Thursday, 12 November 2015

Q & A with Tegan Wren

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

1.    Did you always dream of being a writer?

Oh, yes. Reading and writing have always been important to me, and I trace my love of writing back to elementary school. Starting in third grade, I wrote pamphlets, a play, poems, and several short stories. My teachers selected me to join a special creative writing group in middle school. I did some journaling in high school, loved writing essays that analysed literature (nerd alert!), and I became a little more serious about writing poetry. In college, I studied journalism and creative writing. I wrote quite a few short stories and won second place in a campus-wide creative writing competition at the University of Missouri. But after I graduated, I set aside my dreams of writing fiction to focus on honing my journalism skills. It’s been only in the last three years that I’ve returned to my fiction-writing roots.

Looking back on my journey as a writer, I know it was my love of reading that drove me to create my own stories. Books are magical. They transport me so completely. When I was in middle school, quite possibly one of the most trying eras for any young person, I relied heavily on books to help me escape the drama and craziness of those years. I worked in the school’s library and called dibs on all the new works of fiction. That was when the need to read became such a big part of my DNA.

So, to be a writer and create something that moves people as much as books move me? Well, it doesn’t get any better than that.

2.    Your debut novel INCONCEIVABLE! will be published this month, what is it about?

INCONCEIVABLE! tells the story of Hatty, an American, who falls in love with Prince John. He’s heir to the throne of Toulene, a small fictional country in Europe. (I “borrowed” some land from Belgium and The Netherlands to create Toulene. Shh! Don’t tell them!)

The first part of the book follows the ups and downs of their courtship. Hatty’s a straight-talking gal from the Missouri Ozarks so she’s both fascinating and challenging to John, who’s not used to being around people who are so direct.

The second part of the book explores how their relationship evolves when they’re confronting the pain of infertility. As a royal couple, Hatty and John are expected to produce heirs. The mounting pressure from the royal family and the tabloids adds another layer of sadness to the couple’s private heartbreak. However, they eventually find their happily ever after, and I think it’s quite a lovely and fitting end for this royal pair.

3.    What was your inspiration for the book?

My husband, Patrick, and I experienced infertility for years before we became parents through adoption. One of the worst parts was feeling alone. Even though family and friends said nice things to us, few people really understood the pain we were feeling. Given the isolation we experienced, I decided to write a novel that addresses infertility on hopes of letting others in similar situations know they’re not alone. There are plenty of non-fiction books about this medical struggle, but it’s often not tackled as a main theme in romantic fiction.

As I was thinking about how to write a novel dealing with infertility, I decided to use a royal couple to frame the story. This was the around the time Britain’s Prince William married Kate Middleton. (This couple makes me SWOON!) Once I hit on this royal idea, I wrote the first scene sitting in a Starbucks listening to some great music. That section, which I thought at the time was the opening to my book, became what’s now called John’s Epilogue.

It’s very important to me that readers going through infertility read this book and come away from it thinking, ‘I’m not the only one.’ But it’s also very critical that people who’ve never experienced infertility finish this book with a much deeper understanding of the profound impact this struggle has on people.

4.    Can you tell us more about the main character(s)?

The story’s told in first person through Hatty’s voice. She’s an only child who grew up in the Missouri Ozarks where the importance of faith, family, and hard work were engrained in her. Like many wonderful Ozarks folks I know, she has a habit of being very direct. She also has a great sense of humor. That’s definitely one aspect of her personality that catches the prince’s attention. We see Hatty grow through the book and come into her own as she navigates some very challenging situations. Showing a character’s growth was essential to me because I’ve experienced how falling in love and going through infertility shapes and changes you.

John is kind, well-mannered, and--to quote Hatty--a hottie prince. His mother died when he was nine years old, and that had a profound impact on his life. He’s very protective of his mother’s memory, and does his best to honor her in the way he conducts himself. He completes his Ph.D. in environmental studies because he’s very committed to preserving his country’s natural resources. Did I mention he’s really handsome? Because it’s the hair. He’s got some amazing man hair.

Henri, John’s younger brother, is a bit brash and more impulsive than John. When Henri gets himself into a sticky situation, it creates some serious angst for John and Hatty. Eventually, he and Hatty develop a close friendship, and he becomes the brother Hatty always wanted. Henri is quite endearing, actually.

Our beloved Tilda is Hatty’s closest confidante. Originally from Kenya, Tilda and her parents moved to Toulene when Tilda was young. She’s smart and, like Hatty, rather direct when she speaks to people. Tilda and Hatty share the same sense of humor, which I think is something that makes their relationship work. When you find someone who laughs at the same things you do, you know there’s potential for a cool friendship.

