A Convenient Marriage – the book that took 17 years to get to you

A Convenient Marriage is published by Hera Books today. This book was about seventeen years in the making. I wrote a Twitter thread on it a few weeks ago, which people seemed to like, so I’ve expanded on it here.

Cover showing brown henna patterned hands, making a heart shape

Every writing career starts with one big idea. My big idea was about an arranged marriage between two people who would never be able to fall in love with each other. I had the idea in my early twenties, when my friends from Sri Lanka were getting married and a friend from Oxford told me a story about a man who was in love with another man, but couldn’t leave his wife because he was scared he’d lose his kids (this was the late 90s).

When I was a grad student, I tried to do a bit of creative writing for fun. Gimhana arrived fully formed in the middle of writing exercise, ice clinking in his whiskey tumbler. Chaya, with her weird tics and alphabetised medicine cabinet, turned up soon after.  

They were two Sri Lankans living in England, who couldn’t fall in love with someone ‘suitable’ and ended up married to each other. The story was of their marriage. Of course, I couldn’t write it then, because I was writing a thesis, but it grew in my head.

In 2002, I handed in my thesis and got a job. Now that I have my evenings back, I took a creative writing evening class. My project was this book. I started a folder on my computer called The Novel… because I thought there would only be one book!

2003 and 2006 I learned my craft writing short stories. They were not GOOD short stories, because they were really slice of life vignettes, but they taught me to write. Later, in another creative writing class, I met two like minded people and we formed a critique group. 2000 words had to be produced two weeks out of every three. Accountability is key. 

The book was written in evenings and weekends. I edited it and sent it to agents (by post!). I got a lot of nice rejections. Just as I was about to give up, I got one that said ‘the writing is good, but I don’t know where I’d sell this’ (Thank you to the late Dorothy Lumley, whose handwritten note kept me going).

2006/7 I found the RNA and joined the New Writer’s Scheme. I sent the book in. I got a three page review back (thanks Sue Moorcroft) telling me I needed to work on structure. She also told me I was trying too hard to write a serious book when I had a comedic voice crying to be let out and suggested I tried writing something for fun. 

I bought books on plot and structure. So many. I wrote a book for fun. I had a blast writing it and the enjoyment shows in the writing. This book was Girl On The Run. It was published under the name Rhoda Baxter in 2012 (it was first published by Uncial Press, as Patently in Love and later by Choc Lit). I wrote ten other books (12, if you count unpublished ones). Every so often, I’d edit book 1.

In 2018, I signed a two book deal with Hera Books. The first book was This Stolen Life, A Convenient Marriage was the second. 

2019, I did a major rewrite. I took lots of scenes out in order to keep the story moving.  It went from being single POV book to dual POV. It was also no longer a romance, but women’s fiction with two love stories in it. I’d never written a gay POV character before, so I found someone to beta read (thank you Liam Livings!). Liam’s notes made Gimhana shine. He suggested giving Gimhana a secret pleasure, which gave me an excuse to write about Jem and the Holograms, yay! 

In the editing stage, Keshini Naidoo’s notes suggested that I put back some of the scenes I’d taken out (it was a super fast edit, because all the extra stuff was already written). Reading it through at proof stage, I still love the characters and story. 

November 2019 – A Convenient Marriage is now out. It has taken nearly 17 years from start to finish. If there’s a lesson in this, it’s ‘never give up on a project you believe in’. 

This is the book of my heart. I hope you like it.

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