Thursday, April 17, 2014

Our Interrupted Fairy Tale Book Review & Interview with Megan Williams

Our Interrupted Fairytale is the story of Megan Williams and Chad Warren's great love. As it starts out, the two seem like an unlikely pair. Megan is only 16 years old when they first meet and Chad is ten years older and Chad has a rare, deadly form of cancer. Their paths keep crossing until, finally, they get together, but it is never an easy road. Instead it is paved with uncertainties, with walls that have been built up by the fact that Chad knows he is a "grenade" (to blatently steal from The Fault In Our Stars). He knows that his cancer could hurt Megan badly and also doesn't want to get hurt himself by disappointment if things don't work out... but the two find comfort in each other on the difficult journey, finding that you can't help but be hurt in this life though you do get to choose who hurts you (okay, again, stealing from The Fault in Our Stars! I can't help it, these two novels are so relateable and I read them in such close procession!).

I first heard of this story while flipping through the local Province paper while sitting in a restaurant having breakfast. I hate to admit that I was a bit of a criminal, but I ripped the story out and preceeded to carry it around in my purse before I finally bought the novel and devoured it. It was one of those books that after hearing about it, I just couldn't get it out of my mind. I know I was meant to read it.
Initially I was drawn to this story because Megan Williams is a local Vancouver writer and this story seemed different to me than a typical love story. Their love struggled to survive against so many obstacles and I needed to know how it ended.  Additionally, I am a huge fan of true stories. Sometimes they are just more astounding and heartbreaking and inspirational than anything we can make up in our minds.

What I loved most about this book was how the narration just felt like your best friend telling you this story whilst you were lying on the bed with munchies and boxes of tissues surrounding you (trust me, you'll need them). The style of the book is almost conversational and I really felt an immediate connection with the characters, both Megan and Chad. I get the distinct impression, especially after talking to Megan herself, that she tried to keep things as true to life as possible, including the good, the bad, and the ugly in the story. Both characters have flaws which are brought to life by the difficult circumstances they encounter, without them they wouldn't have learned so much or held each other so close.

I love that you get to see both Megan and Chad's perspectives in the novel. You get a true sense of both of their voices through the emails and letters that are included. To hear more about, Megan's writing style, continue on to our interview with her. She goes into more detail on the whys and hows of Our Interrupted Fairy Tale.

I also loved (finally!) reading a story where I know the locale... I can imagine the places they were going because I've been there myself... the long drive to the airport, the hospital, the Vancouver scenery... it just added a whole depth of realism to the story that I'm sure others can relate to when reading books set in their hometowns.

But now, on to the interview with Megan, who talks about her story and writing in her own words!


Last Thursday Cate and I had the opportunity to talk to Megan Williams, author of Our Interrupted Fairy Tale. Although we had planned to meet in person, illness kept us apart, and we (after figuring out our technical difficulties!) met on Skype instead. 

I cannot stress how friendly, kind, and down-to-Earth Megan was! We both really enjoyed talking to her, not just about her writing, but about life in general. If you get the chance to meet her at her many book events, you will have a wonderful time. She has one of those sunny personalities that just make you smile!

The first part of the interview started off a bit like Megan was interviewing us, we were both so nervous and excited to meet her! 

(Also, don't get confused between Megan (the author!) and Meg (from Polkadots Blog). I tried to colour code it so it would be less confusing. 

Megan: So you guys found the article from the Province did you?

Cate: Yeah she did! Meg: Yeah I did!

Meg: I was like, I have to read this book!

Megan: Have both of you read the book or just one of you?

Cate/Meg: We both have!

Megan: Right on! So what did you guys think?

Meg: I really liked it! Cate: I really liked it too.

Meg: I read it so fast. I just.. I just couldn't put it down honestly! I was reading [pretending she's holding up a book)] and my boyfriend was like "Come watch a movie!" and I was like [holds her hand up like a stop sign] "I can't! I just gotta go [read]!"

Cate: It was like something... you can read it really fast and you want to read it [that way] because it's written in that way where it's a story that's like a friend is telling you it, so I wanted to know what's going on.

Megan: Good. Cause everybody has said, if there's one consistant piece of feedback that's come from the book, it's like "I couldn't put it down" or "I read it really quickly" which I know I should be flattered by, but I'm like it took me like two fucking years to write this! [much laughter] You're rushing it in four hours! I'm with it like it's Shakespearean or something.

