Story Behind the Story: Cassandra O’Leary

profileToday’s guest for the Story Behind the Story is the delightful Cassandra O’Leary, who is a romance and women’s fiction writer, communications specialist, avid reader, film and TV fangirl and admirer of pretty, shiny things. 

In 2015, Cassandra won the We Heart New Talent contest run by Avon Maze/HarperCollins UK and her debut contemporary romance/romantic comedy novel, Girl on a Plane, releases in July 2016. She was also a 2015 finalist in the Lone Star writing contest, Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America, and a 2014 finalist in the First Kiss contest run by Romance Writers of Australia.

Cassandra is a mother of two gorgeous, high-energy mini ninjas and wife to a spunky superhero. Living in Melbourne, Australia, she’s also travelled the world. If you want to send her to Italy or Spain on any food or wine tasting ‘research’ trips, that would be splendiferous.

Cassandra, please tell us about you Story Behind the Story!

Travel is one of my joys. Since my first flight at about five years old, from Melbourne to Brisbane, I’ve found it exciting and fascinating. Back then, kids were allowed to walk right into the cockpit and meet the captain – I’ve never forgotten the moment I received a shiny pair of wings that Mum pinned to my shirt.

Once I grew up and started earning money, I took off, travelling to some fascinating places. My first trip was a university study tour, an eight-week whirlwind from Hong Kong to London and across Europe. I added on a solo trip through Italy, to Vienna by train and then across to New York City. The food, culture, music…the food! I loved it all. I guess I was infected by the travel bug! Later I travelled heaps with my boyfriend (now husband).

SAMSUNG

Cassandra in Seville, Spain

I took a long time to come to creative writing, having worked in PR, marketing and communications for years. When I started writing my debut novel, Girl on a Plane, I found inspiration in places I’ve visited including: Melbourne (my home city), Singapore, London, Paris and Thailand. I also have a family member who is an ex flight attendant who has some stories! I was interested in the idea of writing about someone whose home is the entire world, but nowhere, at the same time. If you’re always in transit, it can be hard to form friendships and relationships or find your true north.

I also love romantic comedy movies and those influences flooded into my work. In Girl on a Plane, you might spot references to Love Actually, When Harry Met Sally and maybe more. I don’t think I’ve mastered the witty banter that screenwriters like Richard Curtis or Nora Ephron are so brilliant at, but it’s something I aspire to emulate.

Girl on a Plane is a contemporary romance/romantic comedy that’s sexy and sassy, about an Irish flight attendant named Sinead, who meets a gruff and gorgeous Aussie CEO, Gabriel, in first class. Their Melbourne to London flight is diverted when a storm hits in mid-air, and they’re thrown together in a Singapore hotel. What follows could be a one-night stand, or something else entirely.

I started writing the book about two years ago, in a short story incarnation, and re-worked it several times. I received a publishing contract for Girl on a Plane after winning the global We Heart New Talent contest run by HarperCollins UK in 2015. That was a thrill! The digital-first team at Avon Maze have been fantastic to work with, and we’re preparing for take-off now, as the e-book released globally on 18 July.

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Brighton Beach, Melbourne, where part of the story takes place

My main character in Girl on a Plane, is Irish flight attendant, Sinead. She’s 26 years old and has been working for Mermaid Airlines for five years. The story begins with Sinead on board a flight, going through the motions of a silly dance to the airline’s theme song. She’s getting tired of the routine and the constant travel, even when she plasters on a pretty smile.

Sinead is quirky and funny, but also resilient – tougher than her glamorous exterior might suggest. At first glance, if you saw Sinead dressed in her flight attendant uniform with immaculate hair and makeup, you might assume she’s a light-weight, but you’d be wrong. Without giving away spoilers, she’s had family issues and an ex-boyfriend stalking her, and trouble finds her again. Her background and hesitant reaction to the hero are explained as the story progresses.

The hero, Gabriel, isn’t what he seems either. He’s a handsome, rich, Aussie surfer-in-a-suit CEO who’s cocky and sure of himself, but under the façade, he’s struggling with life-changing personal issues. Giving Sinead and Gabriel a happy ever after was satisfying as a writer, and I hope readers enjoy Girl on a Plane too!

coverGirl on a Plane 

A sexy, sassy, summer read. CLIMB ON BOARD . . .

