Welcome, Hazel, to the Romaniacs sofa. What can I get you? We have some heart-shaped chocolates from Valentine’s Day. Rose creme?
Oh, don’t mind if I do. Can I interest you in some liquorice in return? No, thought not. It’s an acquired taste and somewhere along the line I acquired it. Along with a love of aniseed balls which sounds faintly sniggery, but there we are.
I find aniseed balls a little hard, personally. They make my teeth rattle.
Recently, you went to a Paloma Faith gig. What is it you like about Paloma?
Sensational voice, great clothes, fab sense of humour, very down to earth, believes in connecting with her audience. But above all, she understands about putting on a show. I love people who really go for it – can’t stand it when performers give off that ‘I’m just here adding to my pension pot’ vibe. Paloma is ‘on’ from the moment she’s on.
Paloma has a fantastic stage presence, which leads us to acting. Do you like to be on stage, or backstage? Why?
I do take my turn helping backstage because there are always more people in our drama group who want to act than there are parts – so you have to let everyone have a go. But I always want to be on the stage. There are very few things that compare with that instant feedback you get when you’re acting. Oh, all right then, I’ll admit it, I’m a terrible show off and thrive on the love you get from a good audience.
How did your day at Denton Burn Library go? Please tell me about it.
Oh it was brilliant. Newcastle City Council is proposing massive cuts to arts funding which will mean a range of libraries being closed. Ann Cleeves, author of the Vera books, had the initial idea for writers and performers to hold events in the threatened libraries to raise awareness of what might happen. My friend Mari Hannah who also writes murder novels, got a group of us together in Denton Burn. We had singers and poets and writers and a good crowd of people in the audience. Kind of ironic that murder writers are taking the lead against the killing off of libraries.
How did you get into copywriting and please explain what that involves?
As a copywriter, you’re responsible for coming up with the written content of advertising – whether that’s words for an advert or a brochure or a script. In reality, you probably also play a part in coming up with the basic concept – it’s usual for a copywriter to be teamed with a designer so you kick ideas around together. And drink beer. After which all your ideas seem splendid.
How did I get into it? Well, I wanted to do it after university but lacked the confidence to sell myself to an agency. It was only after six years as a civil servant when I thought ‘stuff this, I’ve only got one life’ that I started applying to agencies and got lucky.
In what ways can this help and/or hinder short-story writing and novel writing?
It’s a good training ground. It really teaches you to be succinct because you have to get your main message across in a limited space. It also gives you an appreciation of the market you’re writing for. Where it doesn’t always help is that you’re hardwired to come up with something memorable, maybe even gimmicky. That’s not good when you’re trying to be true to the emotion of a story, particularly in a romance.
What drew you into the world of fanfic?
(Hazel puts her hands over her face and blushes). Lust. I saw Richard Armitage in North & South on the BBC and then as Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood. I had a google of him (as you do) and stumbled on the C19 website. That’s where I discovered fan fiction. After reading some of it I was inspired to write my own story. It came out as a romance and it felt as if I’d found my writing voice.
Are you a prolific writer?
If I’m in the right mood, yes. I will have a book and several short stories on the go at once. On the other hand, if I’m not in the right mood, I spend an awful lot of time staring into space or scowling at the computer screen. It’s like that rhyme – ‘when she was good, she was very, very good. But when she was bad, she was rotten.‘
Ah – the girl with a curl…
At what time of the day do you prefer to write?
When my children were little, the only uninterrupted time in which I could write was when they were asleep. So I wrote late in the evening and on into the night. Now I can write more or less when I like, but I still think I do my best work in a house filled with sleeping people!
Let’s move on to your books. Who is afraid of Mr Wolfe, and why?
Oh, good question. Well, Ellie should be afraid of her new boss, Jack Wolfe, who is slowly laying waste to a swathe of the female population of London. But Ellie believes her level headedness and her humour make her immune to his charms. Wrong. She falls for him and then finds out that there’s a very big secret about Jack that makes him even more likely to cause her heartache.
The book was my take on all the elements that made up the romances I loved to read when I was a teenager – Alpha male, scruffy girl who has to up her game, gay best friend, etc. but I wanted to shake them up and give them a twist. It was short listed for Romantic Comedy of the Year by the RNA in 2012 and I was heartily chuffed about that.
What was the inspiration behind The First Time I Saw Your Face?
Years ago I read about a journalist who had managed to work undercover at BuckinghamPalace for months without being discovered. He got away with it because he looked the part. It set me thinking about how much we judge by appearances. In the book, I play around with that idea – Mack is pretending to be someone he isn’t and gets accepted by people at face value, whereas Jennifer has to cope with being judged negatively purely because of the way she now looks. And Northumberland inspired me – so the book is also a great big, gorgeous love story to the county. I’m hoping to start a tourist boom.
Why do you like humour in your books?
A person who cannot laugh at their own failings and the joys and absurdities of life is my idea of hell. I think taking yourself too seriously is a major character flaw!!
Humour in your writing can sharpen all the other emotions – it’s that bitter-sweet thing. I also feel that if you use it properly, it can widen out the story so that it’s not just about this man and this woman, but about how life plays around with all of us. I always feel more sympathetic towards characters who are having a crappy time and can raise even the tiniest laugh as opposed to those who sob in a corner.
What’s next for you?
Book 3, ‘Playing Grace’, is out this summer – it’s set in London again, and shows what happens when a seemingly uptight and very controlled woman gets thrown together with an off-the-wall young American guy. I’m also writing Book 4 at the moment, which will be a return to a Northumberland setting. Working title is ‘The Mysterious Miss Mayhew’ but I’m rubbish at titles so it’ll be something different when it comes out.
Chocolates or Flowers?
Can I have chocolate flowers? No, okay then … flowers. Love white ones particularly.
Theatre or cinema?
Theatre. Do like cinema, but sometimes it doesn’t seem as honest as theatre – too glossy, more about the stars than the story.
Nightclubs or concerts?
Laughing like a drain at the thought of me in a nightclub. Wouldn’t know what to do with myself. Concerts are my thing. I try to go to a lot more now the kids are older. I’ve even been to a couple with them which works as long as we split up on the way in and I don’t do any dancing.
Valentine’s Day or Anniversary?
Anniversary. I had a Saturday job in a flower shop and am emotionally scarred by the memory of having to sell price-hiked red roses to lovesick men on Valentine’s Day. I like celebrating Anniversaries – it’s a bit like getting a long service medal.
Haha! Which leads nicely to the next question…
Slapstick or subtle comedy.
Oh dear. Hate slapstick. Would rather eat my own hair than sit through that. Mind you that would be quite funny in itself.
You can find out more about me and my writing – and read some of my short stories too – on hazelosmond.co.uk
Both books are available in paperback and ebook format, here and here
You can find Hazel on Amazon, here.
Thank you so much for stopping by, Hazel. Let us know if Northumberland gets busy xx