Deadlines, rewrites and getting it out there

1940s-reporter-working-on-deadlinePublishing my second novel, A Very Civil Wedding, has been a mad scramble to hit the, admittedly self-imposed, deadline of 1 November. I knew I was going to be cutting it fine back in August when I realised that my progress to publication was slower than in 2012. In addition, I have been seeking feedback from more people – something I did not do for Black Art in 2012 – which means more rewrites as people spot things in the book that need tweaking. Fortunately, they have been tweaks rather than major rewrites of the plot.

The biggest rewrite happened back in May following the passage through Parliament of the same-sex marriage bill. I never thought that it would go through. I thought that the bishops in the House of Lords would ensure that it was sent back down to the Commons to be revised. When it did pass, I spent 24 hours worrying about whether the novel that I’d worked on for seven months was now relevant. It didn’t take me long to realise it was, as the news about the battles for equal marriage from the USA and Australia kept on coming. All the change in UK law meant was that Princess Alexandra and Grace Stephens were able to have a marriage rather than the civil partnership I had originally planned. It didn’t change the plot significantly but it did move the arguments in the novel on from simply being about the right for gay couples to marry to what the significance of marriage is for a couple and society.

So far, the feedback from my first readers has been universally positive. People seem to be willing to jump into the central puzzle of the book: how do you get around the Church of England’s refusal to bless your marriage when you will one day be head of that organisation? I’ve had Christian and non-Christian readers, gay and straight readers, give it a go and enjoy it. This is particularly pleasing as I hope that A Very Civil Wedding will have appeal outside the LGBT community.

Bearing in mind that one of the reasons for writing the novel was to attempt to understand the opposition to same-sex marriage and to set out the arguments for and against in more detail than media soundbites allow, there is necessarily some exposé in the book of the laws regarding civil partnerships and same-sex marriages; the British Constitution and how the crown, the government and the Church of England fit together; and those peculiar quirks of law that relate to the British monarchy and the Commonwealth Realms. In order to reach a believable solution to Princess Alexandra’s problem, I needed to carry the reader with me on the journey of discovery of what is now possible under British law and what is impossible regarding same-sex marriage. It was my biggest fear that the novel would become a dry legal argument but my first readers have told me that my fears are unfounded. The humour and the strength of the characters in the story have kept them entertained and interested to discover how the various threads of the plot work themselves out.

I hope that other readers will also enjoy finding out how Princess Alexandra and Grace Stephens manage to have the wedding they want and what happens to those around them when they do. People have asked me what genre the book falls into and I have said that it is a lesbian romance. However, this immediately suggests a very specific girl-meets-girl type of fiction. What I mean by “romance” is in its broadest and purest sense – A Very Civil Wedding has a central relationship involving the romantic love of two people, around them all the other characters revolve, the novel ends with a wedding, and the resolution is both emotionally satisfying and optimistic for the future.

After many long working days, I have hit my deadline and A Very Civil Wedding is published. As all self-publishers know, the work doesn’t stop here but it is a satisfying milestone in the book’s life and one that I will be celebrating! If A Very Civil Wedding sounds like the kind of happy ending you would enjoy, you can get hold of a copy from Amazon (all countries, paperback or Kindle) or, if you would like a different digital format, from Smashwords.

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