A FABULOUS, flamboyant ‘camp classic’, The Ozone Hotel is just the ticket for a literary escape to a glittering world of glamour, wit and adventure.

Heralded by no less than Stephen Fry, who says it has “blown my mind, my imagination and all kinds of other parts of me too,” the new novel by Wiltshire author RK Williams is all set for success.

Yet this playful, imaginative tale, that engages with the conventions of science fiction, fashion and gender, was created during a dark time in the life of its creator.

Robert Williams, who lives near Avebury, was a successful costume designer and stylist, working in television on shows such as QI and The Friday Night Project, when in 2006 he was struck down by a mysterious illness – which was to result in him being bedridden for three long years.

“It was August and I thought I had a summer cold – but it went on and on,” Robert recalled. “After six to eight weeks, I started to worry. I went to the doctor’s and had lots of tests. After about six months I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.”

His condition was so serious, the life Robert had built up was over. CFS took away his physical and cognitive powers, and left him with anxiety and depression.

“It has the effect of making you lose everything that makes you ‘you’,” he said. “My career was gone overnight.”

He was trapped in bed for days and weeks, which turned into months and years.

“All that I had known – friends, money, styling, the glittering world of television – was taken away and there was nothing left but me,” Robert said.

It was in this state that he began to explore his memories and imagination, and ideas he had developed years before began to develop.

The illness lasted for 10 years, but as he slowly recovered, Robert, now 48, was able to start writing, bit by bit, and The Ozone Hotel was born.

The story has its first roots in the early 1990s. Robert, who was born in Leeds, had graduated from art school after studying art and fashion design. He would gather with friends at a station hotel in Leeds, called the Queen’s Hotel, where they talked about creativity, the future, literature and film.

It was after watching a film called The End of August at the Hotel Ozone that they adopted the name of the Ozone Hotel, and began inventing the characters who inhabited it.

These conversations were influenced by diverse sources, including 1980s culture, fashion icon Leigh Bowery, gender-bending style, and television shows such as Blake’s 7.

Robert was also influenced by the work of writer Michael Moorcock, and his novel sequence The Dancers at the End of Time.

Robert got a job at Opera North, where he created period outfits and lavish ballgowns for opera and ballet. In 1993 he spent six months working in a contemporary art gallery in Los Angeles, and he travelled to Istanbul where he stayed at the Pera Palace Hotel – which provided inspiration for the glamorous interior of the Ozone Hotel.

He moved to London, where he had a brief internship with Vivienne Westwood, before establishing a freelance career in television costume and styling.

He also met his partner, Steve Smith, a BAFTA award-winning television director, who now directs the Graham Norton Show.

Robert’s career went from strength to strength and the couple even lived and worked in New York for a year.

But then this life of work, travel and excitement came to an end. Lying in bed, overcome by CFS and stricken with loss, Robert’s mind drifted back to the Ozone Hotel he had created years before — its imaginary characters came back to life, and he decided to write a novel.

He devised the ideas and storylines for five books in the series, and wrote the manuscript for The Ozone Hotel.

Next came the challenge of finding a publisher. After the usual round of rejections, the novel was acquired by independent Swindon publisher Callisto Green.

“They gave us a lot of creative freedom. I had ideas about what I wanted on the cover,” Robert said. “I had seen two drag performance artists in Manchester, Cheddar Gorgeous and Anna Phylactic. They reminded me of characters in the book, and they agreed to be part of it.”

Not only do Cheddar and Anna appear on the cover, they are also the stars of several surreal promotional videos and publicity photos for the novel, coming to Wiltshire for an otherworldly photo shoot.

The novel was sent out to reviewers and celebrities – and Stephen Fry gave The Ozone Hotel an enthusiastic endorsement, describing it as “a Barbarella and Myra Breckinridge for the Youtube generation, The Ozone Hotel gets five stars on AcidTripAdvisor.”

The response on Amazon has also been positive: “The feedback is really astonishing – it’s been given five stars by everyone so far,” Robert said.

As well as promoting his new book, Robert is working on the second in the series, called The Pyramids of Mars.

Robert and Steve moved to Wiltshire in 2001. They were enchanted by the county’s landscape of downs, circles and stones when on a visit, and decided to buy a run-down cottage.

“There’s a magical quality to Avebury, and something about the landscape here. We love it because the magic remains close to the surface,” Robert said.

He paid tribute to Steve for the help he has given him through the long years of his illness.

“He has been incredibly supportive through this. If I had been on my own, I don’t know how I would have been able to survive,” he said.

Although Robert is still not in full health and has to pace himself carefully, he has undertaken to be an anxiety ambassador for the charity Anxiety UK.

“Anxiety and depression have been difficult areas I have battled with. We are living in a difficult world and anxiety seems to be rife. I have been through a lot of stuff and would like to use that experience to help people,” Robert said.

“One of the things I realised when I was struggling is that you need something to help you through and for me, creativity has been one of my favourite supports. To be able to speak candidly about that kind of stuff is a really nice thing to do.”

The Ozone Hotel is available from amazon.co.uk.