Tuesday, September 9, 2014

2014 Author Bash: Author Interview with Colleen Oakes plus Giveaway

Genre:Women's Fiction, Contemporary
June 24th 2014
Published By:  Spark Press
WebsiteColleen Oakes

Elly In Love Goodreads

                                     Where to get:


The much anticipated sequel to the bestselling novel, Elly in Bloom, is finally here!

Curvy wedding florist Elly Jordan has had quite a year. First, she had to design her ex-husband’s wedding to the mistress who split them up, and then she broke up with the hottest musician this side of St. Louis. Three months have passed since then, and now Elly is primed for what promises to be the best wedding season of her life.

Helped by her loyal friends, Elly is on the verge of opening a chic flower boutique uptown when BlissBride, a popular wedding reality show, asks her to design the wedding of a famous—make that infamous--celebrity. Elly is about to get everything she’s ever wanted, when a stranger shows up at her store with a request that changes every aspect of her life--including her budding relationship with deli owner Keith. As she struggles to stay calm in the midst of growing chaos, Elly will learn the true meaning of love and sacrifice.

Filled with the heart, humor, and horticulture that made Elly in Bloom a bestseller, Elly in Love welcomes readers back to Elly’s big, beautiful, and messy life

I'm excited to welcome Colleen Oakes to Bookish today. I fell in love with her writing in Elly In Bloom and I'm excited to have her here today.

When and why did you begin writing?

I always wanted to be a writer – in fact, in 4th grade I declared to my parents that I was going to write books. Being a novelist was always in my mind, but I had things to do, like graduate from college, get married, learn about wine, you know- important things. In 2007, I was living in St. Louis, working at an insanely busy florist part-time while my husband was attending the seminary. One night, after working quite late, I was driving home and the idea for Elly in Bloom (my first novel) occurred to me. That night I sat down and wrote the opening chapter, and the writer that always nestled under my heart came bursting out in a gloried, insane frenzy.

I could no more hold in the writing, even though my circumstances to be a writer weren’t ideal at the time. The thing is - they never are. You have to sort of let it out, and then just bask in the freedom of it.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think pretty recently I had a moment where I stepped back and went “Whoa. This career is truly happening.” I was out celebrating the release of Elly in Love with a friend at a Mexican restaurant downtown. (All book releases should be celebrated with margaritas, yes?). To kill some time before visiting our second stop of the night, we stopped by the Tattered Cover bookstore, which is a Denver institution. I was wondering around the YA section, and I thought to myself “Someday, I’ll see my book here, on these shelves.” Then I turned to leave and just happened to catch a small glimpse of the Queen of Hearts cover on a “Featured YA” shelf. Then I proceeded to lose my cool for a good ten minutes. I think that was the moment where what I’m doing finally seemed cemented in reality.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I’ve always been a voracious reader, and I admired the power of books to take you into another world, another place and another life. To be an escape for someone – aside from a few admirable professions, I cannot think of another job where so much wondrous interaction with a stranger is possible. I was inspired by the books I read at the time that I wrote Elly in Bloom, and the people around me. Also, you see so many utterly insane things happen in the wedding industry that eventually you have to write about it.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I would say that my writing style is descriptive and plot-driven, with a love for natural beauty woven deep into the storylines of both of my series. The Elly in Bloom series spreads its love for weddings, plus-size girls and tongue-in-cheek humor over a bed of flowers. The Queen of Hearts saga takes that passion and puts it into a completely different world and a narrator who has bloody scary temper.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I wrote Queen of Hearts because I wanted to see more from my fairy tale princesses - I wanted to see darkness and bravery, sacrifice and consequences, brutality and grace – all in one character. I think that is what makes my book different, and the message that I want readers to grasp: there will be consequences. Just because she is a teenage heroine does not mean she will not suffer the natural results of her actions. Every reader should have the expectations that their characters should have many dimensions to their character; light and dark, good and evil.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

My husband teases me all the time that I am Dinah, my main protagonist in Queen of Hearts. When I get mad - say, when I drop a grocery bag, or hit my knee on a wall - I just rage at that inanimate object. When I'm feeling out of control, I do have thoughts like "I wish I could burn this city to the ground!" He jokes about making me a tiny city so that I can tromp through it like Godzilla. My temper is fleeting and humorous at best, but I do have that fury inside of me that rises up at the worst of times and washes over me. I hate feeling out of control of my emotions, and I think both of my characters - Dinah and Elly - struggle with that. I think all humans struggle with that. Luckily, I have everything I need in my life to turn away from any violent rage effects, whereas Dinah has nothing, and turns towards it.

