RoNA Award shortlisting for A Convenient Marriage

Cover showing brown henna patterned hands, making a heart shape

As you know, I write women’s fiction under the name Jeevani Charika. I’ve talked before about A Convenient Marriage and how it was the book of my heart (we all have one of those stories that we love a little bit more than the others). I’m over the moon to tell you that it’s been shortlisted for a RoNA award (Contemporary Romance category).

The RoNAs are the UK Romantic Novelists Association’s annual awards. Sort of like the RWAs, RITA awards, but smaller and hopefully less problematic. (The books are judged by readers who are not members of the RNA, which is a good start).

As if weren’t enough to be shortlisted, just LOOK at who’s on the list with me! Sophie Kinsella! Carole Matthews! I’m honoured to be able to sit alongside Sunday Times Bestsellers and Queens of the genre. Sue Moorcroft did the NWS critique for A Convenient Marriage over ten years ago. So, yeah. Wow.

We won’t know who’s won until March 2nd, but the confidence boost of making it onto the list is wonderful. I have been on a shortlist before – Girl Having A Ball was on the rom com category shortlist in 2017. So I’ve now had a shortlisting under both names.

Wish me luck!

PS: If you haven’t read A Convenient Marriage yet, it’s still only 99p (ebook only, at the moment, there’s no paperback yet).

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

Cover showing brown henna patterned hands, making a heart shape

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.

Blog Splash for #AConvenientMarriage

Cover showing brown henna patterned hands, making a heart shape

A Convenient Marriage by my alter ego Jeevani Charika is released on Thursday and, in order to celebrate, a few of my author friends are joining me in a blog splash.

We are blogging around three main prompts. Since I set them, it’s only fair that I answer all three:

1.       Both Chaya and Gimhana make huge decisions in their lives to please their families. What’s the strangest thing you’ve done because of your family? …

This was really hard. It’s not strange, as such, but one thing I did was study science. I was good at English and I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I was also good at science. My father suggested I do science, so that I can get a real job and then write in my ‘spare time’. So that’s what I did. Studying science at university, meant that I had to stop writing for a long time. But it also meant that I can work part time using my science, which is handy for keeping the wolf from the door. It also means I can give my heroines sciencey professions. Chaya studied Biochemistry and microbiology, just like I did. We are supposed to write what we know, so I gave her my subjects. I gave Gimhana my foodie tendencies and my love of Jem and the Holograms.

2.       One of the ways Gimhana shows he cares is by cooking for Chaya.  Is there a food that evokes particular memories for you? …

Outside school in Colombo, there were street vendors who sold mangoes – not the ripe, juicy ones you’re thinking of, oh no. These mangoes were green and unripe, they were peeled and sliced partway, so that you could hold the base and tear strips of it off to eat. You dipped them in a mixture of salt and chili powder. They cost about 5 rupees, as I recall. They’re an intense burst of salt, sour heat.

These days, I don’t eat much salt and sometimes I get a craving for crisps. Knowing that the thing I’m really craving is salt, I chop up an apple and dip the slices in salt. Every time I pop one in my mouth, I am reminded of the street vendors mangoes and hot, sticky days taking the van home from school, made even stickier by a green mango and bag of chili and salt.

3.       This book spans seventeen years – If you could talk to your younger self from 20 years ago, what would you tell them?

First of all, it came as a bit of shock to realise that 20 years ago, I was already an adult! I would have been a grad student, already in love with the fellow grad student I would marry, and rapidly realising that academia was too confrontational for me. Apart from reassuring my younger self that things would be okay, I would tell her to write more. When I was an undergraduate, I didn’t write fiction. Partly, this was because I didn’t think I was good enough. Surely, I thought, all the clever people doing English would be able to write amazing prose and even if I did submit something to one of the student newspapers, they’d reject it… so I didn’t. It was only as a grad student that I started writing again. Still not fiction – I wrote film and restaurant reviews for the Oxford Daily Information sheet (It was a wonderful thing – brightly coloured A3 sheets that came out daily and were distributed around town). I’d tell my younger self to be brave and join a creative writing group; to write fiction and to meet other writers. If I’d done that, I might have ended up with useful connections. As it happens, I didn’t know anyone who had anything to do with publishing when I left uni. I had to network from the ground up. Thank goodness for the RNA, which was the most fun networking I’ve ever done.

A Convenient Marriage will be released on the 14th of November. This was the first novel I wrote and it has a special place in my heart.

Cover showing brown henna patterned hands, making a heart shape

It was the perfect marriage… until they fell in love.

Chaya is a young woman torn between her duty to family and her life in the UK. While her traditional Sri Lankan parents want her to settle down into marriage, what they don’t know is that Chaya has turned away the one true love of her life, Noah, terrified of their disapproval.

Gimhana is hiding his sexuality from his family. It’s easy enough to pretend he’s straight when he lives half a world away in the UK. But it’s getting harder and harder to turn down the potential brides his parents keep finding for him.

When Chaya and Gimhana meet, a marriage of convenience seems like the perfect solution to their problems. Together they have everything – friendship, stability and their parents’ approval. But when both Chaya and Gimhana find themselves falling in love outside of their marriage, they’re left with an impossible decision – risk everything they’ve built together, or finally follow their heart?

Buy link : https://books2read.com/AConvenientMarriage

Cover Reveal for A Convenient Marriage

Book cover for A Convenient Marriage. Red background, hands with henna patterns, A South Asian couple in silhouette.

My new book A Convenient Marriage (written as Jeevani Charika) is coming out on the 14th of November. I started writing this book in 2002/2003. It’s taken a long time to get to this point, so I’m very excited about it.

Here’s the blurb:

It was the perfect marriage… until they fell in love.

Chaya is a young woman torn between her duty to family and her life in the UK. While her traditional Sri Lankan parents want her to settle down into marriage, what they don’t know is that Chaya has turned away the one true love of her life, Noah, terrified of their disapproval.

Gimhana is hiding his sexuality from his family. It’s easy enough to pretend he’s straight when he lives half a world away in the UK. But it’s getting harder and harder to turn down the potential brides his parents keep finding for him.

When Chaya and Gimhana meet, a marriage of convenience seems like the perfect solution to their problems. Together they have everything – friendship, stability and their parents’ approval. But when both Chaya and Gimhana find themselves falling in love outside of their marriage, they’re left with an impossible decision – risk everything they’ve built together, or finally follow their heart?