Hello there! Today is the day we celebrate LOVE, and if you’re a follower of my blog, you know I recently read and was blown away by You Were There Too by Colleen Oakley, a deeply moving and unexpected story about love, grief, and “what if”s. Well, I have a special treat for you today! In honor of Valentine’s Day, I got the opportunity to interview Colleen Oakley to learn more about her book and what went into writing it. Read on to see what she had to say, and then go check out You Were There Too–you won’t regret it! (You’ll find author and book information at the end.) Thank you so much to Berkley for giving me this great opportunity! Also, go give my bookstagram account a follow later today–I’ll be posting a giveaway of this amazing book over there!
Q: What are the central themes in You Were There Too?
I think there are a lot of themes in this book, but the overarching one is probably fate vs. free will— and more specifically, why people are in our lives; does everything happen for a reason or is life just a series of random chaotic events?
Q: I’ve read this book and it has a lot of complicated ideas and themes running through it, all brilliantly handled in my opinion! Would you consider this book to be a “love story”? Why or why not?
Thank you! And yes, I like to say I write “unconventional love stories”, so they don’t necessarily follow your typical romantic tropes and they don’t always end with a happily ever after, but I do think my books end on a note of hope— a “hope-ily ever after” of sorts. I also like to surprise readers, so the love story you think you might be getting when you start the book is not always the one that you get. This book, in particular, explores marriage once all the bright and shiny has worn off, and the going gets a little tough. What happens when you really love someone, but your commitment is tested—and you wonder if perhaps there’s a better fit for you out there? I enjoy digging into the gray areas of love, because rarely in life are relationships black and white, especially after you’ve been with someone for many years.
Q: Who is your favorite character in this book?
Gah! That’s really hard. I like them all for different reasons (which is totally a cop-out answer, but it’s true!) [Note from me: That’s okay, I also don’t think I can pick a favorite character. They are all very likable and *real*.]
Q: Do you prefer books with happy endings or not? Why?
I like satisfying endings—endings that fit the tone of the book. So sometimes that means a super happy ending, where everything is tied up in a bow and sometimes that means a bit of a messier ending that more closely resembles real life.
Q: Do you have any recurring dreams and did they in any way influence your writing of this book?
I do! I’ve always been a very vivid dreamer, which is why the premise of this book so fully grabbed me and I knew I HAD to write it. My most recent recurring nightmare is that I’m pregnant, which doesn’t sound like much of a nightmare, except that I have four children (ages 9, 7 and 5-year-old twins) and though I love them very much, the idea of having a fifth (or 6th and 7th- sometimes it’s twins or triplets in the dream!) gives me cold sweats.
Q: What are you reading right now?
DEAR EDWARD by Ann Napolitano. It’s so beautiful and rightfully deserves all the acclaim. I’m also finishing ALL THE WAYS WE SAID GOODBYE by Karen White, Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig. I love their books, both individually and as a team. And I have one chapter left of ON EARTH WE’RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS by Ocean Vuong, which sneaks up on you, because it’s so plain speaking, but also lyrical and profoundly sad.
Q: I love listening to music when I write. If you do too, can you tell us what you were listening to when you wrote You Were There Too?
I listened to a lot of Sam Smith, James Bay, Leon Bridges, Mumford & Sons and a few different movie soundtracks (I love the Lala Land soundtrack especially).
About the Author
Colleen Oakley is the critically acclaimed author of Before I Go, Close Enough to Touch and the forthcoming You Were There Too. Colleen’s novels have been longlisted for the Southern Book Prize twice and shortlisted for the French Reader’s Prize. Her books have been translated into 18 languages, optioned for film and have received numerous accolades including:
*Indie Next List Pick Jan 2015 and March 2017
*People magazine Best New Book
*Us Weekly “Must” Pick
*Romantic Times Top Pick
*Library Journal Big Fiction Debut
*Publisher’s Lunch Buzz Books
*In Touch Weekly: Grade A
*Pop Sugar’s Books We Can’t Wait to Read
*Real Simple’s Best Books List
*Bookbub’s 12 New Books to Read If You Love Jodi Picoult
A former magazine editor for Marie Claire and Women’s Health & Fitness, Colleen’s articles and essays have been featured in The New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Women’s Health, Redbook, Parade, Woman’s Day, Fitness, Health, Marie Claire and Martha Stewart Weddings. A proud graduate of the University of Georgia’s school of journalism, Colleen currently lives in Atlanta with her husband, four kids and the world’s biggest lapdog, Bailey. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.
More About the Book
Title: You Were There Too (Amazon, Goodreads)
Author: Colleen Oakley
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Rating: 5 / 5 stars
Acclaimed author Colleen Oakley delivers a heart-wrenching and unforgettable love story about a woman who must choose between the man she loves and the man fate has chosen for her, in a novel that reminds us that the best life is one led by the heart.
Mia Graydon’s life looks picket-fence perfect; she has the house, her loving husband, and dreams of starting a family. But she has other dreams too—unexplained, recurring ones starring the same man. Still, she doesn’t think much of it, until a relocation to small-town Pennsylvania brings her face to face with the stranger she has been dreaming about for years. And this man harbors a jaw-dropping secret of his own—he’s been dreaming of her too.
Determined to understand, Mia and this not-so-stranger search for answers. But when diving into their pasts begins to unravel her life in the present, Mia emerges with a single question—what if?