Cate: But it's like one of those things that you don't want to put down because you just want to know what happens.

Megan: I haven't found a book like that lately! So I'm kind of jealous.

Cate: It kind of almost feels like I don't know if I should know about this struggle... it's hard to go through. And it kind of feels like your reading someone's secret personal struggle. 

Meg: I felt like it was my best friend, telling me a story.

Cate: Exactly.

Meg: Like you [looks at Cate], almost [laughter].

So speaking of, on the topic, it was a lot of really personal stuff... did you ever feel weird talking about your personal life so openly? And now a whole lot of people know those details?

Megan:  I didn't really think about it in the beginning, but it wasn't until I started writing, like I was writing some of the sex scenes and stuff and I was like, I don't even think this is going to get in the book so it's fine and I'll just keep writing it. And finally there was some stuff that got in there and then I was like... then I handed it off to my mom. I was like "please omit page 63" [much laughter]. And then my dad read it and I'm like "oh, okay." But then my editor was like, when the copy came back, can you please put in some more details because we want to feel the reconnection that you guys have and all that, so I don't know, putting in the more intimate stuff was a little bit challenging, I guess, but not in a way, like it's a real story so I'm not going to censor that either. I'm not going to write a porn, but that's a part of a real relationship.

Cate: Were there any things that you had to keep private to yourself? That there were just some moments that were between me and Chad and I don't want to share that with anyone?

Megan: Good question, the first draft has all of that in there. I just made a point to write down as much as I could and I knew that would never make it into the final version, but I feel pretty good that it's somewhere. I do have a list of things that I wrote down somewhere, things he used to call me and stuff that we used to do together...

Cate: Meggles!

Megan: Yeah like more notes, but the one part that I wasn't so sure about including, but I knew I had to was about the baseball guy in New York because I'm not really happy that that happened. But I also know that that's what happened and it was a turning point for me, but I also knew it was a bit exploiting to have done that, so.  Yeah, my boyfriend now is like, "You want to put your cheating in there?" and I'm like "Oooh, I didn't think it was cheating at the time".

Meg: The good and the bad, everything happens.

Megan: Yeah and like, Chad is very flawed in the story and I am as well and that's just kind of how real life is I guess.

Cate: Yeah, exactly, and I think it's relatable that way as well, because I feel like not everyone is totally good and not everyone is totally bad and you can make a choice that you think may not be the greatest choice or even if you don't even think about it, you still make choices and it's important to show that.

Megan: Yes and different circumstances will prompt us to do different things right. My friends, when I was telling them the same thing, like I'm really hesitant to put this baseball thing in there, and they were like "Well to be honest when we were with you, we knew how bad things were for you, so we never thought that this was a really awful thing you were doing, it was just a circumstance where the roles have switched so much that you don't even know where you are anymore."

Cate: What made you decide to write a book? Was writing something that you always wanted to do? or it was it because...

Meg: Of this particular story?

Megan: Well I knew that Chad had talked about writing a story at some point and it could have been for fundraising or just, we talked about it really loosely and then it was after he died actually that I was taking out a garbage bag in our apartment and in the bottom of it I found one of his diaries from when he was first diagnosed, one of his earlier diaries, and I didn't even think to look for a diary though I knew he had had one, but I just didn't think. So I flip through to the back of the diary and I saw that he had said "Publish this book when the time is right".

Meg: It's like a sign.

Megan: So I kind of just, that was like the tip that I needed a little bit. Then we had already had the blogs going, his and her and all that kind of stuff and people were like, "you should write a book" but everybody says that when they are enjoying reading your stuff, but you don't realize how hard that is or if it's ever going to be a good book. Oh yeah yeah, I should write a book, but then when I saw that it kind of became a project I was interested in, I guess.

Meg: Do you have any plans to continue writing other books besides this story?

Megan: Ummm, I think so, now, I'm starting to think about it again. I'm not sure what, exactly, but I do miss writing. It's tough because I'm so busy in the evenings and when I'm not working, trying to get, doing stuff with the book, but I also miss the writing a little bit. So, I'm not sure, I haven't figured out what the plan is for that, but I think it's the future.

Meg: You self-published your book, right? How was that? Because that seems like a scary thing to me!

