Author Interview: Colleen Oakley Shares Her Hardest Scene And Straightforward Advice For Writers

Before I Go paperbackToday we’re celebrating the paperback launch of Colleen Oakley’s BEFORE I GO. And before I go on — let me tell you that Colleen has four (coughFOURcough) little kids. And by little I mean two of them are twins. And they’re babies. So when you say or hear someone say (and by say I mean whine) “I don’t have time to write,” tell them about Colleen. Tell them you (and she) have the same 24 hour days that they do. Then tell them to read BEFORE I GO to see what can be accomplished.

Below you’ll learn about a paperback vs. a hardcover launch, Colleen’s favorite and hardest scene to write, and her straightforward advice for writers. 

Please welcome Colleen to WFW!

Amy xo

Author Colleen Oakley Shares What Readers Have Taught Her About Her Own Book 

Before I Go paperbackAmy: Congratulations on the paperback launch of BEFORE I GO! Can you explain the process a bit and how it differs from your hardback and initial launch of BEFORE I GO? 

Colleen: Thank you! The main difference between the hardback launch, which was back in January and the paperback launch (July 14) is that the paperback is a much quieter affair. It got a new cover, which was fun, but there were no big launch parties or tours or major media attention — which on the one hand I missed  — the hardback launch was so much fun! But on the other hand, it was also kind of exhausting, so it was nice to just enjoy the day of the paperback launch in my pajamas, sending out a few Tweets and playing board games with my kids.

Amy: Your covers are slightly different. How do you feel about the change and what do you think it will mean for the book? 

Colleen: At first, I was taken aback by the shockingly bright colors! I was so used to the subdued hardback cover. But, after staring at it for an afternoon (I left it open on my desktop and looked at it every time I passed my computer), it really grew on me. So many paperbacks get completely different covers, and I was glad mine didn’t change that much, because I love, love, love the flower and what it signifies. But I hope the new bright colors will stand out on the bookshelf and say to would-be buyers: “Pick me! Pick me! I’m the perfect summer read!”

Amy: We learn so much through the publishing process. What’s one thing you’re telling readers (like us) about BEFORE I GO now, that you didn’t when it first launched? Or—vice versa! What aren’t you saying that you said before? ;-)

Colleen: This is a hard question, because I’m kind of an open book (forgive the pun) — I’m happy to tell anyone, anything they want to know! What I’ve loved since the publication of the book is what I’ve learned from readers. I’ve heard from so many people who have pointed out symbolism they’ve discovered (that I didn’t even realize I put in!), or learned something about themselves or their relationships with others— one reader was even prompted to get a breast cancer screening while reading my book and discovered she had it! (Fortunately, it was caught at an early stage and she has a good prognosis). But that’s been my favorite part so far — the interaction with the incredibly supportive and enthusiastic readers.

Amy: Now, let’s get to the story. Without any spoilers, what do you recall as the hardest scene or chapter for you to write? 

Colleen: It was definitely the scene where Daisy gets diagnosed with the recurrence of breast cancer. First, it was very important that I got the medical terminology and dialogue right— I wanted it to be very true to life in how a doctor would speak to his patient and scientifically accurate, so I spent a lot of time with an amazing and generous radiation oncologist in Atlanta. And then, I wanted to avoid any Hollywood clichés, which was tough because cancer diagnosis scenes in movies are a dime a dozen. I spent a lot of time writing and rewriting that scene, so when someone tells me how moving it was or that they were right there with Daisy when she was getting the diagnosis, I can’t help but be proud and excited by that.

Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?

Colleen: Just do it! I’ve met so many women at book clubs who tell me they have a story idea or a book they want to write, but they’re afraid they aren’t good enough or don’t know how to do it right. To that, I  always say: “Congratulations. You’re a writer!” That’s the big secret — all of us are terrified what we’re writing isn’t good enough. But if you can push through that fear every day and get the words on the page, eventually you have a book. And then you edit the heck out of it, and you have a better book. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint, but there’s no one right way to do it. And that’s the beauty of it.

colleen2Colleen Oakley is the author of BEFORE I GO, a love story. She’s also a failed triathlete, a margarita enthusiast and a mom to four children. Yes, FOUR. Yes, she’s as shocked about this as anyone. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, the aforementioned kids and the world’s biggest lapdog. As you read this, she is most likely yawning and drinking coffee and putting a child in timeout.

A WFW Book Review: My Very Best Friend by Cathy Lamb

cathy lamb mvbfToday is the book birthday for Cathy Lamb’s latest novel MY VERY BEST FRIEND. It’s Cathy’s ninth book, and had me turning the pages late into the night. And if you know me, that’s no small feat. I’m an early-to-bed kinda gal.

Sometimes I have an idea what a book is about before I start reading, sometimes not. Even when I do, my expectations of story seem to vanish on page one as I allow the author to do his or her (oh, who are we kidding, usually HER) job.

That’s definitely the case with MY VERY BEST FRIEND.