The Queen of Toulene has dreams of moving her country forward. However, she’s also a bit tired in the saddle. She’s reigned longer than any other Toulenian monarch. The Queen is shrewd, and places duty to country above all other obligations and commitments. She’s even willing to sacrifice relationships to do what she thinks is best for Toulene.

5.    Where and when do you write your stories?

It might be better to ask where I don’t write my stories. I write everywhere… in my (parked) car, at the park, in my bedroom, on my porch, the waiting room at the doctor’s office. I write whenever and wherever I have the opportunity. Most days, I have my laptop with me in the car because I never know when an opportunity to write will present itself. I want to be ready! I have the longest stretches of time to write in the late evening when my kids and husband are asleep. I tend to stay up quite late, especially if I’m on a roll writing a particular scene.

6.    What do you do and enjoy when you’re not writing?

I love to play with my children, watch movies (I’m a HUGE movie buff), read, eat (I’m a serious foodie), exercise (because of the whole foodie thing), travel, and play the piano. I also work part-time in marketing.

7.    Can you tell us a little about your road to being a published author?

I finished my book in the summer of 2014. I gave it to an editor right away who had some wonderful suggestions. I integrated his feedback and began querying agents. Like a lot of writers, I stumbled with my first few attempts at putting together a decent query letter. Through contests generously organized by more experienced authors, several high-profile agents requested my manuscript. They all had very complimentary things to say, but ultimately declined to represent me. The primary hang-up was that my book doesn’t fit in the traditional romance genre “box.” My characters face a major hurdle after what should be their happily ever after. I chose to write my book this way because that’s how infertility happens in real life. You marry your prince and instead of savouring your happily ever after, you’re injecting yourself with hormones in a public restroom while balancing a sharps container on one knee, all the while hoping and praying you’ve timed the injection right so the in vitro fertilization cycle will be successful. I was really delighted when I received a request for my first 10 pages from Curiosity Quills Press through the Pitchmas contest last December. I had not queried any publishers, so this was new for me. In the end, CQ upgraded its request and asked for my full manuscript. An acquisitions editor soon sent me an offer. CQ wanted to publish my book as part of its new romance imprint, Curiosity Thrills. Given that the new imprint took a broader view of the kinds of books that qualify as romance, my book was a perfect fit. I had found a home for my manuscript at last!

8.    If you could switch places with a characters from a book, who would it be and why?

What a great and difficult question! I think I’d switch places with Lucy from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. First, this was one of the most important books from my childhood. I read it multiple times, played Lucy in a community theatre staging of the book, and loved the movie produced a few years ago. It’s always been special to me that a little girl was the first among her immediate family to visit Narnia. There’s something about the entire Chronicles of Narnia series that resonates with me on a very deep level. In my head, the characters from this book have always seemed so real, so authentic. To have the chance to walk in Lucy’s shoes, have tea with Mr. Tumnus, and fight alongside Aslan against the White Witch… well, that would be pure magic.

9.    What books have most influenced your life most?

For the purposes of brevity, I’m going to limit myself to fiction. As I mentioned in the previous answer, the Chronicles of Narnia have had a major influence on me throughout my life. In high school, 1984 and Brave New World also had a profound impact on me. I think both books triggered something inside me that made me interested in politics and government. (Like Hatty in INCONCEIVABLE!, I’m a nerd and policy wonk when it comes to governmental affairs.) I think the first book that made me actually laugh out loud was Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. I remember reading it in the middle of the night in Paris when I was still doing battle with jetlag. I was delirious and laughing!

10.   What are you working on at the moment? 

      I’ve got two works in progress well underway right now.

      I’m halfway through a contemporary young adult novel, which is a major departure for
      me. But I’m most excited about my next adult romance, CHANDELIERS.

     CHANDELIERS focuses on Violet, an American professor of French. She's attending her first-ever historical re-enactment at Versailles outside Paris when she experiences a time-slip and finds herself back in the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. (Okay...I revise my earlier answer. Instead of switching places with Lucy, I may want to switch places with Violet because I’d give anything to get to visit Versailles in its heyday!)

     There she meets Luke, a handsome, quick-witted physician from modern times. Luke experienced a time-slip during an earlier re-enactment and has been trapped in 1777 ever since. Thrown together under such bizarre circumstances, the pair initially clash over what to do and how to get back to the present.

