Dear Infertility…

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During the years we were trying to conceive, this is the letter I would’ve written to my infertility:

Dear Infertility,
I’m glad to have the chance to speak directly to you after all this time. We’ve lived together in this body for years, and I think it’s time to call a house meeting and iron out a few things.

First, I wish you’d stop tweaking the thermostat. One minute I’m hot with anger and tears. Then, twenty minutes later, I’m wrapping my arms around my chest to fend off the bitter cold of loneliness. It’s super annoying.

Second, please stop leaving boxes of junk in the middle of the floor. How many times has your box of jealousy tripped me up? Or how about that backpack full of self-loathing? I mean, you’ve got a lot o’ baggage, and I really resent having it shoved in my path.

Let’s also talk about your music. I wish you’d play something other than those same tired songs about shame and guilt. You’ve had them on repeat for years! Admittedly, they’ve got a hook that lodges itself in my brain–I know every line by heart and could probably mumble them in my sleep. But, c’mon. Play something a little less angst-y once in a while.

And have you ever heard of boundaries? I don’t know why you think it’s fine to sneak into my bedroom when I’m with my husband. Honestly! Who can enjoy fun times with their spouse when it’s obvious you’re in the room. You’re the most intrusive third wheel in the history of third wheels.

I’ve also had it with your friends showing up uninvited. Well, really, it’s just the one friend. I don’t know why you call her Aunt Flow when everyone knows you guys aren’t related. And she’s so unreliable. Sometimes she’s on time. Sometimes she’s late. I wish she’d just take a hike for nine long months.

baby showerCan I just say how much I hate it when you tag along with me to parties, showers, and holiday gatherings? It’s so embarrassing when you show up at a baby shower and start whispering awful things in my ear. Then, I have to act like you’re not there when everyone totally knows you’re there. AWKWARD. Plus, we all know how much you can’t stand the adorable onesies and those faux cakes made out of rolled up diapers. Really, you shouldn’t come. Like at all.

Look, I know people think you’ll change (or just leave) if I stop stressing about all the madness you’ve brought with you. Like my lack of stress will make you vacate the premise (taking Aunt Flow along with you). But you and I both know that’s not going to happen. You’re not really the sort who’ll just leave if we all ignore you.

Okay. Here’s the truth. Even if you do leave and I get a new roommate, an adorable new roomie who has my nose and my husband’s eyes, you’ve left your fingerprints all over the place. It’s not like I can remove every trace of you. You’ve banged up the floorboards and chipped away the paint. So, we just need to make peace. You aren’t going to change, but I can change the way I react to you and your inconsiderate ways. I’m going to focus on taking better care of myself rather than letting you frustrate me so often. It’s what I’ve got to do until I can figure out a way to evict you for good and get that new roommate moved in.

With hope for better times ahead,
Tegan
P.S. You really do make me nuts. Maybe someday I’ll write a book about it. Believe me, I’ve got enough material.

Baby shower image via Flickr by Emily Stanchfield

Author Kate McIntyre Talks Fantasy, Grief in Fiction, and Sequels

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The-Deathsniffer's-AssistantI don’t remember exactly where I first met Kate McIntyre, whether it was in our publisher’s Facebook group or through Twitter, but I do remember being impressed with her and the synopsis for THE DEATHSNIFFER’S ASSISTANT from day one.

It’s an imaginative fantasy set in Edwardian England with a frighteningly unnerving murder mystery at its ooey gooey center. There are also flourishes of magic. And did I mention the flying carriages? Oh, my. There’s so much to love about this novel!

