginning, that this is not a book that would have a Hollywood ending, Susie brought me into Stephen’s world and revealed his humour, his humanity and his genuine poetic talent. As I read the book I got to know Stephen from the Inside Out, and the more I read the more I liked him. This is fitting tribute to a remarkable man.

Stephen is cranky, opinionated, rude, and hugely demanding. His life is a series of highs and extreme lows, many of which left me gasping in disbelief. What makes the book particularly effective, and resonate beyond that of an extraordinary man and a quirky relationship, is the way Susie weaves Stephen’s life story with that of changing attitudes to mental health in the UK. As you read it is impossible not to feel anger, compassion and rage at the way people like Stephen have been treated and to wonder how his life would have turned out had circumstances been different.

If you enjoyed, “Stuart: A Life Backwards”, you will love this book. It takes you into a world few of us know much about and you will emerge, as I did, far richer for the experience.’

Michael Mosley, Television presenter, journalist, author



‘I cried at the end, and there were many very powerful, moving, stirring and sometimes shocking moments along the way.  I rate this book highly.’

Matthew  Baylis – novelist, screenwriter and journalist



‘The book was heart-breakingly beautiful. You really feel for everyone in the story and want to know more and keep hoping things will get better. It was hard to read some parts because you couldn’t do anything to change what had already been done.

I also loved how you included Stephen’s poetry, ‘Dusk in the Garden’, it really made me believe it was the “loveliest garden you ever saw.”

The story really pulled me in, such an honest and unfiltered account of the reality people with mental illness have to live.  The topic is such a challenging one but your writing conveys everything so easily. An amazing read. Beautifully written.’

Emily Mosley,  Illustrator for Stephen from the Inside Out