04-20-19 – In Praise of a “Bad Pick” by Linda Lovely and Robin Weaver

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Seven Year Switch

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.

Baby steps

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 


Judith Ashley said...

Oh my Cassandra, I can so relate to much of what you've shared. So glad you've found a life that feeds your soul. Keep writing! I know you have more stories to tell. And, if you haven't heard about it yet, check out Maggie Lynch's "Author Secrets" series at http:// MaggieLynch.com Lots of excellent information about indie publishing.

Cassandra O'Leary said...

Hi Judith, I think many women can relate to the difficulty of managing kids and work, plus added fun of health problems! I do really love creative writing, so it's amazing that I have the opportunity to pursue it. And if it isn't always as fast as I'd like, I have to breathe and remember that it's really not a sprint. The work will happen... I'll check out Maggie's site too -- thanks for the tip.

Savannah Blaize said...

A fabulous post Cass. You are doing so well. I know how hard it is to juggle a career and small children. I did that when mine when small too. So glad you were able to give up work to concentrate on your passion., and be there for your kids when they need you. AND that lovely man of yours.

Cassandra O'Leary said...

Thanks Savannah. I don't feel like I'm doing so well today because my big boy is sick and I'm getting nothing done. But life gets in the way sometimes, and sometimes we need to let it happen. Hopefully I'll be back into writing next week.

Dora Bramden said...

You've really come a long way. It's great to read your inspiring story about coming through health setbacks to make a life that works for you. As you know I can understand what your challenges have been. I don't have little ones anymore but I remember how much energy it took to mother them. I'm amazed at all you are able to achieve. Thanks for sharing your journey.

Cassandra O'Leary said...

Hi Dora, yes I know you understand health ups and downs. It can be frustrating when you're used to being able to work hard, then suddenly you can't. Anyway it is great to hang with my boys too.

Barbara Rae Robinson said...

I fully understand what you've been through, Cassandra. I'm finally getting my autoimmune problems taken seriously. I'm being checked for Hashimoto's next week. I'm gluten intolerant, not celiac, thank goodness. But the Paleo autoimmune protocol has done wonders for me. A doctor messed up my thyroid medication and I'm just now beginning to come out of that fog. Good luck with your career. With your health under control, you'll be able to have a fabulous career. Alas, I'm getting too little too late. But I am writing my stories.

Cassandra O'Leary said...

Hi Barbara, I feel for you -- it can take a very long time (too long) to get properly diagnosed when we're talking autoimmune diseases. Hopefully you can find the right balance of medication and diet to get you back on track. Keep writing too! You never know what inspiration might hit.

Sarah Raplee said...

I'm a slow writer with health problems, too, Cassandra. Also lucky to have a wonderful, supportive husband - makes all the difference in the world, doesn't it?

My Dad was an airline pilot, so your debut book intrigues me. Best of luck on sales!