Many of you know that I go to the gym to read. Sure, my legs are churning away on the elliptical, but it’s really my mind that’s getting the workout as I devour wonderful works of fiction. Well, I was heading to the gym A LOT when I was reading Kate’s book because I Just HAD to know what happened next. I give this highly addictive read five out of five wrens. (Want to buy it? Get it here on Amazon!)five wrens1

I’m delighted to be hosting Kate on my blog today because reading her responses to my questions is like slipping into the back of a writers’ master class. I learned so much from interviewing her, and I’m really excited to share the conversation with you. She talks about exploring grief in her novel, world building, and character development.  I know you’ll enjoy hearing from this writer whom I so admire. (Incidentally, Kate interviewed me on her blog, and asked some questions about INCONCEIVABLE! that I haven’t previously discussed on any other blog. So, check it out here!)

Tegan: Describe the process of creating your own version of Edwardian England. How did it all come together?

Kate: I started building my world with exactly two things in mind. I wanted it to be full of magic and wonder and everything to constantly be oozing enchantment. I also wanted it to be humdrum and workaday, with the characters living in the midst of all this fantastic city not really seeing it as they hurried off to work.

That idea, the fantastic melding with the mundane, is the backbone of my work. I think it’s relevant to us, because there’s so much wonder and excitement in our world but how often do we notice it? It’s too familiar to get worked up about and we’re too busy to really care.

In my desire to capture that feeling, I knew that the world had to be a lot more modern than a lot of fantasy, so I aimed for the feel of the period between 1903 and 1922. I didn’t actually know much at first so I did a lot of research to get a sense of the aesthetic and the feel of the era. The Edwardian period was when the modern really began melding with the historic, and it isn’t uncommon to see a fine lady in full skirts walking a few steps from a dirty factory girl in trousers in photographs taken at the time.

Of course, my book isn’t set in Edwardian England, but in Darrington City, Tarland. So it wasn’t as simple as just carrying things over. I loved the fictional nation of Toulene in Inconceivable! and really enjoyed how it was such a neat melding of its bordering nations. It really felt like something that you’d built from the ground up, and that’s how it was for Darrington, too. I had to think about what technology Tarlish folks had available thanks to their magic. At the same time, I thought about where they wouldn’t have innovated. So there are no cars yet, but there are flashbulb cameras! A fully operational telephone-like network, but no steam engines. Some readers don’t even notice things like that, but it all helps make the world feel real!Kate McIntyre2

Tegan: I loved the interactions between Olivia Faraday (the deathsniffer) and her assistant, Chris Buckley. They each have their own quirks and hang-ups. How did you go about developing these characters and where did you look for inspiration?

Kate: Olivia was the first character I came up with. Immediately after deciding I wanted to write a fantasy murder mystery, I had my detective: a pint-sized hellion with no concern for anything but the chase, as elegant and brilliant as she was mocking and heartless. Chris grew into the spaces around Olivia. Despite being the narrator of the book, he’s the one who was built to compliment her. I made him mannered to match her crudeness, empathetic for her insensitivity, and kind for her cruelty. He also ended up as kind of a cringing, snobby dope to contrast Olivia’s fearlessly unapologetic intelligence.

It’s always been a priority for me to write characters human first and likeable second. And humans are a mostly flawed bunch. Even my favourite humans have things about them I can’t stand! So I really wanted readers to see Olivia and Chris as real people. That’s why they can sometimes be small-minded, petty, or obtuse. It’s also why they bicker constantly.

But I know your secret, everybody! Most everyone secretly loves to watch frustrating people bickering. Why else would reality tv have gotten so huge? So I let myself have a lot of fun with the way the two of them go back and forth. Sometimes he’s in the right and sometimes she is. Their relationship can be deep and insightful one moment and then the next they’re picking at each other over incredibly dumb stuff. Olivia and Chris’s relationship is at the core of the whole series of books. It’s my favourite element to write, and it always makes me happy when someone enjoys it!

Tegan: Chris Buckley lost both of his parents in an accident, and understandably, it was life altering for him and his sister. You do an incredible job of using that event as a filter that colors Chris’ thoughts, actions, and reactions. Have you had any personal experiences that informed this aspect of the story? And I’m asking because I think it’s handled in a very authentic way.

