Leslie O'Sullivan | Interview
What do onion and cheese pie, Outlander, and happily ever after have in common?
Here with me today is author Leslie O’Sullivan, writer of lighthearted contemporary and paranormal romance. Her latest book, Hot Set, book one in the Behind the Scenes series, releases today! This romantic comedy is set in Ireland, and is guaranteed to capture hearts.
Welcome Leslie! Thank you for coming to this little chat and congratulations on your new release! Tell me a little bit about where you came up with the idea for Hot Set.
This book is a perfect storm of my love of Ireland, my experiences working in TV, and a courageous, heart wrenching social media post Sam Heughan, star of the Outlander TV show, shared about the challenges and sometimes negative repercussions of being in the public eye.
When Gilly Bettencourt, a U.S. catalog copywriter, lands a writing gig on an Outlander-esque period TV drama set in Ireland, she must keep her relationship with its star, Jack O’Leary, the most-Googled man on the planet, a secret to preserve his public status as an available heartthrob.
You had me at “Outlander-esque period TV drama” LOL. Tell us about yourself. What inspired you to become a writer?
I have always been a voracious consumer of stories, a “reading under the covers with a flashlight” kind of gal. That coupled with my tendency toward being a control freak led me to create narratives where I could be the puppeteer pulling all the strings. I spent years as a theatrical designer and find that skill translates well to painting a story with words.
Very cool. Thinking about your new release, which of your characters do you love to hate?
I love to hate Meg McGrath, the head of P.R. for “The Chieftain’s Son” the Outlander-esque fictional TV show in the book. She’s painted as a villain because she’s hyper focused on forcing the main couple, Jack and Gilly, apart in order to maintain Jack’s public image as an available heartthrob. Meg’s just doing her job, but her rigid forward momentum prevents her from adopting a more compassionate approach to the sensitive issue. I loved her dynamic so much and wanted to explore her “why” further, so she earned a place as the main character in book two, Press Release, in the series.
I love when secondary characters make you write about them. So, where in Ireland does your book take place and why did you choose this particular setting?
Hot Set takes place in County Kerry, on and around the famous Ring Of Kerry, a breathtaking route around a southwestern Irish peninsula. Much of the action is set at a somewhat secret production complex where “The Chieftain’s Son” is filmed. I love the idea of an epic period romance drama being created in a hush hush location where cast and crew coexist in their own little private nest. I find Ireland a stunningly beautiful place and the perfect backdrop for falling in love.
It's on my bucket list of places to go! What drew you to writing romance?
I love the way romance challenges an author to pair up unique and often oppositional personalities, throw torturous roadblocks in their way, then maneuver them past those obstacles to find the path to love. It’s like playing a cool strategy game without a controller. I’m a big ball of mush for a happily ever after or a happy for now.
You and me both! What are your favorite tropes and themes to play with in your work?
Friends/colleagues-to-lovers, second-chance romance, and celebrity crush are my favs. The theme closest to my heart is that when you find the love of your life, it strengthens and celebrates the person you are.
Perfect! What writer quirk do you have that will make people raise their eyebrows?
I always do a read aloud before I submit to my editor, where I play all my characters, including voices and accents.
That’s fantastic! Switching gears…as a child, what did you want to be when you grew up and how is that working out for you so far?
I wanted to be a Lost Kid in Neverland. I’m still waiting for Peter Pan to come knocking at my window. I believe I’m immature enough for him not to reject me solely based on age.
LOL. That’s great. If your latest release was a food truck, what would it be called and what kind of food would it serve?
The food truck would be called: Cheese and Onion Pie. It would exclusively serve freshly baked, gooey-delicious cheese and onion pie. Beverages would include Guinness on tap, ginger and lemongrass tea (iced and hot), and Pear Hard Cider.
I want one with the Pear Hard Cider, please! Are there any words of wisdom you want to share with new writers?
This may be an old chestnut but…never give up. Overnight successes are mostly the stuff of myth. Don’t lose sight of the joy you feel in writing stories even when there are bumps and bruises along the way.
Very strong advice. What are you working on right now? Does it connect to your new release?
I’m deep in editing land with the follow up to Hot Set, Press Release, book two of the Behind the Scenes series of off-camera romances (Spring 2023), along with Wild Azure Waves, book three of the Rockin’ Fairy Tales series (Feb. 2023) of adult romantasy, Shakespeare/Fairy Tale mashups.
Those both sound excellent. Where can readers interact with you or find out more?
Thank you for chatting with me today! Let’s leave some links here so readers can find your newest release and give them a taste of what to expect.
When we finish our tenth hole, I point to the retreating figure of our elusive teammate. “How do we know Secret Agent Jay is being honest with his golf score?”
Doolin and Bobby let loose twin explosive laughs.
Doolin lays a fatherly arm over my shoulders and flicks a finger in Jay’s direction. “You’re looking at the most honest man in Ireland. That one there’s got integrity tattooed on his bum.”
I smile at Doolin. “Just no people skills?”
We catch up to Jay two holes later. In an unspoken pact, we give him exclusive rights to the tee box. He begins his requisite three practice swings. Oh, God. That backswing, that hitch at the top. What the man could accomplish if he’d just add fluidity to his swing.
At the apex of his third backswing, I knock my head against the steering wheel of the cart and groan. “I can’t watch anymore.”
Bobby, who’s selecting a club from his bag saunters over to me. “What?”
I turn my back on the tee. “Jay’s backswing. He’s got this funky hitch at the top that totally kills his momentum. If he wasn’t all muscle, his ball wouldn’t get any distance.”
The voice behind me is not Doolin. Oh, crap. Jay heard me. Slowly, I turn toward him. He’s so tall he bends quite a way to peer into the golf cart. I get an extreme close-up of the muscles bulging under his baseball jersey. His build isn’t gross like weightlifters in TV competitions. Jay’s body is solid and formed in a way that would make a sculptor weep with joy to have him as a model. Before my gawking becomes embarrassing, he slides into the seat next to me and pulls off his baseball cap. His hair lump, now free from elastic, cascades in golden waves to his shoulders. Man bun down. Who is this guy? Freakin’ Achilles?
“What would you have me do?”
His Irish accent is as lyrical as Doolin’s is crusty. The strong chin is just a tease of a man so gorgeous God could have retired after creating this guy. From high, broad cheekbones, his face tapers gracefully down to that dimple. Along his jawline are three identical, tiny moles right in a row. I want to touch them and count one, two, three. Jay’s lips are the color of a blush and full enough to be inviting, but not so big as to produce sloppy kisses. I am staring. I want to stare more.