     Meanwhile, Marie Antoinette is in deep despair over the fact she hasn’t produced an heir. Violet, who experienced infertility herself with her ex-husband, ropes Luke into helping the queen. In ways that are amusing and subtle enough to protect their status as time travellers, they share insights that will help the queen get pregnant. Working together, Violet and Luke discover they can work well together... reall well. Just as his relationship with Violet hits a new level of intensity, Luke stumbles upon what he thinks is a mechanism for going back to the present, but he’s unsure if it will work for both of them.

     Will one of them go while the other one stays behind? Or will they decide not to risk being separated forever?

     You’ll have to read CHANDELIERS to discover how they settle on their happily ever after. ;) (DISCLOSURE: I’m writing this book because it’s a storyline I’m dying to read!)

11.  What do you enjoy most about writing?

     Getting to hear the characters in my head is the best! Once I identify my characters and get to know them, they tell me their story. It’s really quite a lovely process of discovering their personalities, their backgrounds, and their relationships. I’m one of those writers who does biographical sketches of all major and secondary characters.

     Because I love movies, especially ones with lots of layers and subplots, I enjoy the art of weaving together a multi-layered story. Sometimes as I write, I think, ‘Ooh! What would it mean for my characters if THIS happened?’ And as long as it makes sense within the broader story arc, I’ll try to bring in these unexpected twists or wrinkles into the story. For me, this is a really fun part of the process.

12.  What does your perfect day look like?

     Because I love to travel, my perfect day is being with my family at a not-very-crowded beach with plenty of sunshine. Give me a diet soda, a great book, and pastries from a local bakery and well, it doesn’t get more perfect than that.

13.  Imagine INCONCEIVABLE! would be turned into a movie, who would you cast for the main characters?

     Let me start by saying I’d FLIP OUT if my book became a movie. It would be the biggest dream come true for me! So, fantasy cast... Here we go:

     Hatty Brunelle: Alison Brie. You may know her from Mad Men. She played Pete Campbell’s wife. She’s so PERFECT for Hatty!

     Prince John: Matt Barber. He played Atticus Aldridge on Downton Abbey. I’m a huge fan of the Abbey, and when Matt first came on my television screen, my husband and I both sat up. We were like, “THAT’S Prince John!”

     Prince Henri, Prince John’s younger brother: Matthew Lewis. He was Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter movies. Have you seen him all grown up? (You should.)

     Tilda, Hatty’s bestie: Sasheer Zamata. She’s awesome and hilarious on Saturday Night Live, and would be the perfect Tilda.

     The Queen: Helen Mirren. Because, duh.

14.  The cover of INCONCEIVABLE! is stunning. Who designed it?

Thank you! I admit it. Every time I look at my cover, I fall in love with Hatty and John all over again. Matthew Phillips of The Cover Lure designed it. I worked with my lifelong best friend, Katie, to develop some concepts for him to consider. Katie is one of the most talented graphic designers you’ll ever meet, so with her expert guidance, I was able to pass along to Matthew my vision for the cover. Early in the process, Katie and I struck on the idea of a couple in silhouette and the inclusion of a newspaper. We also loved the idea of the title appearing as if it had been ripped across the cover. Matthew deserves huge credit for taking these concepts and weaving them together into one of the most beautiful book covers I’ve ever seen.

15. Pick three authors you want to have dinner with and tell us why.

If you’ve read about my love of the Chronicles of Narnia, you won’t be surprised if I say C.S. Lewis is a writer I’d love to meet. (Sharing a meal with him would simply be epic!) Reverting back to journalist mode, I’d ask him all about how he came up with the idea for Narnia. And then I think I’d ask him to tell me a story about Narnia that he never got to write down in a book. I wouldn’t even need dessert.

I’m a huge fan of Sena Jeter Naslund. (If you haven’t read Abundance and Ahab’s Wife, please pause and add them to your TBR pile. You won’t regret it!) I’d love to ask her about the challenges she faced in developing a story focused on the wife of Captain Ahab from Moby Dick. Then, because I’ve always been really keen on Versailles, I’d want to hear all about the research she did to write Abundance, which is historical fiction about Marie Antoinette. I’d tell her how lovely it was to re-read this book while I was traveling in France. Le sigh…

Finally, if you can arrange for me to have dinner with Stephen King, I’d really appreciate it. J He’s one of the greatest American writers: prolific, talented, and very tuned in to the craft of writing and storytelling. My favorite book of his is 11/23/63. This is one of those rare books you can recommend without reservations because it’s engaging, well told, and beautifully written. If you aren’t familiar with it, this book follows the story of a high school teacher who travels back in time before JFK’s assassination. He stalks Oswald and must decide whether to interfere and change history. Before you think it’s too weird because of the time travel element, let me assure you there’s a rich, emotional layer that drives this story forward. So, over dinner, I’d ask King to talk to me about his process of writing this book.