When feisty Irish flight attendant Sinead Kennealy locks eyes with sexy Australian CEO Gabriel Anderson in First Class, sparks fly. But as they jet across the globe from Melbourne to London, it’s clear that they’re in for a turbulent journey . . .

Stressed-out Gabriel doesn’t do relationships. And Sinead isn’t about to be fooled by another bad boy after escaping her stalker ex. Then a storm hits, causing the plane to land unexpectedly, and Sinead and Gabriel are thrown together in Singapore.

The pressure rises as Sinead’s unhappy past threatens to catch up with her. But might Gabriel be the one to heal her heartbreak? If he could open up about his troubling secrets, maybe a relationship could actually get off the ground. Fasten your seatbelts – this WON’T be a smooth ride . . .

Buy links:

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Plane-sexy-sassy-summer-ebook/dp/B01FSGGGXK

Amazon AU – https://www.amazon.com.au/Girl-Plane-sexy-sassy-summer-ebook/dp/B01FSGGGXK

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Plane-sexy-sassy-summer-ebook/dp/B01FSGGGXK

HarperCollins AU – http://www.harpercollins.com.au/9780008197025/girl-on-a-plane-a-sexy-sassy-summer-read/

Kobo – https://store.kobobooks.com/en-AU/ebook/girl-on-a-plane-a-sexy-sassy-summer-read

Google Play Books – https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Cassandra_O_Leary_Girl_on_a_Plane_A_sexy_sassy_sum?id=x2AuDAAAQBAJ

iTunes US – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/girl-on-a-plane/id1115614626

iTunes AU – https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/girl-on-a-plane/id1115614626

 

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Story Behind the Story: Michelle Somers

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Today I’m delighted to introduce you to the lovely Michelle Somers, who is a bookworm from way back. An ex-Kiwi who now calls Australia home, she’s a professional killer and matchmaker, a storyteller and a romantic. Words are her power and her passion. Her heroes and heroines always get their happy ever after, but she’ll put them through one hell of a journey to get there.

Michelle lives in Melbourne, Australia with her real life hero and three little heroes in the making.

Michelle, please tell us about your story behind the story. 

I’m often asked why I write what I write. Why pair the warm fuzziness of romance with the deadly chill of suspense? And then there’s my debut novel, Lethal in Love – how and why did the story come about?

So many factors influenced my decision – my need – to tell Jayda and Seth’s story.  

Growing up, I fed my imagination on a steady diet of Sweet Dreams, coupled with The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. From there I grew into Harlequin and the likes of Harlan Coben, Mary Higgins Clark, Patricia Cornwall and so many others.

I loved the diversity and richness of these stories and their characters. Loved that reading romance allowed me to fall in love during every single story. Loved that reading suspense and detective stories led me to experience places and situations I could never and would never imagine visiting outside the pages of a book.

My imagination soared, as did the thrill of escapism, and the ability to feed both by immersing myself into the world of fiction.

Psychology has always fascinated me. The whys and wherefores in a person’s mind. Why do they act the way they do? Why if you drop two people into an identical situation, will they react differently? What is it in their psyche that makes this happen?

With such an avid interest in what makes a person tick, as well as a love for the written word, is it any wonder that romance became my genre of choice, closely followed by suspense?

My novel, Lethal in Love, and its sequel, Murder Most Unusual, were born of my equal passion for both genres. And little by little, layer by layer, the story evolved.

Conflict is the lynchpin of any great story, and the age-old idea of pitting detective against reporter intrigued me, especially if that detective was female, sassy, no-nonsense and had damn good reasons to dig her heels into her anti-reporter stance.

Next came the decision on setting. How could I not choose Melbourne? A city of great beauty and diversity, that became my home when I met and married my husband.

