I did something I should never do today. And I regret it. I glanced at some of the readers’ reviews for May 1812. Some of them were fab, I have to say. And for those which were helpful and loved the book, I am immensely grateful. It’s wonderfully uplifting to know that someone somewhere found the book a great read and was reading it again because they’d enjoyed it so much.
As for the others, well, crikey…I shouldn’t read them and I know I shouldn’t read them and probably I should just go back to my corner and have a cuppa and get over myself. Or it. Or something.
(I’d just like to say to my detractors–I never claimed I was the greatest writer of the 21st century…I wrote the book I wanted to write, I explored the issues I wanted to explore and that I felt were important and in the style that I thought worked and if you have a different point of view, that’s great, that’s fine, but that doesn’t make me or my work substandard…it just means you have a different point of view and thank heaven we’re all individuals, it makes for a wonderful rainbow of mankind! So let’s shake hands and raise a glass to diversity.)
But that’s not what I meant to say. What I meant to say is that over the last few days I did something that I’ve been wanting to do for some time, something that many of my readers have been urging me to do for the longest time, I uploaded a revised version of May 1812 onto Amazon.
The thing is, when I wrote the book and over the years of researching and studying the period, not only did the plot evolve, but also information about the period grew more accessible. When I began work on the thing, no one–and I mean no one!–discussed the Continental Blockade, for example.
I had to piece the story together on that from scraps of information and finally from reading the Napoleonic decrees that made the system law. It was painstaking work. And then, I had the fun of figuring out how it all played out–what those decrees meant to the people on the ground. More fun.
Ditto with the information on the Prime Minister’s assassination.
But the most difficult of all was accessing the information on the lead-up to the outbreak of hostilities with the United States–because on that, there was very little. And most of what was available was propaganda. It wasn’t until the bicentennial of the outbreak of war that it became a matter of interest to anyone but me. But–blessings upon their heads–in the last couple of years (since May 1812 was published) a few historians have published works of great merit, filling the historical blanks in with gorgeous detail.
Meanwhile, over the period of working on the book, I had come very much to admire the works of Dickens and Trollope. In particular, how they weren’t limited to one plotline per novel, but explored many characters whose lives intersected and told several stories all under the aegis of one title. And I love that–it’s more a tapestry of life. And in May 1812, successfully or unsuccessfully, I had wanted to give that a go too. So I’d written a second love story to contrast with the main storyline.
However, as some will know, when it came time to publish, costs of publishing a book of over 600 pages had escalated into outer space. Moreover, I was told many times by many people who presented themselves as the utmost authority, that one could not sell a book of over 120,000 words. Full stop. No ifs, ands or buts.
So I cut, as much as possible, the second storyline (about Ned Hardy, which incidentally, I had planned to pick up and write about in a later book…) leaving only enough so that it would make sense…
Then, about a year ago, some friends urged me to put the ‘cut scenes’ up on this blog. And behold and lo, people loved them! And urged me to reinstate them in the novel.
Which bring me to the revisions. As I learned from my study about the approaching war of 1812 and an in depth examination of Napoleon’s manipulative relationship with the Americans during the period, it wasn’t that I had it wrong, it’s that I had it naive and clunky. And I wanted to get it right. The more I’d read, the more shocked I’d been by how underhanded so much of what was going on was–and Napoleon was at the heart of it! And the Brits knew it!
And I wanted to put the opening chapters of Ned Hardy’s story back where they belonged–in May 1812.
Hence, over the past week, sort of to coincide with the marvelous publication of Castles, Customs, and Kings, the collection of historical essays which I co-edited, I have gone through May 1812 with a…well, not so much a fine-tooth comb as line by line with a red pen…and brought the historical conversations up to current understanding of the issues, as well as putting Ned back where he belongs.
The button to upload the changes to Amazon was pressed yesterday late afternoon. I hope the newly fattened May 1812, that is to say the Revised Second Edition, will be available very soon–probably today or tomorrow sometime. (As ever, I owe a debt of gratitude to my editor whose patience, erudition, and further patience got me through this event.)
And I sincerely hope the new Revised edition pleases and that you find it as uplifting and engaging and enjoyable as I did reading it afresh, revisiting those loved settings, conversations and characters over these last few days.