16.  You like traveling. Tell us about your favourite places you’ve visited.

     Ever since I was a child and learned about Paris, France, I’ve been a committed Francophile. I studied French language and culture for four years in high school and all through college. So, every trip I’ve ever made to France has been incredibly special. In Paris, I love to take the metro to the L’Abesses stop and visit the basilica of Sacre Cœur (which is one reason I had to set a scene at Sacre Cœur in INCONCEIVABLE!). Then, I love to walk back down into the city with no plan or particular destination. This allows me to happen upon little cafes, patisseries, and shops without obsessing over a map and trying to “land” at a particular place. Accidental discoveries of cool places in Paris are the best!

I also have a special place in my heart for Belgium, Before I visited this country for the first time, I hadn’t given it much thought. A work-related trip took me there. I still remember my first day in Brussels, walking through the streets into the Grand Place. The city’s central square won over my heart instantly with its ornate guildhalls and other gorgeous edifices. It was just icing on the cake that the square was also home to charming restaurants. I love the little alleys that branch off from the square with so many tourist shops and food stands.

On a later trip to Belgium, I booked some vacation time in Ghent. To say I was overcome with love for this city is an understatement. I stayed in a hotel overlooking the Lys River as well as the Korenlei and Graslei. In my mind, this was the perfect city for Prince John to take Hatty when he’s hoping to win her over. It was thrilling to think about the places I walked during my visit there, and have my characters’ footfalls follow a very similar path. I hope that scene from the book gives my readers a glimpse of this magnificent city.

17. Coffee or tea? COFFEE. Sorry, was I shouting? Please pass the coffee.

18.  Paperback or e-reader? I suppose I prefer an e-reader for the convenience… but there’s no replacing the tactile pleasure that comes from holding a paperback. And the smell of a book… Let’s be honest. An e-reader could never replace the smell of a fresh book.

19. Mountains or the sea? The sea. I’m a beach girl.

20.  Summer or winter? Summer! I don’t like extremely hot weather, but I prefer warmth to cold weather. Small doses of cold weather are fine…In fact, fall is my favorite season. But prolonged weeks of cold make me stir crazy!

21.  Sweet or salty? Both—at the same time. Things that are both sweet and salty are so divine!

About the author

The best compliment Tegan Wren ever received came from her sixth grade teacher: “You always have a book in your hand!”

Guided by her love of the creative process, Tegan grew up acting in theatre productions and writing poetry, short stories, and plays. She turned her eye to writing about real life when she worked as a journalist, producing reports for various radio and television stations in medium and large markets in the Midwest and also filing some stories for a major national news network. She spent several years writing online content, which ranged from creating descriptions of toilets for a retail website to composing a blog post about visiting Maui.

She’s had the opportunity to travel overseas, and uses those adventures to inform her writing. She also draws inspiration from her own struggles and life experiences. Tegan and her husband, Patrick, experienced infertility for five years before becoming parents through adoption.

Tegan is excited to have her debut novel, INCONCEIVABLE!, included in the launch of the new romance imprint Curiosity Thrills. She's a proud member of Romance Writers of America.

INCONCEIVABLE! - the blurb

A popular, young royal couple can't produce an heir? INCONCEIVABLE!

When Ozarks native Hatty goes “whole hog” during karaoke, she catches the eye of Prince John. He isn’t what she expects the heir to a small European nation to be: he's affable, witty, and isn’t put off by her tell-it-like-it-is demeanor. Their flirtation should be short lived, but a force stronger than fate—Hatty’s newspaper editor—assigns her to cover the royals. After spending time together, she and John soon begin dating, and Hatty finds herself making headlines instead of writing them. 

But challenges loom that are even more complicated than figuring out how to mesh Hatty's journalism career with life at Belvoir Palace. Hatty and John soon find themselves embroiled in an unusual sex scandal: they can't produce an heir. Tabloids dub Hatty a “Barren-ess,” and the royals become irate. Hatty politely tells them to shove it. But beneath her confident exterior, she struggles to cope with a heartbreak that invades her most intimate moments with John. Pressured to choose between invasive medical procedures and abandoning John’s claim to the throne, the couple feels trapped until a trip to Ethiopia shows them happy endings sometimes arrive long after saying “I do.”



  1. Thanks so much, Simona! I love the post and seeing it here on your gorgeous blog!