The Fantastic Five

Crowd-surfing and writing a novel have one thing in common — you need a lot of support. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Crowd-surfing and writing a novel have one thing in common — you need a lot of support. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

This week on the Ball, we’re sharing the five people who made our book possible. Since there are roughly 4,798,560,972 people who made my book possible, whittling it down is about as easy a task as trying to fit into my high school Abercrombie jeans (which would likely require baby lotion, garden shears, duct tape, and a heavy-duty liposuction machine). In other words, impossible.

So, because I’m limited to five, I’m going to leave out the usual suspects — my husband, my mom, my agent, my editor. Obviously without their love and support (my hubs and mom) and talent and hard work (my agent and editor), my book would not be where it is today.

But there are also a handful of lesser-known behind-the-scenes players that all had a big hand in making BEFORE I GO. And here they are, in no particular order.

1. Rich Barber. My first agent and good friend, Rich Barber has been my publishing mentor and drinking buddy since we met in 2004. Although, we weren’t able to sell my first book together (not for lack of trying!), without his unwavering enthusiasm (that became exponentially more enthusiastic, the more bottles of wine we consumed), I never would have truly believed that writing a book and getting it published was a goal within my grasp.

Not only did I make her read every word of my novel as I wrote it, but I also made her do a triathlon with me. I'm a terrible sister.
Not only did I make her read every word of my novel as I wrote it, but I also made her do a triathlon with me. I’m a terrible sister.

2. My sister, Megan. Every chapter I wrote went straight to my sister’s email inbox and she diligently read them all (sometimes at 3 a.m.) and offered encouragement, invaluable feedback and stopped me from throwing away the book when I became convinced that the first 50,000 words I had written were tragically unsalvageable. She’s kind of my therapist and first editor rolled into one. And best of all, she’s free, because she’s my sister and doesn’t have a choice. Hahahahahahaha.

3. Dr. Chad Levitt. An amazing radiation oncologist in Atlanta, Dr. Levitt took time out of his very long work days to meet me in his office for hours and walk me though cancer diagnoses, terminology and treatments out of the goodness of his very big heart. He also answered an annoying amount of emails as I was writing the book to confirm (or gently correct) any questions I had about my character’s illness. If I am ever diagnosed with breast cancer, he is the first person I would call. If he hasn’t blocked my number.

4. & 5. My nannies. When I started writing BEFORE I GO, I had just given birth to my second child. My first, Henry, was two years old, and I was essentially a stay-at-home mom with a full-time job (freelance writing for magazines) that I could only do on the nights and weekends when my husband was home. I knew I would never finish my novel that way, so we scraped some money together and hired two amazing women (and friends), Mary Rundle and Blair Hight, to come entertain my kids for a few hours every week — in between their other jobs and crazy schedules. They were flexible, always on time, enthusiastic— and I’m pretty sure my kids liked them better than me. But hearing my kids giggle and knowing they were being loved on, while I clacked away at my computer during those few stolen hours per week helped soothe my guilt— and certainly enabled me to focus on my writing.

 

 

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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 colleenoakley.com.

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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 colleenoakley.com.

4 Replies to “The Fantastic Five”

  1. Def including a line dedicated to Kavya and Shaiyar’s school in my acknowledgments.

    BTW, I still have some really old Abercrombie jeans stashed somewhere, in my fantasy maybe-one-day pile. I should toss ’em!

  2. I’m always amazed at how willing people are to share their expertise with us crazy writers. That seems to be a magic word to get people to open up. And it’s always nice to have an amazing doctor in your list of go to people!

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