Kate: My parents are still alive and well, but I’ve definitely experienced loss. Sometimes in minor ways, and sometimes in major ones. And I’ve absolutely used that loss to construct the heart of Chris’s character, which is the abscess loss leaves behind if not properly grieved.

The loss I drew on the most was losing my grandfather when I was barely eleven. He lived just one street away from me growing up, and I spent at least half my time with him. Like Chris, I was too young to know the right way to grieve, and like Chris, it just seemed easier to wrap it up and put it away. Anyone who’s lost someone precious to them knows how grief feels – like something is being ripped out of your chest and leaving a sucking hole behind. It’s the worst feeling in the whole world. And it’s a lot easier to shove it as hard as you can and tell yourself that you’re better and move on. You can go years without feeling a thing where that infected wound is, until something brushes against it and destroys you for days.

Grief is a major theme of The Faraday Files. It’s something that’s rarely written about in genre fiction because it’s the worst thing ever, and genre fiction is supposed to be for escapism. But just like Hatty and John’s struggles with infertility in Inconceivable! stands in defiance of traditional HEA romance tropes, I wanted to write something with more pathos than your average genre novel. So many fantasy protagonists are orphans, but how many really get down and unpack that? Chris isn’t looking for justice for his parents and he isn’t trying to do honour to their memory. He just misses them. Every day. Constantly.

Chris is a lot younger than I am, so he’s still struggling where I learned how to grieve right. I’ve slowly cleansed and bandaged the wound the loss of my grandfather left. Chris isn’t where I’m at yet, but I want to help him get there.

Tegan: Tell us about the sequel to The Deathsniffer’s Assistant and when we might be able to get our hands on it.

Kate: The sequel is called The Timeseer’s Gambit! It’s hopefully going to be out at the same time the first was in mid-July, and we’re hoping to keep an annual schedule for the four book series! Hopefully I can keep up the pace writing.

Where The Deathsniffer’s Assistant takes place in spring, the second book is set in the summertime. I had a tough time writing it because Darrington is in the middle of a crazy heat wave during the book and I wrote most of it this past winter, when the snow here in Atlantic Canada was so high we had to dig out way out of our houses. Every time I sat down to write and saw Chris or Olivia complaining about the heat, I wanted to let them have it. You guys are lucky! I have a blanket over my legs at friggin Starbucks, here!

Olivia has been assigned her first true serial killer. She’s excited and Chris is appalled, but it’s been three months since they started working together and they’ve established a rapport. Chris has grown some spine and Olivia has softened her razor sharp tongue thanks to being around each other so much. Their back and forth is as bicker-heavy as ever, but they tease each other more now and are starting to really care about one another.

In book two readers are going to learn a lot about categorization, the method by which Tarlish citizens unlock their magic gifts. They’ll also find out how Chris supposedly knows the mysterious timeseer, William Cartwright.

As one last tease, things are heating up a bit. Chris has two potential love interests and things take a definite turn away from just-friends with both of them. Of course, Chris is still awkward, easily flustered, and kind of a dope, so nothing goes especially well!

Tegan: Now that your novel has been published and has been in readers’ hands for a few months, what have you learned and how have those lessons changed the way you write now?

Kate: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I’m not just some upstart pounding at a keyboard. I’m a writer! People have paid cash money for my book and effused over how much they liked it! I’ve signed books for grinning fans in other countries! I have tons of five star reviews and people making grabby hands for the next book!

And that all feels great. I’ve always believed that the most important parts of writing are confidence and momentum. I’m using my newfound confidence in my ability as a writer to build momentum. It only took five months to finish The Timeseer’s Gambit, almost unbelievable after the three years I spent on The Deathsniffer’s Assistant. The third book, The Heartreader’s Secret, will hopefully glide right onto the page, too! And after that… who knows. I’m only in my early thirties and have tons of books left in me. I want to keep sharing my stories with the world.

