Since we’re celebrating the seven year anniversary of the Romancing the Genres blog in May, I thought I’d get in early and write an abridged or smooshed account of the last seven years of my life.
You could say the last seven years of my life have been pretty eventful. So much so, I can hardly remember what my day-to-day life was like seven years ago.
Back in 2011, I was a pregnant lady, getting ready for the birth of my second child, with a gorgeous little two-year-old boy also running around my ankles. I was also working part-time in a corporate communications role that meant commuting to the city, plus juggling home and work life in a way that didn’t always come easily.
Fast forward a few months and I found myself at home full-time on maternity leave, with two little boys under three years of age. Then I was literally juggling, with baby in one arm and toddler in the other, changing two sets of nappies (diapers) trying to remember if I’d had a shower that day or whether I had remembered to make lunch. One day I forgot how to buckle the baby into his car seat. In short, I’d just about lost my mind.
It wasn’t just mummy brain – I was totally exhausted. After a few visits to the doctor I found out my thyroid was playing up. I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. It’s an autoimmune disease that affects metabolism, how fast or slow your body runs, body weight, concentration and alertness. I already had Coeliac/Celiac disease, so I understood about needing to manage your stress levels, diet and overall health to keep an autoimmune condition under control.
Once I started taking some medication, the fog lifted from my head and I began to think clearly again. Hooray!
The write life
Around the time my little one was 18 months old, I went back to work two days a week and started to think about whether I wanted to stick with that job long-term. In the back of my mind, I’d always harboured a desire to write a novel. I remember I’d just joined Twitter and was starting to read romance novels on my commute, when I saw a tweet about the So You Think You Can Write contest. I don’t know exactly what spurred me on to give it a try, but it kick-started my fiction writing.
I wrote and wrote. And wrote some more! At lunchtime, at night, during my son’s afternoon nap on the days I was at home. I taught myself to write a book based on the super helpful tips and advice from authors in the Harlequin Community and shared my work with a fabulous group of writers at much the same stage as me.
I managed to write a 60,000 word manuscript in a couple of months, along with a synopsis and pitch. In retrospect it wasn’t a great attempt at a novel, but I did learn heaps. I may not have got anywhere in the contest, but I was hooked on the writing life.
An unfolding saga
Since 2014, I figure I’ve written three complete manuscripts, two complete short stories and many more partials. I’ve entered many more writing contests and even won the We Heart New Talent contest. That resulted in my debut novel, Girl on aPlane, being published by HarperCollins UK. The book was also translated and released in the Czech Republic as Letuska last year, something so wildly unimaginable to me just a few years ago, I did pinch myself. I have actual fans in Prague!
In 2016 I made the decision to quit my corporate job, and concentrate on writing. So far it’s paying off...okay, not financially yet! But in other ways, my writing is going well and I’m not so tired from being pushed and pulled in all directions. I’ve picked up a few freelance business writing jobs too.
I can’t quite believe my two babies are now school boys, but it’s great to have work with the flexibility to spend more time with them. I’m home to walk my boys to school and back, cook proper meals and read to them every night. Oh, I also spend a bit more time with that man I married!
Now I’m looking to the future, with a plan for a hybrid writing career combining traditionally published and self-published work. I’m working on another novella that I hope to finish writing soon, plus thinking about indie publishing some print versions.
My life has done a grand switcheroo over the last seven years and I’m thankful that I had the courage to give it a go. My health might not be 100% perfect, but I'm going well, managing not to overdo my work hours, and still progressing with my writing.
What about you – have you had health challenges or life-changing circumstances in the last few years? How has your life changed, for better or worse?
About Cassandra O'Leary
**Winner of the global We Heart New Talent contest. Nominated for Best New Author in the 2016 AusRomToday Reader's Choice Awards for excellence in Australian romance fiction.**
Cassandra O'Leary is a romance and women's fiction author from Melbourne, Australia, drinking coffee, dreaming of Italy and Spain, and raising two mini ninjas with her superhero husband.
In 2015, Cassandra won the global We Heart New Talent contest run by Avon Books/HarperCollins UK and her debut romantic comedy novel, Girl on a Plane, was released in July 2016. She was also a 2015 finalist in the Lone Star contest, Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America, and a 2014 finalist, First Kiss contest, Romance Writers of Australia.
Read more at cassandraolearyauthor.com