An interview with Winstead Oakley, by Winstead Oakley:

I tried to think of questions that would be informative about me as a person and also intrigue you to grab a copy of my book. I hope you enjoy!

Q and A time:

Where did the idea for The Faultfinder and The Almighty come from?

A dream. I had a dream, and in it I was talking to a friend who had passed away, and I asked them if I would be okay. They answered, “I don’t know”, so I asked, “Will you take care of me?” and they answered, “I’ll try”. I thought it was such an odd exchange and it stuck with me for years. From there, the idea of Beau, Lyla, Max, and Barry evolved. I knew I wanted that aspect of the dream to be in the novel, and it was actually how I intended for the book to end. Over time, it morphed into a much more complex story, with inspiration coming from my time as an Army wife worried my own husband would die while he was gone to Iraq, as well as integrating Beau’s experience post war. Barry came about because I wanted Lyla to have a loyal friend who would be with her no matter what, even though all the trauma would impact his own life. I liked the idea of Barry being male, because that’s how he came to me in my head and I wanted to show a friendship that could go against the idea that a man and woman can’t have a platonic relationship. 

Are any of the characters based on people in real life?

No. I get that one a lot. All of the characters are completely fictional, as well as their circumstances. The closest any of them come to “real life” is in my head while I was originally writing it (ten years ago) Max sort of looked like Chris Pine with his big lips, and Beau reminded me of Jonathan Rhys Myers mixed with Ashton Kutcher. haha You can make them look however you find fit. I never “saw” Lyla, other than her thick curly hair, and sometimes I imagined Cecelia as a young Kate Hudson. Bob was like a bloodshot eyed Alec Baldwin. I would love to know if any of those descriptions came through for anyone else reading it.

What surprised you most about writing a full-length novel?

That it wasn’t as difficult as I imagined. Word counts are intimidating. You see that the length of a full novel needs to be x, y, or z. (In my case, I was shooting for between 60,000 and 90,000 words.) When you hit about 35,000 you start to think, “Oh my goodness, what have I done?”. That’s a lot of words on the page. I was worried the story would be confusing, or boring. As I kept going, and it began to come together, the idea of a word count wasn’t something I was thinking about anymore, because the story was telling itself. I had all the ideas, I just had to get them down. The hardest part for me is editing. I think having dyslexia is a big disadvantage in that arena, because my brain automatically corrects things out of habit. I constantly fill in the missing pieces because that’s how I see the words. I plan to hire an editor for the next one. haha

How did you choose the title?

It was originally, “fine.”, because that was the final word in the first draft, and it summed up Lyla’s moto the entire book. Even when she wasn’t fine, she would say she was fine. I was afraid people would find that pretentious, because it looked like I was trying to be artsy, so I chose “Without Dreams”. Lyla has a head injury that causes her to be unable to dream while asleep, and the climax has a LOT to do with that. It felt clunky, so before I republished it, I spent a considerable amount of time brainstorming what I wanted to do for a title. I was inspired by the book of Job in the Bible, and I had quotes from it scattered throughout various drafts of the novel. “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?” stood out to me, because when people go through as much trauma and pain as Lyla experienced, they look for things to blame, often times being God. So, that’s what I settled on, because it fit and felt right.

What is up next for you as an author? When will Volume Two in The Cypress Creek Anthology come out, and what do you see it looking like?

My current project is a mystery/thriller set in a not so distant future. I know that sounds looney coming from a woman hawking a romance novel, but I have had this idea brewing for YEARS, and I’m finally dedicated to getting it onto the page. I’ve got the entire novel plotted out, so it’s coming along quickly. 

After that, Volume Two is on deck in The Cypress Creek Anthology. It is called, ‘Tether’, and where The Faultfinder centered around tragedy and how it connects and disconnects Lyla and her relationships, Tether will show us how we become attached to people who aren’t good for us, and how we have to find ourselves before we can ever be anything to someone else. Our main characters are some familiar faces, including Cheri Turner, Sean Avery, and some brief interactions with the Kellens, so you can see where they are ten years later. Place your bets on how many kids Barry and Cecelia will have by then!

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