Kate McIntyreKate McIntyre was born and raised in the frigid white north, having spent her entire life in Moncton, New Brunswick. She learned to appreciate the quintessential Canadian things: endless winters, self-deprecating jokes, the untamed wilderness, and excessive politeness. Somehow it was the latter that she chose to write about. Kate loves crochet, video games, board games, reading, and listening to bad pop music very loudly.

One ebook. One day. One dollar. All the feels.

SALESorry to pause from our regular programming for a brief announcement.

It’s very rare for a brand new novel to go on sale so soon after release. It just happens my book’s release was close to Black Friday. So, here’s your chance to buy the ebook for $.99. Half the royalties still go to Baby Quest Foundation, which gives grants for fertility treatments to people all over the U.S. Today is an excellent time to buy the book for yourself and for someone you love. You can buy it as a gift today and send it now or later.

Prefer to have the paperback? Amazon is offering 30% off paperbacks with the code HOLIDAY30. Add this gorgeous cover to your collection and enjoy the beautiful love story inside its pages. (Want me to sign your book? Drop me a note and we’ll work it out. I’ll pay to have it shipped back to you if you live in the U.S.)

Forty-five out of 80 reviews of INCONCEIVABLE! on Goodreads give the book FIVE STARS. Eighty percent of the reviews are four and five stars. I love that my novel, which I wrote for very personal reasons, is resonating with readers!

As a refresher, here’s the synopsis of INCONCEIVABLE!

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.”

Make it Count

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I once interviewed a World War II veteran when I was working for a radio station in the Midwest. His brick house was tucked away on a cul de sac in a neighborhood of older homes. He showed me inside, and we stood in the front room. It was neat and plain with white walls and decades-old furniture that wasn’t worn. He introduced me to his wife and then invited me to sit on his front porch where we did the interview.

I held the mic and listened as he recalled with laughter and a few tears the days he spent as an American soldier in the Pacific Theater of the war. He recalled the pranks he and his buddies used to pull. Then, he told me how a can of meat saved his life. He and his unit came under particularly intense attack, and some guys didn’t make it. When he was clear and the fighting stopped, he dug into his backpack for food. He found the can of potted meat, misshapen from being pierced by a bullet, which was still lodged in the metal can. He laughed through tears as he marveled at how a can of food had saved his life.

At the end of our interview, I asked if he had any wisdom he’d learned from his war experience that he wanted to share. This is what he said: “You only pass this way once. Make it count.” On this Thanksgiving Day, let us all remember that it’s not about passively counting our blessings or the things for which we’re thankful. It’s about being the blessing for someone else. You won’t have this exact same day or experience or gathering of friends and family ever again. There are no do overs, and life is finite. Now go, and make it count.

7 Survival Tips for Infertile Couples at Thanksgiving

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Who doesn’t love the opportunity to crowd into grandma’s house where there’s too little seating and too much prying into your personal life? Funsies! If you’re dealing with infertility, these family gathering may be stressful events that lead to uncomfortable conversations with friendly, well-meaning relatives. You may also find yourself sitting next to your Fertile Myrtle cousin or listening to a big announcement that your sister-in-law is pregnant. Here are seven tips for managing this holiday.

