Published by: HarperCollins
Publication date: April 1st 2015
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Purchase: Amazon | B&N
What would you risk to be with the love of your life? And what if your soul mate is the one who will destroy you?
Mel is living the dream. She’s a successful GP, married to a charming anaesthetist and raising a beautiful family in their plush home in Perth. But when she boards a flight to Melbourne, she meets Matt and her picture perfect Stepford life unravels as she falls in love for the first time ever.
What begins as a flirty conversation between strangers quickly develops into a hot and obsessive affair with disastrous consequences neither Mel nor Matt could have ever seen coming. Mel’s dream life turns into her worst nightmare.
Love at First Flight will take everything you believe about what true love is and spin it on its head.
What inspired you to write Love at First Flight?
I've always been inspired by the tragic love story, the story of great love that just can't be. My favourite book The Bridges of Madison County stayed with me years after reading it and played on my mind. Then I read Twilight and out of nowhere I had to write my own book. Before this I had never entertained the idea of writing. But the longing in Twilight and the knowing that the one you love is the one that is dangerous for you resonated with me and I just had to write about that. So with the themes of desire and danger, I wrote a book about a married mother, because I wanted to write of what I know. I wanted to bring the great love story into the world of the typical suburban mum who is chasing after kids, working and running a home. I wanted her to have that Romeo and Juliet moment. So I wrote 'Love at First Flight'.
Did you use real events/people from your own life as inspiration when writing Love at First Flight?
Hell yes! I really do believe you write what you know. Of course the novel is a novel, not a biography, and I credit my imagination for it, but I have definitely taken inspiration from events and people in my life.
It is no coincidence that Mel has long black hair and is a health professional who falls for a tall, dark, handsome and broody, moody physio. That’s me and my husband! But the great thing about writing is that I get to make Mel as hot as I like and morph her into someone as sexy as Angelina Jolie - hey, it’s my prerogative isn’t it? Matt’s parents are very much inspired by own mother and father in-law who lived out in the country on a sprawling property where we used to go to wind down from the city with them. Matt’s sister is a powerful human rights lawyer, just like two of my world-beating cousins. I even used my children’s names for characters - Tom, Lara and Lachlan. (Lara has a blink and you miss it part because I am saving her. I have big things planned for Lara in book two!)
And I incorporated many real life events into this fictional story. My husband and I tragically lost our third child Lachy at birth, my darling friend Jess committed suicide, my darling friend Julie fought a fierce battle with cancer and those stories and a few more events that shaped my life made it into the book. Writing was my counselling!
Also, I am inherently lazy so the fact that the story unfolds in Perth and Melbourne, the two cities I’ve lived in most of my life, is not by accident. The more you know, the less you research. Some writers thrive on research, me – not so much!
What is the best advice you were given for writing?
The wonderful writer Nikki Davies who assessed the manuscript in the early days, told me to imagine every scene as a scene on a stage. The curtain opens- What do you see? What should the audience feel? What are the actors saying and how do they move around? What expressions are on their faces and in their voices? Start the scene with an opening and end it with closure. Do this for every single scene in the book. Once I learnt to write in scene like this, my writing changed dramatically and it became more authentic and palpable.
More recently, when we were doing the copyedit of Love at First Flight, the brilliant author Dianne Blacklock taught me the concept of Chekhov’s gun, one of her favourite writing tips, which is now one of mine too. Chekhov himself advised, “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.” This helped cut a lot of excess junk from my writing which was clogging it up.
How long did Love at First Flight take to write?
The story was written start to finish in six days. For real. But it was a mashed up piece of drivel! It took eighteen months and five complete re-writes with the help of two manuscript assessors who kept suggesting changes and sending it back to me before I felt confident enough to send it to literary agents.
What do you hope readers will take from your book?
More than anything I want my readers to be entertained. I want them to escape whatever they are doing and join Mel and Matt in their story. I want readers to be thinking about Mel and what direction her life will take when they have to leave her to get on with their real lives, and I want them to be happy to re-unite with her again when they pick up the book. I’m not out to challenge anybody and I don’t have a world-changing message for anybody. I simply want to entertain. When readers finish Love at First Flight, I would hope they are satisfied and that it captured their imagination.
Which Hollywood stars would you like to see play the lead roles in the movie version of your book?
Hugh Jackman is the ultimate Adam, Orlando Bloom (with an Aussie accent) would make a convincing Matt, Rose Byrne (with dyed black hair) has Mel written all over her. Nobody gets to make a movie though unless my daughter Lara gets to be Lily.
What do you love the most about the main character in your book?
I love that Mel is raw. She is openly vulnerable and tortured and she desperately needs attention. I want to help her dig her way out of the hole she is in and help her find inner peace and happiness.
