The background to the novel - the author's perspective

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I have been asked what prompted me to write ‘The Marriage Certificate' because although I enjoy writing, I had never before entertained the idea of writing a novel. I suppose the answer is simply that I had previously lacked a truly inspiring idea … that was until the day I spotted an old marriage certificate for sale.

I remember the circumstances well. I had recently attended a family wedding and the newlyweds were moving to Cairo. I was casually browsing the units in an antiques arcade and stopped at one unit which specialised in postcards and other ephemera. I was delighted to see an old British Military Guide to Cairo, the sort of document issued to service personnel during the 1930s, complete with a map, useful information and advertisements for restaurants, tailors etc. The advertisers had phone numbers with no more than two or three digits. It was a delightful reminder of a bygone era, and something which I knew my wife and I could send to the newlyweds as an interesting and amusing gift.

While searching for anything along similar lines I noticed, within the same unit, a telegram informing a relative that ‘Robert’ had passed away. There was also a marriage certificate from 1900. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to buy the telegram and the very public display of the marriage certificate seemed rather inappropriate too.

I bought the Guide to Cairo that day. As I drove home, the germ of an idea took root. I didn’t rush back immediately, but over the next week or so, at odd times, I thought about that marriage certificate and how, with my interest in family history, I might be able to weave a story around it.

Two weeks later, on a cold January afternoon, I found myself walking back to the car with the marriage certificate and the telegram safely tucked away in my pocket. I felt enthused and ready to go. Six months of research started as I developed the story, followed by two years of writing, editing and re-writing resulting finally in my first novel 'The Marriage Certificate'.

Within the novel I managed to include some of the hitches and obstacles that I had encountered during my own family research, including a few character details, anecdotes and experiences, which some of my relatives might remember or recognise.

I returned to the same antiques unit several times whilst writing the novel. It was almost spooky the way it provided so many useful items to supplement my research material, including Isle of Wight postcards and even an Observers Book of Railway Locomotives from 1955! It was all there.

I have often wondered if the owner of the unit was surprised to sell that telegram. I expect he thought to himself that there is no accounting for taste and that with a little patience and a low enough price it is possible to sell anything!

If you like, you can read Part 1.1 as a preview. If you decide to buy the novel, either as an eBook or paperback, I would like to say thank you and I hope very much that you enjoy it.

Stephen Molyneux

Hampshire, England