What’s in a Name? Eight Acts is out today! Yay!
It’s a 20,000 word novella that is linked to last September’s Taking Stock with some crossover characters, but both stories stand alone. Taking Stock is set in 1972. Eight Acts is set in 1967.
That’s an important year in the UK, because it’s when consensual gay sex in private between two men over the age of twenty-one stopped being illegal. The legislation was called The Sexual Offences Act (1967). It was the first step toward decriminalising homosexuality in the UK. You can read a bit more about the history of the criminalisation and decriminalisation in this blog post I wrote for my friend Nell Iris and I have more info and some references on my own website.
So. I wrote Taking Stock. And then I wanted to find out more about Adrian and Percy. So I wrote this novella about them. And in my head I had the connection between acts in a play and chapters in a story and the play on words about the legal situation. So the working title was A Novel in Ten Acts, because that’s what I was planning on making it.
Things being what they are though, I only got to eight before things came to a quite satisfactory halt. So I changed the working title to A Novel in Eight Acts and sent it off to be edited with a big proviso that I was trying to think of a title and it wasn’t going to be that and if the lovely and talented Editor Loukie wanted me to put chapters in or take them out then … you get the idea.
And then I forgot about it and went back to editing The Hunted and the Hind and writing my chicken story in between for prevarication and and and … here we are with a novella called Eight Acts.
Sometimes titles come to you like a flash of inspiration before you even write the story. Certainly that’s what happened to me with Hunted and it happened with As the Crows Fly as well. Sometimes they sort of emerge as the story bowls along and become obvious before you get to the end. And sometimes they just sort of land with a splat and you think oh for goodness sake, I can’t think of anything sensible, the working title will just have to do, and you suddenly realise you haven’t been able to think of a ‘proper’ title because the working title IS the proper title.
At that point, you probably have a cup of tea.
It’s the summer of 1967 and the Sexual Offences Act has just decriminalized consensual gay sex in private between two men over twenty-one. Percy Wright and his friend Les Barker have both taken temporary jobs teaching English as a foreign language in London during their long summer break from teaching at a rural boarding school near Oxford.
Percy is keen to soak up some theatre, music, and general culture, whilst Les is also keen to experience the varied gay social scene. When Les picks up a man called Phil at the box office of the Albert Hall when he goes to buy tickets to a Promenade Concert, Percy inadvertently gets thrown together with Adrian Framlingham, Phil’s friend.
Adrian is all the things Percy likes in a man — funny, kind and steady. When Les gets hurt, Percy turns to Adrian for support, but as the end of the summer looms it seems as if their affair will come to a natural end.
What will happen when Percy goes back to his everyday life as a house-master? Will he and Adrian stay in touch? Does he even want a long-distance relationship when arranging to meet someone for sex is still illegal, even if the act itself is not?