Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Origin Stories

‘You Better Learn How to Type’

How a touch typist temp became a romance novelist…

My typewriter at home…

These were the wise, wise words of my grandmother when I told her I was going to be an actress when I grew up. ‘You better learn how to type.’ I did. And she was right. More than she ever could have known.

The original plan, of course, was to be an immensely famous actress for half of the year. By the age of twenty-one I had planned to be swanning around the world like Meryl Streep and only doing roles with exotic and hard to tackle accents. Natch. The other half of the year I was going to teach literature at America’s Gaulladet University – a centre of learning for deaf and hard of hearing student as its youngest and most passionate professor of English Literature. (I had learned sign language in a play and was DETERMINED to use it to spread my love of books. That should’ve been the first clue that I was destined to become a writer.

The second should’ve been the ten years I spent working for Associated Press as a news producer, writer and cameraman. Where, it should be noted, I was originally hired because of my very speedy typing. I transcribed a gazillion soundbites from the raw footage our crews sent in before graduating to the more glamorous job of inserting them into scripts and, eventually, going out into the field and filming stories.

Then, one day it hit me. I didn’t want to film the story. I wanted to WRITE the story. Luckily for me, I had a friend who dared me to try and write a Mills & Boon in a weekend. (We both wrote very quickly, had just written a play that had done well at the Edinburgh Fringe Theatre Festival and thought we were so WONDROUSLY TALENTED, surely we could each write a book in a weekend.


You can imagine how that went. (cue: wannnh-wonnnnh!)

Time passed. More jobs came and went. I filmed animals AND children. I worked for MTV for a spell and felt very, very old even though I was only thirty-five. My going away present there was a gorgeous stack of books. Everyone protested. ‘What? Books!?!?’ They cried. ‘Yes,’ said my dear friend Steven. ‘Have you not met her?’

I couldn’t let the writing bug go. I don’t like to fail. I also love to write. And then I found my magic ingredient. I fell head over heels in love with romance. I was taking inspiration from everything everywhere. (See above). And then…I actually fell in love with a tall blonde Scotsman. I didn’t even like blondes and I fell in love with him, dear reader! And in two weeks, I wrote my very first Mills & Boon. Which they rejected. But they also wrote an incredibly detailed and very encouraging letter back. So I tried again. And one more time. And then, after I’d taken a couple of years off and learned how to raise pigs and cows and bees…I tried one more time. And Lo and behold! The Surgeon’s Christmas Wish was born.

Is my first book my best? Who knows? It’s definitely one of my favourites. It’s definitely one of my favourite covers. I LOVE IT! My favourite favourite is probably The Nightshift Before Christmas. No. My ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE is whichever one I’m writing. Right now I’m writing one set in Hawaii with the working title, Aloha to Amour. I love it the most, too. And before that I loved the one with dogs the most. (Are you sensing a trend?)

So that’s it my little munchkins. The very, very long and winding road that finally led me to become a published author. And what a joyous arrival it has been. Tell me, what’s inspired you to do something you love?

xx Annie O’

4 thoughts on “‘You Better Learn How to Type’”

  1. I learned to type on a manual typewriter too – typing was definitely more of a skill in those days. Remember how the type hammers used to get tangled up if you forgot to take your finger off one key before depressing the next…? And carriage return levers that pinged back and rapped your knuckles if you weren’t careful. And Tipp-Ex!! Although, as you say, those typing lessons have come in a great deal handier than anyone could have dreamed at the time 🙂 xxx

    1. I was thinking about tipp-exx the other day!!! Does it even exist? It was, hands down, one of the best classes I ever ever took. I would advise anyone and everyone to learn how. And yes, I remember the hammers getting tangled up and having to unwrap them from one another. I believe I wrote a paper on the majesty of pyramids with one of them! Good times. xxx

  2. I love your story, Annie, and have to say, I adore you, too 🙂

    Back in my high school days I was a ‘superstar’ typist, able to peck out words at incredible speeds that my classmates could only dream of 😉 I always attributed that skill to being a pianist, but who knows? I still have two typewriters – my old one from back then, and the much older Royal that belonged to my late father. Alas, that typing speed doesn’t always translate to story speed for me…if only it would!

    Looking forward to reading another of your fab stories xoxo

    1. I adore you right back! And you know what? I attributed my speeds to learning the piano as well! It was knowing how to do one thing with your hands whilst looking elsewhere. I, too, wish the story speed was in simpatico with the typing speed. I’ve tried those five minute slams and twenty minute concentration moments, but sometimes the brain doesn’t always play ball! Can’t wait to read your next wonderful story. xoxo Annie O’

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