Why do you write?
Because if I didn’t I would need to be institutionalised. What else would I do with these people in my head if I couldn’t write their stories?
What tricks do you have to beat writer’s block?
I write anyway, even if it’s a pile of pigeon poop, I write it. Writer’s block eventually passes, and then I have something on paper and whether I keep what I wrote or not is irrelevant. Even if I go back and delete those pigeon droppings, I know that writing those words has led me to explore new ideas anyway. I never regret writing when I don’t feel inspired. In fact I’m always happy that I did.
Do you write with a plan or do you see where the story takes you?
I wrote Love at First Flight with no plan whatsoever. Often I would read over what I just wrote and be surprised that the story had gone in a new direction that I would never have expected. With the book I am writing now, Flat White with One, I am working with a plan. I think I prefer winging it and seeing what happens.
Do you write every day?
When I am writing or editing, yes I do. However I tend to be hot and cold. I will write for four hours a night for a month to get a draft written or to do an edit and once it’s done I will ignore it for another month or two before picking up the manuscript again to re-work it.
Do you have a day job? What is it?
Yes, I’m a physiotherapist and have been for the past twenty years. I love my day job working in private practice. Every Tuesday I run exercise classes for the over 75s, we always finish with a dance number like the Hokey Cokey or the Macarena, best job ever.
What is the best marketing tip you can share for a new author to get their book noticed?
Be forward even if you are shy. Take on an alter ego, the author who is passionate enough about her book that she will be brave enough to tell the world how great it is. My friend Steph Pegler gave me this little gem: ‘Nobody except maybe your mum is out there waiting for your book. You need to make people notice you.’
What is your favourite motivational phrase or quote?
Lisa Vanderpump said “Throw me to the wolves and I shall return leader of the pack.” I love that!
Which famous person living or dead would you most like to meet and why?
Hmm, I should say Nelson Mandela or the Dalai Lama, that would make me look smart and worldly wouldn’t it? Truth is, give me George Clooney. Why? I think it’s pretty obvious J.
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
I wanted to be a writer when I first learnt to write, but the dream got lost as I performed well at school and was encouraged to go down a health science route. I followed protocol, not instinct and forgot about writing. The desire to write lay dormant for a good twenty years but once that sleeping volcano erupted, boy did it erupt!
What do you think makes a really good story?
A story where stuff happens on every page. A story where you don’t flip ten pages at a time to get to the next good bit.
How did you come up with the title?
I didn’t! I came up with Flight. But I got a memo from my editor, Anna, that Flight could be about birds or kites and she wanted something that sold the story more. I received that email while I was having lunch with my friend Emma on her birthday. I complained and moaned about needing to change the title. Emma came up with Love at First Flight. I emailed Anna. She thought I was a genius. I happily took the credit!
How do you make the time to write?
I don’t. I’m truly hopeless at making time to write. I start writing at around 10 pm and live on very little sleep through the whole writing process. Don’t use me as a role model on time management!
Pick one series and tell us why – Harry Potter, Twilight or The Hunger Games.
Twilight. Not even a competition in my mind. Edward- ugh, he kills me, he is so perfect!
Do you take negative reviews of your book personally or do you shrug them off?
I cry. I totally cry.
How did you come up with the idea for the cover?
I didn’t! The wonderful team at HarperCollins did and I was so excited to see my beautiful cover that I cried.
Is it part of a series or is it a stand-alone novel?
It’s a stand alone book, however Mel’s son, Nick, becomes an adult and tells his story in my next book Flat White With One.
Where is the novel set and why did you choose to set it there?
The novel is set in Perth and in Melbourne. These two Australian cities are where I have lived for most of my life so I know them really well and could easily create scenarios in recognisable places. I am parochial about Perth, especially our stunning coast line, since moving here twelve years ago, so I was happy at the excuse to gloat about it. Also, being inherently lazy when it comes to research, setting the book in Perth and Melbourne, meant that I had much less research to do!
What is it about this genre that appeals to you so much?
I love contemporary women’s fiction because I can easily relate to books that are set in today’s world with today’s issues. I love reading about strong women and seeing how they overcome their struggles. And I am in love with love so any romantic story will tug at my heart strings.
What made you want to become an author?
I didn’t plan on being an author, I was quite happily minding my own business being a physiotherapist. But these characters in my head refused to go away so I had to write their story.
How do you come up with character names?
The main characters, Mel, Matt, Adam and Lydia all came up with their own names. There was no conscious thought process, I would find myself introducing them into the story with their names pre-determined. The first draft only had these characters named. When I started writing the second draft, I began to name characters after my children and my friends or names that I liked.