Finally, I reached my story’s pièce de résistance – the Night Terror. A serial killer terrorising young women in the streets of Melbourne. What a deliciously evil piece of fiction – almost… To delve inside the mind of my serial killer meant delving into the minds of real-life examples, of which the internet holds a plethora, sadly. It wasn’t long until I lost myself in the world of psychopaths, a place where I found the perfect ‘role model’ for my fictional killer – Theodore Robert Bundy.  

Ted Bundy – to me – is the epitome of serial killers. Attractive. Smart. Charismatic. And one of the most prolific serial killers in U.S. history. More dangerous for his ability to mimic emotions he had no capacity to feel, and his inability to understand or feel compassion – factors that when combined, made him a ruthless and deadly predator against young women.

But what turns a seemingly well behaved, attractive teen with so much promise into a monster? This was the question that fascinated me most of all. So I delved deeper, first into Bundy, then into the Night Terror. I discovered the cold calculation. A past containing a trigger after which there was no going back. And then it was time to build the killer back up from ground zero.

I’ll take the words from Ted Bundy himself.

“We serial killers are your sons, we are your husbands, we are everywhere.”

I hid my killer in plain sight then crafted a story I hope did him and the rest of my characters justice.

Let me know if you agree.

And if you’ve yet to read Lethal in Love, I have some exciting news – in August this year, Penguin Random House will be releasing the story as a single title ebook!

More about Lethal in Love:

Homicide detective Jayda Thomasz never lets her emotions get in the way of a case. So when a serial killer re-emerges after 25 years, the last thing she expects is to catch herself fantasising over the hot, smooth-talking stranger who crosses the path of her investigation.

Reporter Seth Friedin is chasing the story that’ll make his career. When he enters the world of swinging for research, he never imagines he’ll be distracted by a hard-talking female detective whose kiss plagues his mind long after she’s gone.

Past experience has shown Jayda that reporters are ruthless and unscrupulous. But when the murders get personal, will she make a deal with the devil to catch the killer? How far will she and Seth have to go? And do you ever really know who you can trust?

BUY LINKS (book one):

AMAZON

AMAZON (Aus)

iBOOKS

KOBO

GOOGLE PLAY

eBOOKS

head shotMore about Michelle:

For exact dates, an exclusive cover reveal and any other news, visit my website www.michelle-somers.com and sign up for my newsletter. A newsletter will only hit your inbox when there’s an announcement or freebies to give away, so I promise it’s worth it!

And for day-to-day news, follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Release day! Midnight Serenade

Midnight SerenadeIn every writer’s journey there are milestones we dream of and, if we’re lucky, we get to see some of them come to fruition. Well, today my dream of my books spreading their wings and reaching all corners of the globe has been realised and I am so very grateful and appreciative of all the wonderful people who have helped me reach this milestone – friends, family, publishers, editors, agents … the list is oh so very long and I am one very luck lass for having so many kind, caring, and talented people with me on this journey. 

So without further ado, I’m happy to declare today as the official release day of MIDNIGHT SERENADE, published by Kensington Books/Lyrical Press! 

And, to whet your appetite, here’s the a rundown on what it’s about:

On the sultry streets of Buenos Aires, the daughter of a world class tango diva searches for answers about the mother who abandoned her—and uncovers decades of lies and deception…

After twenty years of wondering why her mother chose tango over her, Dani McKenna finally travels to Argentina. What was it about this beautiful, mysterious land that enticed one woman away from her own child—and broke another’s heart? As a journalist, Dani may have the opportunity to find out. And an enigmatic tango dancer may hold the key to her quest—if she can break down his defensive walls.

Carlos Escudero had been Dani’s mother’s protégé. Tragedy ended his career and he refuses to be interviewed. But he will give Dani some insights, on one condition: she must agree to his tango lessons. As the two begin the intricate dance of passion, Dani’s quiet, logical world is exchanged for one of music, motion—and mystery. For the clues to a dance legend’s murder may lead Dani to the truth about the past and its impact on her family—and free her to move toward a future she can claim as her own at last…

Available as ebook and print:

BOOK DEPOSITORY

KENSINGTON BOOKS

AMAZON

iBOOKS

KOBO

BARNES & NOBLE

PLEASE NOTE: MIDNIGHT SERENADE is the international edition of LUNA TANGO (Aus/NZ).

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