Who’s Afraid of Mr. Wolfe is a contemporary romance novel that I thoroughly enjoyed reading (my review). It’s the debut novel of UK author Hazel Osmond and I got my copy from the Book Depository. I wanted to learn more about her writing process for the book so I decided to do an interview and yay, she was kind enough to answer some questions for me. Please give Hazel Osmond a warm welcome! I hope you have fun going through her answers – a certain tall, dark and handsome hero from a BBC series is mentioned several times.
Who’s Afraid of Mr. Wolfe is your debut novel – can you tell us more about your writing process for it? When did you decide to become a writer?
In the past, I had written one or two short stories, but every time I thought about writing a book, I ended up looking at a blank computer screen. I just did not feel inspired. Then I saw actor Richard Armitage in the BBC’s adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South and went to a website to check out who he was. There I stumbled on fan fiction… basically storytelling that uses existing characters from a book, play, film or TV series and builds on them to create new stories. After reading a few of them, I felt inspired to have a go myself and wrote a kind of adventure/love story featuring another Richard Armitage character, Guy of Gisborne.
I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt. You post chapters and get feedback from the readers and while I was writing, the rest of the world just seemed to disappear. I knew I’d found my genre… the stories I wrote were very long and definitely book length, so when a reader suggested I should have a go at a modern romance, I didn’t feel daunted. The idea came to me quickly and I finished the first draft in about four months.
The ad agency setting of Who’s Afraid of Mr. Wolfe felt realistic and it actually made me want to work in an ad agency. Was that inspired by your own working experience?
Yes…and no. I worked in an ad agency in Newcastle, in the North of England, so it was not as glamorous as the London agency that Ellie works for, and our clients were not as high profile. But, the process of coming up with ideas and trying to sell them to others in the agency and to the client is very real. Also, while I have avoided basing any of my characters on real people, they are definitely true to the larger-than-life characters you meet wherever creative people gather.
Some of the real things I’ve heard about, or seen, during my time in advertising, I actually didn’t dare to put in!
Throughout the course of the novel, Jack Wolfe keeps being compared to Heathcliff. I wonder why you chose that particular literary figure? I actually prefer the Richard Armitage (Mr. Thornton) comparison.
I very much wanted to write a chicklit that had all the traditional elements – Alpha male, scruffy heroine who needs to up her game, gay best friend – and give it a bit of a twist. I suppose I chose Heathcliff as the most brooding, closed down character I could think of… and wanted to suggest to the reader, that Jack was similarly afflicted. With Ellie loving books so much, it also allowed me to show how, like you, she’s not very impressed by the real Heathcliff, nor by Jack, at the start. Of course the twist is that there is something softer under all Jack’s granite and whereas love is a destructive force as far as the real Heathcliff is concerned, with Jack it’s quite the opposite.
Somewhat related to the previous question, who are some of your literary fictional crushes?
The first one ever was Ross Poldark in the Winston Graham books. Then there was Jem Merlin in ‘Jamaica Inn’ by Daphne du Maurier. Recently I’ve had a bit of a thing for Jonathan Strange in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Suzanna Clarke. They’re all tall, dark, kind of brooding, a bit naughty so there’s a definite pattern there.
A certain section of the novel goes like this:
“Jack shook his head. ‘Books. What is it with women and books? My sisters were the same. They were always buying books for boys they fancied.’
Ellie bent down and picked up the stone and put it on the table. ‘It’s like sending a love letter without having to write it yourself,’ she said softly.”
What are some of the books that you think would make excellent gifts for guys?
I think it depends on the age of the guy. As a teenager, I wanted to give boys Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Tragic, high emotional intensity… I’m sure it would have sent them running. I think Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night or The Great Gatsby have that air of beauty, sadness and glamour that you’d like a guy to know moved you. Also Anna Karenina, Anais Nin short stories as they are very ‘ahem’ and definitely Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Hmm… there aren’t many of these that end well, so I don’t know what message I’d be sending out!
Who’s Afraid of Mr. Wolfe falls under chick lit or contemporary romance. What are some of your recommended books under that genre?
I love Freya North, particularly Secrets… I like how she takes her time with a story. Harriet Evans, The Love of Her Life. Philippa Ashley’s Decent Exposure and Jill Mansell’s To the Moon and Back.
Are you working on your next novel now? Can you tell us a little more about it?
I’m actually working on my third! The second one is out in May though, and I’d love to tell you about it. It’s set in Northumberland this time, not London, and is about Mack,an ex tabloid journalist who is blackmailed into working undercover to try to find out all he can about a big star’s love life. To do that he has to make friends with the star’s cousin, Jennifer. He knows it will be a hard job to do, but the moment he sees Jennifer he understands it’s going to be much, much tougher than he thought.
Thank you, Hazel, for your thoughtful answers to my questions! I hope this interview generates more interest for your novel. I need to look up the books that you mentioned and read the ones that I haven’t encountered. I’m looking forward to your second novel next year.
Learn more about Hazel through her website or follow her on Twitter.