What books have most influenced your life?

The Westing Game was the first complex novel that I ever read, and after that I felt that the world of reading and writing had burst wide open for me. As a teenager, I remember being profoundly affected by both The Giver and A Separate Peace. In college, it was the Harry Potter series and Jane Eyre. In my more recent writing, I’ve found myself very inspired by George R.R Martin, Ann Patchett and Audrey Niffenegger.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Stephen King’s On Writing is the best book on writing, hands down, and his thoughts on the subject, as well as the way that he communicates with his readers have been very nurturing to how I have built my own writing career. I also have a writing partner named Mason Torall who always encourages me to be the best writer I can be and helps takes my novels to a new level.

What book are you reading now?

I just finished The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K Rowling) and leapt into two other
books: Stone and Spring by Brittany Tuttle and The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn. On deck: Bella Cora and Come Rain, Come Shine.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

This year has been great for fresh voices, don’t you think? Pierce Brown, Rosamund Hodge, Emily Gould, Ava Delleria, M.A Carey, and Emily Kiebel have all written amazing debut novels. I’m in awe of their talent.

What are your current projects?

Currently I am working on another YA series called Wendy Darling, a Peter Pan retelling. I can tell you that writing Wendy has been a completely different experience than writing The Queen of Hearts. One is a stick of dynamite and the other is a calm sea. Wendy's story is important because I think there are so many important ideas floating around Neverland regarding women and their place in that world. We will touch on some interesting things there: memory, abuse, loyalty, family, lust. Like Queen of Hearts, I think Neverland will be a very different place than you remember in that series. Aside from Wendy Darling, I’m also working on the final book in the Elly in Bloom series, Elly Inspired.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Distraction is a constant battle. I have a one year old son, so I need to be very diligent about how I spent my time away from him. This pressure, combined with publishing deadlines, sometimes makes me want to reach for a Starbucks and Pinterest. (Love Pinterest. So very much.) I sometimes can disappear down the research rabbit hole that so many writers struggle with, but my little owl-shaped timer helps that struggle very much.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Audrey Niffenegger is probably my favorite current writer. Her books and work are just creative, inspired and bold. She doesn't write for a certain audience, she writes for the story, and she has inspired me to stick to plot line and characters arcs that at times felt a bit reckless. Her books encourage me to take risks and be imaginative. Our world has so little imagination at play these days, and books that find the extraordinary in the ordinary are very rare.

Who designed the covers?

My extraordinary covers were the work of Julie Metz at Sparkpress. The photography used for Elly in Love, for example, came from the wedding shoot that I participated in as a florist back in 2010. The Elly series are lushly designed and the light perfectly captures that Southern glimmer that is a party of Ellys past. The Queen covers are incredible. Not only do they stand out in the very competitive YA category, but they are lovely and brutal at the same time. Look at the way the thorns and the white roses (later painted red?) creepy suitably towards Dinah. That’s not an accident.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

I think the initial outline of a book can be very frustrating. You don’t have that flow yet, you don’t know what your characters will be like when you get to that point. Still, outlining for me is a necessary evil, and I think any beginning writer can get easily lost in their own words without a pretty strict outline. You can always deviate, but you can’t build a bridge when you are in the middle of it.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

For writing, I have two favorite quotes that I use for motivation. The first is "Hold the vision, trust the process." I repeat this to myself daily, even when it feels like I am writing really slowly. The other quote is from Stephen King: "If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all else: read a lot and write a lot." My advice to struggling writers would be to do the work, and the novel will create itself. Secondly, read every minute you can. You will find so much innovative thinking in the pages of other people’s novels.

Thank you so much for your time!


Win one free signed paperback copy of "Elly in Love" 

Open to US residents only

Starts: 9/09/2014


a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

Colleen Oakes is the author of the Elly in Bloom Series and the Queen of Hearts Saga, both published via Sparkpress. She lives in North Denver with her husband and son. When not writing, Colleen enjoys swimming, traveling, and immersing herself in nerdy pop culture. She is currently at work on the last Elly novel and another YA fantasy series called Wendy Darling.

You can visit her webpage at: www.colleenoakes.net or at her very lengthy and sometimes embarrassingly personal blog, The Ranunculus Adventures:
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