I was whisked away to the Oregon and the life of Charlotte Mackintosh, a romance writer who has no romance in her life. She’s an odd duck, to say the least, which made her completely endearing. Charlotte is also generous and kind and while she hadn’t traveled in years, she sets off to Scotland to sell her parents’ old cottage, where she lived until she was about twelve. The story takes us then to Scotland–and that’s where the whirlwind begins!

Cathy is a master at pacing. I sometimes felt like I couldn’t keep up with how fast I wanted to read. I’m not sure that makes sense but so much is happening I wanted to take it all in. There’s friendship, heartache, mystery, romance, and some real growth by Charlotte, and all the other characters, by the end of the book.

I read a review somewhere (I am sorry not to attribute its author, but I am not searching for one line in one review!) that said something like the reader learned something new on every page.

SHE LEARNED SOMETHING NEW ON EVERY PAGE.

And there you have it, folks. Always share something new with your reader. What the characters are doing, saying, wanting, needing. Who they’re being, where they’re going, how they’re failing or succeeding.

I’ve read stacks of writing books and interpreted them in a way that benefits my own writing and in ways I believe I’ve helped others. I’ve taken scores of workshops, gotten pages of feedback, and analyzed my own work and others. But this is one of the most helpful thing I’ve ever read. Take it straight to your writer’s heart and leave it there. And read MY VERY BEST FRIEND to see how it’s done.

I think MY VERY BEST FRIEND is, indeed, a prime example of keeping a reader on the edge of her seat in a book that’s not a thriller. It’s women’s fiction with a generous dollop of romance. It’s happy, it’s sad (oh so very), it’s funny, it’s complex (but easy to follow), and it’s also whimsical. I picked up this book when I had time to read and when I should have been doing other things.

What can I say, my friends? Cathy Lamb has done it again.

Amy xo

Lots of ways to buy MY VERY BEST FRIEND right—> here.

Guest Post: Author Claire Dyer On Managing Multiple Points Of View In Your Novel

TPA ebookI’m a one POV writer. At least so far. I love multi-POV novels but it’s not something I’ve tackled in my own book-writing journey. Today, author Claire Dyer shares with us some thoughts on writing a novel with multiple points of view. What are your thoughts? How do you do it? Do you stay far away from it? In the past, I’ve used short stories to experiment with POV and different literary devices and techniques. When I was reading Claire’s post I remembered I’d had a short story published that used two points of view…and I went back and read it. It was published a year before The Glass Wives (May 2013) — and I’ll be honest, it took me about a year and a half to find it a home! (So yes, I’ve always been persistent) ;-) Here’s a link if you want to read Minding Joe

But first — share your many thoughts on managing multiple points of view in the comments. 

And please welcome Claire Dyer to WFW!

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Author Laura McNeill’s 11 Tips For Writing Domestic Suspense

Center of Gravity 2It’s summer and domestic suspense is HOT! What makes me want a guest post about domestic suspense on WFW? Because many of these novels today feature women as their protagonists, and when you read Laura McNeill’s post, you’ll see how the advice transcends any strict genre lines you (we!) may have conjured up in our heads. I mean, who doesn’t want some suspense in any novel? If all the answers are right there, why bother turning the page?  My favorite bit of advice below is #7—Make Things Worse, because that’s the hardest part for me and I know how important it is.  Which piece of writing advice speaks to you? Please tell us in the comments! And most importantly, today is pub day for Laura’s CENTER OF GRAVITY!!! Congratulations, Laura!!

Amy xo

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Curiosity Might Just Kill The Author

 

If you’re a writer putting your work out there for others to read, at some point you’ll hear the advice: Do not read your reviews. Oh, you’ll do it anyway, at least for a while, but those bad reviews can sting. Well, at least when they’re coherent they can.

Bad reviews also sting because writers have feelings. (This seems to be a missing cog in some reviewers’ wheels.)

If we didn’t have feelings, we wouldn’t be able to write anything worth reading. We internalize what we read and what we see. That’s how we have enough mishegas—craziness—in our heads to need to GET IT OUT onto paper. For others to read. And review. Apparently so that we have more to internalize. Because we internalize what we read. (See a pattern emerging?)

And that’s what brings me to this next bit of advice that no one ever shared with me. I’m giving you this to your straight to save you all some heartache and to save you a trip to the reflecting pond. Because you know we all go there anyway. No need for extra travel.

Do not read the long bios of other authors.

I did this so you don’t have to.

Have a great time reading the short snappy ones on the back of the book, but back away from the long ones. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones tucked away or maybe even highlighted online that outline a lifetimes of degrees, travels, accomplishments, and diseases cured. Or the ones that detail the scuba diving prowess, the years digging wells in underprivileged countries, the Fortune 500 job ditched when a novel written on weekends hit it big.

Until I fell down the online rabbit hole of author bios, I’d really considered writing the great equalizer of my life. You write, I write, we have something in common. That’s all we need. Writing is an intense gig, writers can talk about a paragraph for hours.

But, for some reason, these compacted lives just toppled me. Had fact that I’d not done any of those important things tipped the scales in someone else’s favor? What else had I missed out on? I didn’t have time replant forests and living in a hut or in Dubai was not an option. I started raising kids in 1992. But some of these authors have also raised children (although my daughter assures me there is no way these people have friends).

