Monday, April 1, 2013

Guest Post: Colleen Oakes

Thanks for stopping by for my second tour stop for Elly In Bloom by Colleen Oakes. Before I started reading the novel (which I loved, by the way, and you can check out my review here), I knew there were some similarities between main character Elly and author Colleen. When it came time to suggest a post topic, I was curious to find out how Colleen found the balance between writing an autobiographical novel and a novel that happens to have a heroine with a few of the same characteristics she did. I love love love the post Colleen sent to me and I hope you do too!

At my book release party, my Dad approached my best friend Kim and asked her a hilarious question.  “Are you Kim?” he asked.  “Yes, that is my name.”  “No, I mean…are you Kim? Like in the book?”  She laughed. “Well, I’m not Elly!”  
My Dad smiled. “Well, of course not! Isn’t that my daughter?”
Often times, when you are the author of fiction, you can find yourself bordering the line between your own life and the bright, shiny lives of your own characters.  While I’m not sure this problem happens to the writers of say, science fiction (Am I am alien today? Nope, still me.), it can absolutely happen to writers who tread a little more in real life and a little less on the fantastical sphere.  Like say, if you used to be a chubby floral designer in St. Louis, and now you’re a chubby novelist writing a novel about a chubby floral designer in St. Louis.
Elly, my main character, is absolutely an embodiment of my own heart, my own insecurities, and a colorful collage of several extraordinary women in my life.  Her struggles with weight, food and men is very personal to me. She’s not a carbon copy in any sense of the word, but those fears that she overcomes are all something that I, or those I know, have conquered in their own life. As I wrote the book, there were times when I had to remind myself “That is what you would do, but it’s not necessarily what Elly would do.”  While Elly carries my heart within her pages and has a slew of issues that we share, there are also some key differences that kept me from falling head first into her life.  I luckily, have never found my husband tangled up in bed with a redhead.  I’m blessed to be married to an amazing man who is faithful and caring.  I do not have a weakness for artists, though I do have a weakness for beautiful things, be it a beach or a cute dress.  Elly has experienced the death of her mother, where I was lucky enough to treat mine to a movie this afternoon.  However, both Ellyn and I have a deep love for flowers and floral design. We both prefer hot chocolate over coffee, and we both tend to fall clumsily into the worst possible situation.  We can both be awkward, quick tempered and easily intimidated. And we’re both not entirely confident in dressing ourselves.
Finally, writing someone like yourself can be liberating, as if your typewriter suddenly took on the form of a therapist.  Writing someone like yourself can also be terrible, a revealing of your worst traits.  Walking the line between fiction and real life is at best a tightrope.  Veer too close to your character and you’re writing a very revealing autobiography. Veer too far and you are out of touch with the emotional heart of your story. 
They key is to keep a firm grasp on reality, while letting your rich characters play free in your imagination.  If you love them, you cannot make them into yourself. It’s a disservice to them, and to your story. 
And if you can’t do it alone, find someone to remind you. And then name a character after them.

About the Author
Colleen Oakes is a passionate Colorado native who really enjoys living in other places. She attended college in Bronxville, NY where she received her degree in Creative Writing. After college, she opened up a successful wedding florist before the writing urge came knocking. Now she is a night owl who does most of her writing in pajamas. When not drowsily hitting the keys, Colleen enjoys swimming, reading, and immersing herself in nerdy pop culture. Elly in Bloom debuted in September, 2012 via Amazon Publishing. She now lives with her husband in North Denver, where they are awaiting their first child through adoption. Colleen blogs about life (good, bad, and awkward) pretty frequently over at The Ranunculus Adventures. ( She is currently at work on the sequel to Elly in Bloom.

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1 comment:

Thanks for stopping by Books Etc.!