For years I’ve been an advertising copywriter – writing the words for newspaper, radio and TV ads, posters and leaflets – but I’d never written anything more creative.
What changed that was the actor Richard Armitage. He didn’t actually sit me down and make me write something, but after seeing him in a cravat in the BBC’s adaptation of Mrs Gaskell’s ‘North and South’ I googled him (as you do), and that led me to a website. There, alongside the chat about Richard, was something called fan fiction.
Fan fiction, for those who have never heard of it (and I certainly hadn’t and might have thought ‘anorak’ if I had) takes existing characters from a book, film, TV show or play and uses them as a basis for a new story that can go in any direction. My understanding is that there is never any intention to publish the work or make money from it - it’s purely for the entertainment of other fans, hence the name.
That was it…
As I read these fan fictions, something clicked over in my brain and I had the urge to write my own. Off I went and what came out was a romance featuring Armitage’s take on Guy of Gisborne. As I wrote, I found my style – humour, intense emotion and plenty of plot twists.
I picked up a lot of readers and lovely feedback and real life began to seem like an irritation – something to be got through before I could get back to the writing. When someone suggested I try a contemporary romance, I thought ‘why not?’ Particularly as six other members of the site had gone on to write their own original works of fiction and be published.
The result was the book that started off being called ‘Mr Wolfe and the Singing Knickers’ and ended up as ‘Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe?’. This time it was all my own story, albeit with an affectionate nod towards John Thornton (North and South), Guy of Gisborne and Armitage himself in Jack Wolfe.
The route to publication
How did I find an agent? From ‘The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’. I picked out the smaller, more informal organisations who represented romance writers. One large glass of red wine later, I emailed out the first three chapters and synopsis and was fairly stunned, within the same week, to be asked to send the full book to Broo Doherty of Wade Doherty. Within another few days, Broo offered to be my agent and I tried to wait at least a millisecond before screaming ‘Yesssssss.’
Then, after working with Broo to get the book into the best possible shape to send out to suitable publishers, I had to learn patience. Twelve months rolled by along with at least eleven rejections – and I’d be lying if I said that I never had days when I doubted myself and my writing. Looking back though, and listening to other people’s stories, I realise I had an easy time of it.
Finally, in November 2009, Quercus offered me a two book deal.
I got the news while I was stirring some pasta sauce and I remember leaping around the kitchen with my daughters whooping and hollering.
Inside I still am.
Hazel Osmond is the author of 'Who's Afraid of Mr Wolfe' (http://bookwormink.co.uk/2/post/2012/03/review-whos-afraid-of-mr-wolfe-by-hazel-osmond.html) and 'The First Time I Saw Your Face', both published by Quercus Books.