Today 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!
Author Colleen Oakley Shares What Readers Have Taught Her About Her Own Book
Amy: 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.
Colleen 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.