Finding 'Refuge' in Blowing Rock
By Jeff Eason
When Nick Osborne was studying writing, a professor told him to “write what you know.”
Osborne has taken that advice to heart by wrapping up his “Refuge” trilogy of novels in Blowing Rock, a town he has visited some 10 or 12 times.
“My mother-in-law, Missy Anderson, lives here,” Osborne said during his most recent trip to Blowing Rock. “I met her daughter, my wife, Clarke, in Los Angeles, and we got married in Blowing Rock at Rumple Presbyterian Church.”
Osborne, originally from Scotland, has been working in the film and television industry as a producer for the past two decades but recently decided to switch to writing to satisfy the creative nature of his personality.
“I always wanted to be a film producer,” Osborne said. “It took me 15 years to realize that’s not what I should be doing.”
Osborne started working for Phoenix Pictures and helped produce its films, such as “The Thin Red Line” and “The People vs. Larry Flint.”
He then moved on become the producer for other films, such as “License to Wed,” starring Robin Williams, “Santa Baby,” starring Jenny McCarthy, and “All About Steve,” starring Sandra Bullock.
“I finally decided I wanted to have more control over my career and the creative process,” Osborne said. “Being a film producer, you are offering your services to other people, even though it’s a great job. So, I decided to jump ship and write two things: TV scripts and novels.
“In novels, you have complete freedom, and as a TV writer, you become the creative leader of a show, unlike film, where the director is the creative leader.”
As a television writer, Osborne has two projects in the works — a legal show, starring America Ferrera and titled “Damascus,” for CBS and an adventure drama, titled “Conquistador,” for FX.
“It’s about the Spanish invasion of the Incan Empire,” he said. “It’s going to be very much like a ‘Game of Thrones’ type of show. It’s an amazing story that’s never been told like this.”
Also since leaving production work, Osborne has written two novels, “Refuge” and “Resilience,” that are the first two parts of a trilogy, one that is an epic love story beginning in an Afghani refugee camp in Pakistan and thus far leading readers to Blowing Rock.
“I worked as an aid worker in an Afghan refugee camp in 1991 and 1992,” Osborne said. “It was incredible, very eye-opening. I don’t think anyone could do it now, at least not where I did it.”
While in Pakistan, Osborne worked for two organizations, Project Trust and the International Rescue Committee, and taught at a Pakistani school in an Afghani refugee camp.
“It was at the time when the Afghan war was just ending with the Russians, and the civil war was just beginning,” Osborne said. “It was the beginning of a power vacuum in Afghanistan, which would eventually be filled by the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
“We basically reaped what we sowed. We gave a lot of money to the Mujahideen, and it was eventually funneled to the most extreme groups, not to the more moderate groups.”
Osborne used his experiences in the Afghani refugee camp as the jumping off point for the first book in his trilogy, “Refuge.”
“I wanted to write a big, big love story,” he said. “I’ve always loved those types of books like ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ So, I thought I’d tell the story of an American aid worker who falls in love with an Afghan refugee, named Noor, who comes from a very educated family.
“She’s a beautiful 21-year-old woman in this refugee camp with no way of getting out. He sees her on a bus and decides he wants to pursue her, which in most cases in Pakistan would probably be a deadly mistake.
“Her father is quite liberal in some ways and sees the American, Charlie, as an opportunity for Noor to get out, and so they start this love story.”
According to Osborne, that love story is immediately complicated by Noor’s brother, a young man who has joined a fundamentalist Mujahideen group run by a Saudi prince.
“When the Saudi prince’s fourth wife dies, the brother suddenly sees an opening for his sister to be married off to this prince,” Osborne said.
“This is basically the story that runs through the trilogy. A young man falls in love with a young woman, and then she falls in love with him. Then they are torn apart by forces outside of their control. And at some point, she will end up in Blowing Rock.”
That point is the final chapter of the second book in the trilogy, “Resilience.” In it, Noor jogs around a lake (Bass Lake?) before running down Main Street past a diner named Sonny’s Grill.
“She has to hide, and Blowing Rock is where she ends up hiding,” Osborne said. “It’s very out of the way. It’s somewhere maybe no one will find her.
“The third book is where Blowing Rock really appears in the trilogy. I wanted an American setting, and I knew it needed to be a more rural setting. I just thought Blowing Rock would be the ideal setting.”
Osborne is currently working on the final piece of the trilogy and said that Noor might remain in Blowing Rock throughout the 1990s before leaving for parts unknown.
“It was meant to be one book, but the story took on a life of its own and kept getting longer and longer,” Osborne said. “So, it ended up being a trilogy.”
“Refuge” and “Resilience” are published by Cranham and Keith Books.