Atlanta author Colleen Oakley wins hearts with first novel ‘Before I Go’
This article was originally published in the Jan./Feb. print issue of The Atlantan. Written by Kirsten Ott.
The looming threat of mortality is inescapable in our lives, but most of us can shrug off thoughts about it. But for Daisy, a witty Athens, Ga., graduate student who is lucky enough to have found lasting, meaningful love early in life is also painfully unlucky enough to have twice developed cancer before she turns 30. The protagonist for debut author Atlanta author Colleen Oakley’s novel Before I Go (Jan. 6, 2015, Simon & Schuster) is faced with a heartbreaking challenge when she learns that her breast cancer has returned, it’s in stage four, and she will not survive the year. Daisy’s husband, Jack, is a devoted guy with terrible life skills when it comes to pulling together the four basic food groups into an assemblage of a healthy meal, and unsurprisingly, Daisy’s more concerned about Jack’s future than she is her own. Putting his needs before her own health, Daisy starts looking for a replacement wife for him before she makes Jack a widow, employing her best friend Kayleigh to scout out potential suitors for her husband on dating sites and in coffee shops. Naturally, hilarity and hijinks ensue.
Oakley expertly woos readers into Daisy and Jack’s love story with well-woven story arcs and characters you can root for. Her career as a former magazine editor and current freelance magazine journalist make Oakley a natural narrator, and it was one particular subject who sparked the creative juices for this book. “The inspiration for Before I Go hit when I got an assignment from an editor to interview a woman who was dying of metastasized breast cancer. It was a powerful interview for many reasons, but what struck me the hardest was the fact that she was around my age — late 20s at the time — so I couldn’t help but put myself in her shoes. I was a newlywed, and it surprised me that my first thought wasn’t ‘what would I do if I was dying?’ but ‘what would my husband do?’”
KO: What have you learned from this experience of writing (and publishing) your first book?
CO: “I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that I can actually do it. Writing a book is one of those things that I always vaguely said I’d do — like becoming fluent in Italian and moving to Capri — but I’m not sure I ever really believed I could. You type that first sentence, or first page, and realize you still have 300+ pages to go. It seems impossible. But then there’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when you write those two little words: “The end.” I imagine it’s a lot like running one of those ultra 100-mile marathons, but with less sweat and blisters. (Probably the same amount of cursing though.)”
BEFORE I GO LAUNCH PARTY
Benefitting Susan G. Komen for the Cure
WHEN: Jan. 6, 2015, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
WHERE: Room & Board, 1170 Howell Mill Road NW
COST: Free; raffle tickets and book available for purchase at event