I insisted to myself I am the only published author in the universe without a master’s degree in something. Had everyone been required to join the peace corp or save dolphins or spearhead urban gardening initiatives? And why didn’t I get the memo?

In those few moments of hazed uncertainty I was sure that while I was following my ex around the country while he followed his dream everyone else was intentionally padding their future curricula vitae for a website they didn’t even know would exist—when it never even occurred to me to do anything but what I was doing simply for the sake of doing it.

Where was everyone else who did nothing?*

While some of my everyday and everything friends are writers, I don’t know too much about most of my writer friends other than their writing, and the tidbits they share on social media. Cute kids and sports. Cute kids and school. Cute kids and awards. Inspirational quote. Pedicures (which I hate). Vacations. Food.

Is it better that way? Keep Writerland Clean? Is that our motto? Writerland is the place I belong. With a few exceptions, it’s my favorite place.

When I took a breath and a step back (which required assistance), I realized that none of the things I read about on any of these bios are things I wished I had done. Ever. Not one. None of them interested me, they just impressed me. And there’s a difference.

Your path, my path, his path, her path. It doesn’t matter how we differ as writers, what matters is what makes us the same. That’s the secret sauce for the writing life. That it is a great equalizer. (So go! Climb your mountain! Sail your seas! I’ll be right here when you get back!) And all that good stuff is exactly what I remembered after letting off some of my under-achieving steam with the help of a wonderful writer friend. One with a Ph.D.

But we didn’t talk about that.

Amy xo

* I am fully aware I did not spend my life doing nothing. I am proud of the kids I raised, the person I am, the things I’ve done. But now I have to go dig a well in my backyard for underprivileged suburban bunnies. Cya. 

Author Interview: Kelli Estes Talks About Her Debut Novel: The Girl Who Wrote In Silk

TGWWISFinalCoverAfter emailing and interviewing debut author Kelli Estes, I’m confident in saying, YOU’RE GOING TO LOVE HER. The description of her book will give you the chills, her publishing journey will inspire you, and her advice will ring true. 

At least that’s what happened to me!

Please welcome Kelli Estes to WFW!

Amy xo

Debut Author Kelli Estes Talks About Her Debut Novel: The Girls Who Wrote In Silk

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A WFW Book Review: Sweet Forgiveness by Lori Nelson Spielman

If you’ve read Sweet Forgiveness by Lori Nelson Spielman, it won’t come as a surprise to you that I loved the book. Now, let’s not get all caught up in the fact that Lori and I are friends, because if I didn’t love it I would not, under any circumstance, say that I did. I also wouldn’t have blurbed the book or be writing about it here. I would say nothing at all because that’s how I roll.

Here’s my blurb:

“Filled with warmth and humor, Lori Nelson Spielman’s SWEET FORGIVENESS is a novel about family that will make you rethink everything you know about forgiveness and love. Lori Nelson Spielman is an insightful storyteller who captures your heart and keeps you turning the pages.”

I’m not partial to book reviews that summarize — so I’ll tell you why I loved Sweet Forgiveness and let you read the story yourself.

Sweet Forgiveness introduces us to its main character, Hannah Farr, who’s a talk show host dating the city’s mayor, we think she’s got a pretty good life, until Lori skillfully reveals how perfect isn’t always perfect underneath. And, while I grew sympathetic for Hannah and wanted all things to go right for her, I learned she has secrets, and not very nice ones. So while she sets off on a journey to figure out her past and find forgiveness, as a reader I struggled with the fact that I was rooting for someone who might not be all that likable all the time.

Which means Lori did a great job with Hannah Farr!

Just recently I’ve read a few Facebook posts and threads about unlikable characters, and commented that readers are sometimes surprised that the unlikable factor is INTENTIONAL. That authors want to make their readers bristle sometimes, that we want readers to question the choices and decisions of the characters. That writers don’t just throw down a story, that many of us want to make readers think. Even if just a little bit.

That’s the core of Sweet Forgiveness — yes, there is a great hook with “Forgiveness Stones” that become all the rage. But beyond that is the question of what’s forgivable? Who’s forgivable? And is it more important that someone else forgives you or that you forgive yourself?

And, woven into the seriousness of this tale is a lot of lighthearted and romantic themes as well. I love a story that allows me to breathe. Sometimes at least. Part of Sweet Forgiveness that I enjoyed the most was that I wasn’t always worried about Hannah (I get quite involved with characters and stories), that sometimes I was given the chance to just enjoy her.

On another note, this book is personal for me because years ago, on a girlfriend getaway in Michigan, Lori and I sat in our B&B and late at night, Lori said, “I have this idea for a story about these Forgiveness Stones…”

And now it’s a book. And my friend is a bestselling author. Cool, right? Even cooler because I loved the end result. And get to share it with all of you.

Amy xo

Lori Nelson Spielman is the author of The Life List. A former speech pathologist and guidance counselor, she currently works as a home-bound teacher for inner-city students. Lori enjoys running, traveling, and reading, though writing is her passion. She and her husband live in East Lansing, Michigan.

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