Name one of your all-time favourite books?
The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller is my all-time favourite. The intense connection between Francesca and Robert Kincaid took my breath away and still does.
Who, or what, inspires you?
I’m inspired by the people I am closest to, my family and my close friends. I use a lot of what goes on in our lives to inspire my writing. I’m inspired by stories of hope, stories of survival. I love the underdog.
Where is your favourite place to write?
Snuggled up in bed. I’ve tried to be bohemian and trendy and take my laptop to hipster cafes to write, but I am just too distractable and get nothing done. I need to be tucked up in bed, late at night, hubby snoring peacefully next to me and that’s where I do my best work.
What is your favourite movie that was based on a book?
Renee Zellweger made me fall in love with Bridget Jones even more so than when I read the book. Watching her squeeze into nanna sized knickers and make blue food was cinematic gold.
Name two of your favourite authors.
That’s easy Maeve Binchy and Marian Keyes. I love these two Irish ladies so much!
Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I am completely obsessed with the Real Housewives of Beverley Hills. My heart goes aflutter every time any one of them tweets anything!
Who would play you in the movie about your life?
I would love Nia Vardalos to play me. Out of everyone in Hollywood, she reminds me the most of myself.
Tell us an interesting fact about where you live.
I live on the north coast in Perth, Western Australia. Every evening we have the privilege of watching the world’s most amazing sunset over the Indian Ocean.
What are your (writing) plans for the future?
I’m just about to get cracking on my second novel. Hopefully the ideas flow freely and I have more books in me.
Tell us one thing that's on your bucket list.
To eat a lamb souvlaki on the balcony overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in a beautiful villa on the Greek Island of Santorini.
Favourite myth / fairytale?
Cinderella – I mean really, is there even any competition?
Who/What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I wanted to be an actress, a writer, a doctor, a teacher, you name it. More than anything though, even when I was very young, I wanted to grow up get married and become a mum.
Chocolate or cheese?
Chocolate any day of the week. If I have another child I am naming them Cadbury.
What was your road to publication like?
It was a long and windy road with many speed humps and detours!
I wrote Love at First Flight in a week. Six years later it was published. In the meantime it was rejected by all twenty-two literary agents in Australia who represented commercial women’s fiction writers. Every last one of them.
After opening the front door to find my manuscript sitting on the porch in the reply paid envelope I had provided for the last remaining agent, I slid the manuscript under the spare bed, dusted myself off and forgot I had written a book. The submission process to agents had been exhausting and soul destroying. I couldn’t face beginning the submission process again with publishing houses. I figured I was in with a slim with to none chance with a publisher anyway if none of the agents wanted it. I was done.
“I’ll self publish it one day when I’m rich,” I thought. “I’ll give a copy to my mum and to my kids. The end.”
Then along came an email. It was from literary agent Jacinta Di Mase. Jacinta had considered Love at First Flight two years earlier before deciding she didn’t want it. I was particularly devastated when Jacinta had initially rejected the book, because I was convinced she would take it. It was just this really strong gut feeling that I had a connection with her and she would be my agent. In the end, my gut was right (always trust your gut!)
Jacinta emailed me in 2013 and it went something like this, “Hey, I still have that book of yours in my mind even though it’s been a couple of years since I read it. So, did you sell it yet? And if not, are you prepared to make some pretty big changes I want done so that I believe in it enough to go in and bat for you with publishers?”
Excuse me, what? YES I would be prepared to make changes!
So I started re-writing and this re-write was huge. A year later, in April 2014, I was ready to resubmit it to Jacinta. I hit send on the email and the next day headed off to Europe for the trip of a life-time with hubby and kids in tow and tried to put it out of my mind. If Jacinta wanted it, great, if not, I would self-publish it one day and sign the inside cover for my mum.
Four weeks later, we were in Cornwall on our “book tour of the UK”. We were visiting places based on books we loved. Cornwall was my choice because of my love of The Shellseekers by Rosamunde Pilcher which was set there. We had arrived the night before from London (where we did all things Harry Potter). I checked emails from home and wow! Jacinta loved the new version and she had already started the rounds of publishers. That this happened the day I was living out a long held dream to go shell-seeking just like a favourite character from a book was pure magic.
Fast forward eight months of nail-biting, finger crossing, acquisitions meetings where it was rejected at the last minute, editors loving it and then not loving it and then loving it again before deciding no they really didn’t love it after all and then along came an editor who believed in my writing and was passionate enough to stand by the story until it had full approval from everyone in her publishing team. And that was Anna Valdinger at HarperCollins. Oh how I love her! So I finally had a contract. With an April 2015 release, this is just over six years since I sat down and put pen to paper.
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