  1. Have a prepared response. Assume someone may say something to you about having children. With your spouse, decide ahead of time what your response will be. It can be something simple like, “Having children is something we’re thinking about.”
  2. Offer to help. If you’re busy setting the table, getting drinks ready, or pulling things out of the fridge, you’re less likely to get accosted by your aunt who wants to know when you’ll have a baby. It’s difficult for someone to corner you when you’re moving around and helping prepare for the meal.
  3. Don’t be afraid to change the subject. When you’re in a conversation that’s getting into territory related to pregnancy and you feel uncomfortable, you can always switch the topic. Try something like, “Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you…” And when you redirect the conversation, make sure you’re giving the other person a chance to talk about something positive in his or her life. It’s a great way to move past the subject of your efforts to get pregnant.
  4. Recruit a partner. If you’re fortunate enough to have a family member who is aware of and understands your struggles, ask that person to help you avoid sticky conversations with too-nosy relatives. They can steer the conversation clear of your ovaries.
  5. Ease up on your eating restrictions. When we were preparing for our fertility treatments, I did my best to improve my diet, cutting out most carbs, sweets, and processed foods. You can give yourself a reason to look forward to the family feast if you choose to ease up on the restrictions for this one meal. You don’t have to go crazy and eat three of everything, but you can allow yourself to indulge in Aunt Margaret’s biscuits or your mom’s pumpkin pie.walk
  6. Create an escape plan. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, know what options you have for escaping the situation. Maybe you can go for a walk. Perhaps you can start up a game of Uno with your cousins. Think of some ways you can engage in a mind-clearing activity that will help reduce your stress.
  7. Give yourself an opportunity to unwind. Be ready to reward yourself with something special as a post-Thanksgiving treat. Maybe you go home to binge watch your favorite show. Or you take a long soak in the tub. Plan to do something to reduce the stress after the family gathering.

What strategies have you used to handle Thanksgiving and other family gatherings?

Top image via Flickr by cardamom

Image of person walking via Flickr by j0sh (www.pixael.com)

Shine Fertility: Support for People Experiencing Infertility

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If you’re fortunate enough to live in Chicagoland, you have more than Lou Malnatti’s pizza, Garrett’s Chicago Mix Popcorn, and the Magnificent Mile at your fingertips. You also have Shine Fertility. And to tell the truth, I’m a little jealous. When Patrick and I experienced infertility, there was no formal support group in our area. So, Chicago, treasure this resource!

Shine1Katie O’Connor founded this support, education, and advocacy group after she and her husband experienced infertility. She estimates that 90% of her group’s members are women, though Shine has some couples events throughout the year. So far, Shine Fertility has had 40 graduates, and 58 women are currently active in mentoring, support meetings, and virtual meetings,

I recently had the great opportunity to ask Katie some questions about her group.

Tegan: Why did you decide to start your own support organization after experiencing infertility?

Katie: Shine was born from my personal journey through infertility.  When I was going through my own struggle, I realized what an island I was on.  I wasn’t a part of the pregnancy groups and I also wasn’t a part of the new mom clubs, I was stuck in the middle, alone.  I thought there needs to be a group for the “secret sorority” of women struggling through infertility.

The waiting room at my fertility clinic was packed, yet no one talked, no one shared stories of struggle or success.  It was depressing.  I was lucky to reconnect with an old high school friend who was also going through infertility and we were each other’s support system (along with our husbands).

I thought when going through a difficult time, it helps to talk through it with others experiencing the same thing.  I developed Shine as one part support and one part education on overall women’s health and fertility.  Since growing into a non-profit we’ve added in the advocacy part!  Our first event was in June of 2012. We hosted a panel of women (my friends) sharing their personal stories of overcoming infertility, their advice, their successes, and their hard times.  It was amazing, and from that, the group grew, and the rest is in the past!

Tegan: Your goal is to help couples who are struggling with infertility. Yet, I imagine you must get a great deal out of this work. In what ways has founding this organization helped you?

Katie: Here is a Shine testimonial that hits me at the heart strings every time I read it!

“I was at an all-time low…But when I went to my first meeting, I met other women that were at different stages of their journey. This was a place where I found myself finding it easy to finally release and cry, in front of women I didn’t know, about my struggles. And, they understood. And cried with me.  It was a venue where I could mourn for my past losses and cry for my helplessness in going forward. I wanted to give up, but leaving these meetings, I knew I couldn’t.  The meetings are casual and welcoming, and they bring in fabulous guest speakers.  In fact, I met my fertility doctor who I found success with through Shine. I am thankful I was introduced to Shine, it was exactly what I needed.  It made me realize I wasn’t alone, and gave me the strength to keep going.” ~ Shine “graduate”

This particular member had endured several failed IVF rounds, and you could feel it was wearing her down.  But I still remember when she called me to meet for coffee.  We sat down, and before we could even say hi, she pulled out TWO ultrasound pictures and showed me her twin baby girls.  We both cried, and hugged, and cried some more (in joy).  I was one of the FIRST people she told and I was so honored to have been a part of her journey and be trusted with this special news.

