Deb Colleen Oakley Takes Over The Guest Chair + GIVEAWAY of BEFORE I GO

book coverI’m in the cushy red chair today! (To be honest, it’s not as comfortable as it looks — but maybe that’s because I’m 7 months pregnant with twins. Nothing is comfortable.) Anyway, I’m THRILLED to be taking the Deb interview today. I found out about The Debutante Ball about four years ago and jealously/admiringly lurked, watching as other writers took the step that I only dreamed about — publishing their first novel. And now, here I am! It’s surreal, and very exciting, and if you are currently the lurking aspiring novelist that I was, let this be a message to you — DON’T GIVE UP! This could be you before you know it.

Now, let’s do this.

BEFORE I GO has been described as “heart-wrenching” and a “tearjerker”— what are three books that have made you cry?

I’m not a big crier in general (although I have become a bit more emotional since having kids), but there are so many books that have started the waterworks for me! Three that stick in my memory because they made me ugly cry are: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Marley & Me by John Grogan and A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

But your book isn’t just sad — Publisher’s Weekly described it as having a “liberal dose of gallows humor.” What are three of your favorite funny books?

That’s easy: Where’d You Go Bernadette? By Maria Semple, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson and everything ever written by Dave Barry

Do you have a regular first reader?  If so, who is it and why that person?

I do — my sister Megan. I typically wouldn’t recommend people to choose a friend or family member as their go-to critique person as most of the time they’re too biased and are just going to tell you what you what you want to hear — but my sister doesn’t care about my feelings. Just kidding! She does, but she really is no-holds barred and spot-on in her assessment of my WIPs. She’s a big reader and whip smart and she’s who I write for —meaning, as I’m writing, I keep her mind thinking: Is Megan going to laugh at this part? Cry here? Will she like this character? Hate him? I trust her opinion infinitely.

What’s your secret or not-so-secret superpower?

This is a strange one — I can perfectly hang pictures, the very first time, with just a hammer and nails — no measuring, no level, just eyeing it. My husband even begrudgingly admits that it’s pretty amazing.

What is your advice for aspiring writers?

Read, write, repeat. And don’t worry if you hate everything you write — that just means you’re doing it right.

GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by Noon (EST) on Friday, January 16th to enter to win a copy of BEFORE I GO. Follow The Debutante Ball on Facebook and Twitter for extra entries—just mention that you did so in your comments. We’ll choose and contact the winner on Friday. Good luck!

About Colleen: 

colleen2Colleen Oakley’s articles, essays, and interviews have been featured in The New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Marie Claire, Women’s Health, Redbook and Martha Stewart Weddings. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, two painfully cute kids and a huge lapdog named Bailey. BEFORE I GO is her debut novel. For more info, go to her website, like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Author: Colleen Oakley

Colleen Oakley is the author of BEFORE I GO (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, Jan. 2015), a love story. A former editor for Marie Claire and Women's Health & Fitness, she's now an Atlanta-based freelance writer. Find out more at

21 Replies to “Deb Colleen Oakley Takes Over The Guest Chair + GIVEAWAY of BEFORE I GO”

  1. I’m a writing “lurker” and although I’d love to be in your place next year, it is only the author part – no thanks on the 7 months pregnant with twins! 😉 Although congrats to you, how exciting! My “baby” is almost 31, so that would throw my writing time into a whole new wrench if I had twins now!
    Your book sounds so interesting and I always like to hear how authors got their ideas. I’ve done the same thing with my husband… “if something happens to me, you can date so-and-so, or go on, blah, blah, blah!” He just rolls his eyes and says he’ll be gone long before me.
    Best wishes to you for two more healthy babies and an extra ten hours in each of your days so you have time to write another great novel!
    I’ve been following Debutante Ball for a long time now (some of the previous members are in WFWA with me) – I follow on FB and twitter.
    Again, congratulations on the birth of your novel, and your upcoming twins birth!

  2. I am another lurker who drinks down all the “write write write” advice but am having a heck of a time fitting it in. It’s not a time issue, it’s a headspace issue. Okay, it’s also “I dislike most of what I write” issue. I’ll figure it out — and your thoughts here help. (So great to hear that this is normal.) Thank you.

    I am looking forward to reading your book! I have put a hold on it at my local library (that okay to say?) and am gratified to see that there are already multiple holds. Word is getting out! Congratulations.

    And best wishes to you on your upcoming kidlets. I have two myself (11 yrs apart tho) and they are *so much fun* (the vast majority of the time) (but fun isn’t everything, right?).

    Best wishes,
    Terry R.

    1. Thank you Terry! And thank you for reserving at the library — very exciting to hear there are multiple holds! Good luck with your writing— you are definitely not alone with the challenges you face. Look forward to reading your book one day!

  3. Can I borrow you to hang pictures in MY home, because I suffer the exact opposite when it comes to my “hanging” skills! Wow – I didn’t realize you were pregnant with twins AND debuting all around the same time. Holy roller coaster ride!

    As you know, Colleen, I’m so interested/excited to read your book. And yep, I follow you lovely ladies on Twitter.

    PS Thanks — got Vanessa and Her Sister today! 😉

    1. Thank you Melissa! And yes— I’ll come hang pictures in your house, if you come hold my babies for me when they get here and let me sleep. Fair trade? 🙂 I’m reading Vanessa & Her Sister now, so we can have a book club when you’re done. Thanks again for your support!

  4. This book sounds riveting! I like the Deb Ball page on Facebook and follow you on Twitter. My fingers and toes are crossed! Thanks for the chance! 🙂

  5. I am DYING to read Before I Go. The book sounds absolutely heartbreaking yet wonderful at the same time. I am also in love with the cover.

  6. I’d love to win this book. I’ve been seeing it everywhere. I already “liked” your FB page and follow on Twitter (@sharn3960).


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