Today’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).
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.
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!
Girl 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 . . .