Tegan: When people first connect with your program, are they generally relieved to have found a support group or are they hesitant because they aren’t sure how much they want to share with others?

Katie: Both – for a person who has an easy time sharing, you can see the tension release as they talk, their shoulders melt, they start to smile, and overall seem less stressed, just by opening up to the group about what they are going through, and knowing the others in the room are going through the same thing.  Others sit more silent for a few sessions or more, then finally open up, and sometimes there is an emotional release too. People cry, laugh, we’ve experienced it all!  I am just happy women feel they can come to a group session and have it  be whatever THEY need!  And for those who just don’t feel comfortable in the group setting, we have our Fertility Friends mentoring program which is one-on-one support; infertility “graduates” supporting those just starting their journey!

Shine Fertility board members Mariann Madden, Courtney Marincsin, and founder Katie O'Connor

Shine Fertility board members Mariann Madden, Courtney Marincsin, and founder Katie O’Connor

Tegan: Why is emotional support so important to people who are going through infertility?

Katie: Infertility treatments are taxing, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  You feel less of yourself, and you can feel like less of a woman. According to Harvard Medical School, “women with infertility felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack.”

Pregnancy rates actually go up 25% when patients receive support services. Our Shine sessions are designed to be comfortable and welcoming, a place to feel secure sharing your thoughts and asking questions.  The goal is to create a community that allows individuals to laugh and cry, side by side, while celebrating the successes and battling the challenges of infertility, as well as provide members with the knowledge to feel empowered throughout their journey. Sometimes all you need is to feel understood, surrounded by individuals going through the same thing, sharing your story and realizing you are not alone!

Tegan: What changes need to occur to increase awareness and support for couples going through infertility?

Katie: We need to get people talking about it!  I was an open book while we struggled with infertility because it helped me to have the people around me know what I was going through.  But I know that isn’t easy for everyone.  The more people open up and share their story, the more people will realize they aren’t alone, that they don’t have to suffer in silence.  We need to end the stigma that is associated with infertility, and create a movement similar to the movement that breast cancer had decades ago that now has the general public informed and educated on the disease.

Tegan: What are the misconceptions about infertility that irritate you the most?

Katie: Saying “just relax,” you’ll get pregnant. If only it were that easy! There is no question that high stress is associated with infertility, and that infertility is associated with lots of stress. While the exact biology of how stress might come into play is not fully understood, substances such as cortisol, epinephrine, melatonin, opioids, and others are known to affect stress and reproduction.

Also that it’s just a “woman’s problem,” is frustrating! In actuality 30% of the time it’s the woman, 30% of the time it’s the man, and 40% of the time it’s a combination of both.

Tegan: What’s the single most important fact you want to emphasize to people who are going through this medical struggle?

Katie: That it’s not their fault! Women put so much pressure on themselves, so much blame, and guilt.  Infertility is a diagnosis, a “disease”, not something you caused on yourself.  There are organizations like Shine here to help and be a support system for them as they travel through their journey!

Top image via Flickr by PineappleAndCoconut

All other images provided by Katie O’Connor

The Heir and the Spare: Book Review and Author Q&A

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Heir and SpareFrom the first moment I read the synopsis of Emily Albright‘s forthcoming novel, THE HEIR AND THE SPARE, I was intrigued. As the author of a royal romance, I was eager to read one that dealt primarily with the spare heir to the throne.

