This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Hazel Osmond joins us today to talk about winning the Woman & Home short story competition, which later led to a four-book deal with Quercus, and finding inspiration for her male lead in the delicious Matthew MacFadyen. Hazel’s new book, The Mysterious Miss Mayhew, is out now.
It depends what stage I’m at in a book, and how I feel about its progress. If it’s going well, I’ll drop my daughter off at school, come back and just write until she comes home, taking the odd break for food and coffee. It’s a case of really getting lost in the book and viewing real life as a bit of a nuisance. If it’s going badly, I’ll sit and look at Twitter and Facebook and pretend to be thinking. I really like the days when I’m editing, then I feel very businesslike because there’s a definite deadline and it’s so much easier to work with ‘something’ than an empty page.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
I always have a famous actor or personality in mind when I’m writing my romances. It all started with the actor Richard Armitage – he was the inspiration for Jack Wolfe in my first book. This time, Tom Howard in The Mysterious Miss Mayhew was inspired by Matthew MacFadyen. It’s as much to do with how I perceive the kind of characters they play as their physical appearance – so there’s something honourable and kind, with a bit of a twinkle in Tom.
I don’t always have a particular person in mind for the lead female character – Fran in my latest book is a bit of a one-off – think a younger, grey blonde version of Miranda Hart’s comedy persona and you’re halfway there.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Argh, hard question – impossible to pick out one, but I suppose if pushed, I’d say anything by Kate Atkinson. Her characters, particularly the female ones are highly believable, courageous in their different ways and I love the humour in her books, even when the subject is dark. I can imagine her characters getting on with their lives before and after the book they are in, which to me is a real plus.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first of dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I tend to plan, but not too tightly. I rough out what needs to get covered in each step of the story and make a note of any timelines that I need to pay attention to. It’s mainly just a prompt to make sure I’ve considered everything and thought of it from a lot of different angles. But it’s not set in stone. Once I start writing I might find that a character decides they are not going to act in a way I’ve decided they should and there’s ‘wiggle room’ in my plan to allow that to happen as long as the basic story arc I’ve set out doesn’t get knocked out of shape too much.On average I do about five drafts, by the time I’ve finished – though some parts of the story might need less work than others.
I worked in advertising, so I wrote every day, but I didn’t get into creative writing until I started with fan fiction after seeing Richard Armitage play Guy of Gisborne in the BBC’s adaptation of Robin Hood. I wrote a couple of full length stories for a fan website – they were as long as your average book and turned out to romances with humour in them. Someone suggested I had a go at a contemporary romance and I thought ‘why not?’ having no idea of the work involved or how slim my chances of finding an agent and publisher might be. The result was Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe? and with beginner’s luck I managed to secure an agent within a very few weeks of submitting the first three chapters. It took much longer to be taken up by a publisher – nearly a year, and during that time I concentrated on short stories and eventually won the Woman & Home short story competition sponsored by Costa. All of that stopped me getting too downhearted before the big day when Quercus signed me, initially for two books and then for a further two. I didn’t realise at the time how easy I’d had it.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That we all earn a fortune. Please don’t think I’m complaining, but most writers don’t earn that much and many of us have to do another job as well to pay the bills. We write because we love it and seek that connection with the reader that being given the privilege to talk directly to them through your writing, gives you.
What are you working on at the moment?
Another romance, a children’s book that’s been on the go for a few years and some short stories. Too much really, but I was a late starter so always feel I shouldn’t dawdle!!