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‘Publishers told me my book wouldn’t sell because it’s too gay and Madonna is over’

By Will Stroude

When I grew up in the 1980s, it wasn’t a great time to be a child who was obviously gay. My hometown of Bolton was a tough working-class environment where if you didn’t fit in and play football you were instantly singled out as ‘queer’ or a ‘poof’. Like many gay men, I was persecuted relentlessly and there was little I could hold on to for support. Before the internet, there was little to give me hope that things would ever get better.

Then along came Madonna.

Here was a woman whose sexuality set her outside what society considered acceptable. Here was a woman with such grit and determination that she’d driven herself out of a background that had made her unhappy. Here was a woman who at the age of five had suffered the death of her mother – but one who projected a front of strength, strapping on her armour (or shield-like costumes) in order to survive.

I was hooked.

When Madonna began speaking in interviews about her gay friends and her gay brother, singing about gay culture in the song ‘Vogue’, and parading her troupe of gay dancers in the film In Bed With Madonna, I clung onto her even more tightly. There were so few gay men in the public eye in those days and so few straight allies to defend us. But none of that mattered anymore because Madonna was on our side. She became my goddess.

I’ve thought about what Madonna meant to me a lot recently, as people have become much more aware about the emotional bond we can have with our divas. They’ve started talking much more openly about how we can elect an icon of popular culture as our spirit guide – whether it’s Beyoncé or Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga. And this inspired me to write a novel loosely based on my own story, structuring each chapter around a well-known Madonna song.

I’ve called it The Madonna of Bolton and I’m so happy with it – it’s the one thing in life I’m most proud of.

But when I submitted it to publishers, it was rejected by all of them. They told me it wasn’t commercial enough because Madonna is a turn-off now that she’s an old woman. And they said the book was too gay and no-one would want to read a story with a central character who isn’t straight.

I disagree with them on both points.

So I went to Unbound, who are an award-winning publisher of lots of brilliant books that are sold in regular bookshops like any others. The big difference is that rather than paying its authors hefty advances, Unbound asks them to prove there’s a market for their book by selling enough advance copies to cover the cost of publishing it.

I’m working with Unbound because I want to prove traditional publishers wrong. I want to prove to them that there’s no such thing as a book that’s too gay – and Madonna’s career isn’t over.

If you’ve ever felt emotionally supported by your diva, whoever that may be, I’d love you to get involved. To buy an advance copy of The Madonna of Bolton – and get your name printed in the book – please click here. If you use the offer code ATTITUDE10 you’ll even get 10% off.

Thanks so much – and let’s hope we can create a bestseller together!

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