I absolutely adored this novel. Anyone who enjoys INCONCEIVABLE! is sure to enjoy THE HEIR AND THE SPARE. This is a fun, entertaining, and well-written story about an American college student’s first year at Oxford. It’s a year that’s full of surprises as she follows clues to discover some secrets about her late mother’s family. And whom does she happen to meet along the way? None other than the handsome prince who is the spare heir to England’s throne, a version of the UK’s Prince Harry. The story is full of humorous asides, plot twists, and obstacles that prevent our pair from getting together. Even though I wasn’t sure how it was going to wrap up, the story had a very happy and satisfying ending that’s worthy of a royal ceremony. My full review is posted on Goodreads. I give it five out of five wrens! BONUS: You can already pre-order this novel on Amazon. five wrens1

Emily kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her forthcoming novel, how her travels inspired the story, and how she finds time to write.

Tegan: How did you get the idea for the plot for THE HEIR AND THE SPARE?

Emily: The idea came to me when Prince William married Kate Middleton. All the craziness and press interest in their day made me wonder about Prince Harry. I was curious how his life might differ from his older brother’s. With that seed planted, the story just evolved from there. Originally my working title was, The Spare, but as it evolved and the story came to me through Evie’s eyes, The Heir and the Spare fit perfectly.

Tegan: Like a lot of writers, you’re a parent. How did you make time to write this book and how long did it take you?

Emily: Every free moment I had I spent writing. It took me four years total to get The Heir and the Spare to where it is now. Initial draft was probably around a year. Then multiple rounds of edits and revising. But in the early days it was definitely tough to squeeze writing time in with a preschooler. I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot of my daughter’s preschool with my laptop just typing away. Now that my kidlet is in all day school it’s a little more manageable. Unfortunately, my writing tends to come easier to me at night after everyone’s gone to bed, but for the sake of not being a zombie during the day and getting much needed sleep, I’ve had to adjust to being creatively productive in the mornings, which took quite a while. I’m such a night owl. I think I’ve finally adjusted, thank goodness.

Tegan: Any tips for balancing writing time with family time?

Emily: Squeeze the writing in whenever there’s a free moment. Even if it’s just scratching it on a piece of paper until you can get to your computer later. I wait until the kidlet’s in school or in the evenings after she’s gone to bed. When my family’s around I try to be present and in the moment with them. I do keep something to jot notes down at my side pretty much all the time, just in case I have an idea that I can’t do anything about until later. I’ve found that if it’s important and you love doing it, you’ll make the time for it, even if it’s just in the tiny moments in-between life’s bigger commitments.

Tegan: The book’s infused with a wonderful sense of place. Have you spent time in England and/or any other parts of Europe?

Emily: I have. The hubby and I got to spend two weeks in England and Scotland as a college graduation present. It was fun and fabulous and so not long enough. I loved how the history is so ever present and palpable there. It’s very different from the States. They tend to embrace their old buildings where we’ll knock an old building down and build something new in it’s place. It’s really wonderful to be someplace where generations of people have passed through and lived their lives. Then again, I’m a bit of a history nerd, so I love that kind of stuff. We’re definitely going back someday.

Tegan: Have you ever met any royalty? If so, tell us about it. If not, who would you most want to meet?

Emily: Unfortunately, I haven’t. As for who’d I’d like to meet? Hmm, Probably Will and Kate or Harry. They seem more down-to-earth and more approachable than the older generation of royals.

Tegan: Who is your target audience for this book?

Emily: Well, definitely upper YA, but honestly, anyone who looks at it and thinks, hey, this might be fun, then it’s for you. I’ve never bought the idea that you had to be a certain age to read YA books. To me, YA holds a special sort of magic, it brings with it the ability to experience firsts again, through fresh eyes. It’s fun for adults to slip back into the memories of their youth and YA books, in a way, facilitate that.

Tegan: What do you hope readers get out of your story?

Emily: My goal is pretty simple. I just want readers to have a good time and get a bit of an escape from reality when they read my story. Growing up, reading was such a great way to slip into a new and wonderful world, heck it still is. If a reader closes my book and gives a happy sigh, then I feel I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.

