By Leslie Lindsay
A unique premise featuring love, grief, fate, dreams, and more, YOU WERE THERE TOO is an emotional roller-coaster filled with twists and turns that will leave you breathless.
This is my first novel from Colleen Oakley and she takes all the elements I love in women’s fiction—fate, free-will, happenstance, and relationships—and melds them into a cohesive whole. YOU WERE THERE TOO (Berkley, Jan 7th 2020), is a stunning story delving into the intricacies of human relationships, dreams, and dispels the myth of ‘happily ever after.’ Maybe we are happy after all, but on what terms? And who’s to decide?
Mia’s life is pretty perfect. She’s an artist and married to a physician husband. They’re new to a small town where everyone knows everyone else (I love this small-town vibe and this comes through in many of the books I read). But still, Mia is restless. Something is missing. She’s struggled to have a baby for a while now, and looking into other options. But that’s not her only dream. She’s also having nightly dreams featuring a stranger she’s never met. He’s a recurring figure who has plagued her dreams for years. Who is he and why is she dreaming about him?
And then she meets the exact man she’s been dreaming about. In her small town. She becomes a bit obsessed. It’s too much of a coincidence. And then this man reveals he’s had dreams about her, too.
Together, Mia and this man embark on a fact-finding mission about how they may have known one another, delving deep into dream research. Maybe they met one another before and forgot? Maybe he’s the man she’s destined to be with? I enjoyed this piece of the story because I absolutely dreams fascinating.
YOU WERE THERE TOO is captivating and multilayered and will touch on the rawest of emotions—there’s grief and loss, twists and turns, medical drama, and more. Ultimately, I think YOU WERE THERE TOO is about marriage, how we choose one another (our partners) over and over again, despite the obstacles, and a bit about fate.
Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Colleen Oakley to the author interview series:
I always feel we are compelled—or haunted into—writing a certain story. What propelled you?
This is so true—and this book all started with an article I was writing for WebMD magazine a few years ago about sleep. As I was researching, I fell down one of those rabbit holes on the Internet, where I stumbled upon a study about dream telepathy—the more-common-than-you-would-think phenomenon of two people sharing the same dream. A few experts in the scientific community had agreed that there were so many anecdotes of peoples experiencing this, that it must be a real thing, though they had no explanation for why or how it occurred. I was fascinated! And I couldn’t stop thinking about it. What does it mean? Why does it happen? I knew I had to find out. So I turned it into a novel.
Can you tell us more about this concept of dream telepathy? What research did you uncover and have you ever experienced something similar? Are you a vivid dreamer?
Dream telepathy is typically something that happens to people who know each other really well—best friends, siblings, husband and wife. But on the good ol’ Internet there are hundreds of crazy stories about people who dreamt of someone and then met that person in real life—and sometimes, yes, it was the person they ended up marrying! I thought those were fascinating, but then of course you have to wonder: did they really dream about that person? Or was it merely a coincidence or what they wanted to believe? For instance, there were so many people who dreamt about the World Trade Towers falling in the weeks leading up to 9/11, but didn’t necessarily understand that’s what they were dreaming of until after the fact. So is that really what they were dreaming about, or is it all about perspective? I find all of this stuff so fascinating. I have never experienced dream telepathy myself, but I’ve always been a vivid dreamer. And once I dreamt about a high school friend I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years—and she was pregnant in my dream. Two days later my mom called me and said off-handedly that she had heard my friend was pregnant! So, obviously I’m psychic. Ha!
I typically read at the end of the day, and sometimes fall asleep while reading. I know <gasp>! Those dreams are often a combination of what I was just reading and something I’m writing. Do you ever get ideas this way? Do dreams inform your writing?
I’ve never had a dream that informed my writing (I wish it worked that way for me, as I feel like it would all be a lot less agonizing). But, like you, I do also fall asleep while reading and then continue what’s happening in the book in my mind. It’s such a strange experience!
In terms of characters, there are several in YOU WERE THERE TOO, all with different needs and wants. Some readers may be rooting for “Team Mia,” or “Team Harrison,” or “Team Oliver.” There are other, secondary characters, too. Is there one character you felt a particular affinity toward? One you might be most aligned with?
I love all the characters in this book so much, but I think Mia probably resonates the most with me in her struggle with her career because in artistic endeavors it’s so difficult to define success. Of course, in America, success often boils down to how much money you make, but is that really what makes an artist successful? That some arbitrary person has deemed your art to have a monetary value? I relate to that so much as a writer and enjoyed exploring Mia’s struggle in defining herself and her career—and what success looks like in our society, both inwardly and outwardly.
“Hypnotically beautiful, You Were There Too delves into the chasm between the life we have and the life we imagine for ourselves. Unique, lyrical and thoughtful.”
—New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins
How do you challenge yourself as a writer?
I love coming up with these really outlandish ideas—a woman is allergic to people! Two strangers have been dreaming about each other and then meet in real life!—and then the challenge is to make them solidly believable. It’s so hard and takes a LOT of drafts and rewriting and editing, but so rewarding when I feel like I’ve really nailed it.
What are you working on next? And what two books can you not stop talking about?
My next book THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLAND is about a young widow living on a tiny remote island, who is in such disbelief about her husband’s death, that she lives her life as if he’s still there, right beside her every day. And the people in the town, not quite sure what to do, decide to go along with her. That is, until a stranger comes out to the island—and starts to wonder why and how everyone is talking to a man who does not exist. It is due to come out in 2021.
Colleen, this has been so fascinating. Thank you, thank you for taking the time. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?
I think you covered it all! Thank you for such a fun interview!
Artistic cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Please follow onInstagram@leslielindsay1
For more information, to connect with Colleen Oakley via social media, or to purchase a copy of YOU WERE THERE TOO, please see:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Colleen Oakley is the author of two previous novels, Close Enough to Touch and Before I Go, which were named best books by People, Us Weekly, Library Journal and Real Simple, and both were long-listed for the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize. Oakley is also the former senior editor of Marie Claire and editor in chief of Women’s Health & Fitness. Her articles, essays and interviews have been featured in the New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Marie Claire, Women’s Health, Redbook, Parade and Martha Stewart Weddings. She lives in Georgia with her husband, four kids and the world’s biggest lapdog.
You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:
- Facebook: LeslieLindsayWriter
- Twitter: @LeslieLindsay1
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @LeslieLindsay1
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[Cover and author image courtesy of Berkley Publishing and used with permission. Artistic cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Please follow onInstagram@leslielindsay1].