Rosy Thornton had managed to reach the age of 40 without ever attempting to write a novel. In fact, she had written no fiction at all since the 'imaginative essays' she was obliged to produce at school
. But BBC started broadcasting an adaptation of North and South by Mrs Gaskell and Rosy started watching it ...
Cambridgeshire is her home now. In her daily existence she is a lecturer and Fellow in Law at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. She teaches and writes on an eclectic mix of topics, including landlord and tenant law, trusts, homelessness, and women and the law.
You'll find more about her at her website .
You'll find more about her at her website .
Here's her RA Friday post.
Regular readers of this blog will have read with great enjoyment, as I did, the recent guest spot on RA Friday by romantic novelist Phillipa Ashley. Phillipa told us how she began writing fiction as a direct result of watching the BBC’s 2004 adaptation of North and South – with the gorgeously smouldering Richard Armitage in the leading rôle as mill owner John Thornton.
Well, ‘do not adjust your sets’, as they used to say on telly when I was a kid. You haven’t scrolled back down to Phillipa’s post by mistake. It’s just that my own story is uncannily similar. My own career as a novelist was also kicked off by watching RA in his waistcoat and cravat on Sunday evenings.
I didn’t know Phillipa then, though we have a lot in common, besides our love of period drama (and Richard!). Both of us have careers involving writing for a living (she as journalist and copy writer, me as an academic lawyer). Both of us reached our forties without ever thinking of writing a novel.
When the closing credits rolled at the end of the final episode of North and South, I was buzzing with excitement, but I also felt bereft. Like Phillipa, I went online to find other people who had been inspired by the serial. Like Phillipa, I had a go at writing fanfic based on the characters of John and Margaret – in my case, a Victorian pastiche sequel to Gaskell’s novel. And, like Phillipa, I found that when my fanfic was finished I’d been bitten by the storytelling bug, and went on to have a go at writing my first independent novel.
The voice I discovered was contemporary and humorous – quite different from the historical one, imitative of Gaskell, that I had used for my fanfic. But the story I found to tell owed a lot to North and South. The heroine of my first novel, More Than Love Letters, is a clergyman’s daughter, and actually named Margaret by her father after Margaret Hale in North and South. My Margaret is very much a Victorian heroine out of her time: all pale skin and dark curls and burning moral zeal. Like Gaskell’s Margaret, she moves to a new town where she meets – and eventually falls in love with – a man considerably her senior who is already an established figure in the community. My hero is not a mill owner and magistrate but the town’s MP – and it’s no coincidence that his name is Richard. No prizes for guessing whose picture was in my mind as I was writing the book!
I was lucky enough to find a literary agent who liked the novel and agreed to represent me. He helped me knock it into shape for publication, and landed me a two-book contract with Headline in March 2006. By an amazing coincidence, Phillipa Ashley signed a two-book deal with the same publisher just a few weeks later! We had encouraged each other’s writing since the early, fanfic days, and egged each other into taking the plunge and sending our work to agents. Now we were both breaking into print together. It was – and still remains for me – a dream come true.
There have been other novels since More Than Love Letters. My fourth and latest, The Tapestry of Love, was released in paperback last month. But none of it would have happened without the support and friendship of Phillipa and the rest of the North and South fanfic community – and the inspiration of Richard Armitage on my TV screen with his sombre suit, silk cravat and sexy, brooding stare.
Thanks Rosy for this lovely blogpost!
NOW ( DOUBLE) GIVEAWAY TIME!!!
Two lucky commenters can win a copy of "More than Love Letters" or "The Tapestry of Love" by Rosy Thornton. The giveaway is open worldwide and ends next Thursday December 2nd. Don't forget to add your e-mail address and ... good luck! Have a very good weekend!