Megan: Yeah it's been pretty crazy because mostly I had a publishing house that was interested in it in the spring of last year and then it wasn't ready, it was too long. And it just wasnt something that their house was interested in taking on, but once they said no. She said you need to take another look at it and look at reediting it and stuff. So when you look for a publisher the whole process is like, you apply and then you wait three months to hear a yes or a no, and then you reapply to different places, so at this point my book is done and I'm tired of editing it, I don't want to pitch it anymore. I also realized that, I did some research to try and figure out what it was I wanted to accomplish with the book and I really just wanted it to be out there and I didn't, the success that it's had as of now, I didn't anticipate this. I just wanted the book to be done, so then I decided that self-publishing was probably the way to go. As a result I was also able to hire a really senior editor, because you pay for services so I ended up getting this really senior woman to do it and she actually made it into the book it is now. I can't say that if I had really gone to a publisher, if the quality of the editing would have been the same, it could have been someone else who's 25 and stating their writing career off, so yeah, as far as learning of the self-publishing, I mean, I don't know anything, I don't know anyone who's really written a book, except for my editor, so, that was, like literally every phone call I learned something new.

Cate: I imagine to go with such a personal book, about such a personal story, to a publisher, and publishers are so critical 

Meg: and ruthless

Cate: and ruthless, yeah, it would be hard to have, I don't know how you did it, but for me if I had such a personal story, about someone who I loved so much, who's not here, to hear someone criticize my story, like, it's your story, it's not something that you made up, even something you made up would be hard to take criticism, but it's your life. It would be hard.

Megan: You're bang on with that because ... another thing I realized when doing all is that publishers can just say, "we really liked the story", but one, they can just take it and not do anything with it for a few years, or two, we really like it but we think your character would be more interesting if it was a different kind of cancer or if you were set on mars with tales and they can do all that, right and because I can't be any more interesting than I am right now, and I can't change what happend with Chad, so I don't want to a publishing house to come through and do all of that."

Meg: What made you decide to incorporate all the letters and emails and stuff instead of just writing it as a narrative?

Megan: Good question, mostly just because I wanted Chad's words to just be Chad's words and I didn't want to share a story for him. He was a good enough writer and he left so much stuff there that is just made sense, plus the idea came from, we had those blogs, the original blogs were like him writing and me writing so it seemed... come to think of it, I never really thought of doing it as a narrative.

Cate: What's your process like for you writing? Like do you wake up in the morning and start writing? How do you get into that mindset?

Megan: I met a bestselling author from a bus to New York to DC the year Chad died and I had mentioned to him that I was interested in writing a book and he's like "well, keep in touch, I'm an author" blah blah blah so I wrote him on Facebook when I was deciding I was going to start this in 2012... I don't know what to do, how do I write a book, what is the process and he was like, "you just have to write a thousand words a day until your done"... soooo I did!

and that was a really good process because you end up filing in so many details that you wouldn't otherwise if you were trying to focus in really carefully on your timeline or on character development because you can just ramble for a thousand words, but a lot of stuff comes out that way, like details that I wouldn't have otherwise included, so that was really good advice. So I think now, if I were to go back I would just do the same thing. Some days I would wake up in the morning and knock out 500 words and come back after work and try to do the other, and sometimes it would be in one sitting. And other times I would be like, "YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME, THAT'S SO MANY WORDS IN A DAY and there's nothing exciting happening". 

Cate: What's something that you really want the readers to take away from your story, from Chad's story?

Megan: I would like them to know Chad. My friend said it really well, he said "you know now that the book's done, Chad is going to outlive us all now because people know about him who never got the chance to meet him and people will remember different things and stories touch us differently so, but the important part is that one, maybe some awareness will be brought to the cancer that he had, but the other is that people get to know him, and I think lastly, if people can know that the fight will always be worth it, then maybe that's a good thing that they can take away, but I don't really like to feel very lectury about, you know, this is all the greatness that you're going to learn from the book. [laughter]

We can't even put into words how awesome it was to talk to Megan about her incredible story and journey. She was so wonderful and welcoming and made us feel like professional interviewers (which, let's face it, we aren't).

We encourage you all to go check out Megan's book. You can get it here:

At Amazon

At Chapters !ndigo

P.S. Before you go, don't forget to enter our Spring Beauty Giveaway RIGHT HERE. It ends on May 4th, so get those entries in.

- Cate & Meg 

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