Emily AlbrightEmily Albright is a major bookworm, a lover of romantic movies, a Netflix junkie, wife, mother, and owner of an adorable (yet slightly insane) cockapoo and a very intolerant cat. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the Young Adult chapter (YARWA). Emily is represented by Jess Waterson of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agent. Emily is hard at work on her next book.

Why Books and Movies about Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Matter

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Keep tryingMany of us who have experienced infertility get irritated by some of the story lines we see in movies and books. At their worst, they perpetuate misconceptions and stereotypes such as the idea that most women who experience infertility are over age 35, or that if you adopt, you’ll forget about trying to conceive and–BOOM!–you’ll get pregnant. So here’s the rub: these films and books are supporting the idea that the infertile couple is to blame (you delayed childbearing to focus on your career!) and infertility is not a medical condition, it’s simply a matter of being in the wrong state of mind (you’re too stressed!).

Pop Culture Influences Perception

Television programs, movies, and novels influence the public’s perception of a wide range of issues. The influence of media, particularly broadcast media, is well documented. So, if we, the men and women who are experiencing infertility, want to see changes in how the public views infertility, then we need to support filmmakers, television show producers, and authors who are willing to create content that presents this issue in realistic ways, even in the context of a fictionalized story.

Significant Implications for Real People

Maybe you think this is all too “big picture” to matter. But it does matter. It matters a great deal. Shifting public opinion is the first step toward changing public policies related to infertility. When people who aren’t living with infertility as a part of their daily lives accept that this is a medical condition, they’re more compassionate toward those suffering through it. Compassion is important in gaining broader support for mandating insurance coverage of fertility treatments. According to RESOLVE, the national infertility advocacy organization, only 15 states require insurance companies to offer fertility coverage. And some of those states have loopholes, watering down the mandate. I know firsthand the burden of paying for treatments with little or no help from the insurance company. It only adds more heartache to an emotional situation.

In writing INCONCEIVABLE!, I want to give an in-depth, accurate look at what it’s like for a young couple to be in the throes of infertility. It’s my goal to get people talking about adoption, surrogacy, and other alternatives to birthing children because pregnancy is not the only happy ending option for an infertile couple. Miscarriage is also addressed in my novel, and we need to see more support and resources available to couples (women AND men) who are grieving after pregnancy loss. Quite simply, this is the most compelling case I can make for purchasing INCONCEIVABLE.

Let me know if you think there needs to be more movies and novels that address infertility in ways that reflect real life.

It’s Release Day for INCONCEIVABLE! Why Your Purchase Matters

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Today’s the day! INCONCEIVABLE! is going out into the world. The ebook and paperback are available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I wrote this book for very personal reasons: I know firsthand the pain of infertility and miscarriage. So, I want to give you three reasons to buy this book.

  1. Put your money where your heart is. You believe it’s important that realistic stories about infertility, pregnancy loss, and adoption be a part of popular culture. After all, there are plenty of misconceptions out there about these very personal topics that impact many individuals and couples. Buying INCONCEIVABLE! is one way to vote with your dollars, to say YES! our stories matter. Buying the ebook and/or paperback right now makes that statement. We have the opportunity to demonstrate to publishers and writers the importance of these stories. I’d love to see folks share the screenshot of their purchase confirmation with this hashtag: #infertilitystories.
  2. You want to help couples who are struggling to conceive. Even though Patrick and I became parents through adoption, we know how expensive it is to pursue fertility treatments. We took out a loan and scraped together thousands of dollars for one in vitro fertilization cycle. Like so many couples, we had no insurance coverage for IVF. Only 15 states mandate coverage of fertility treatments. That’s why I’m donating half my royalties to Baby Quest Foundation, a non-profit that awards grants to couples all over the U.S. for fertility treatments. Baby Quest founder, Pamela Hirsch awards grants, helps couples negotiate lower fees with their fertility clinic, and often can get them discounted or donated medications for their treatment. As a result of assistance from Baby Quest, 16 babies have been born, seven more are on the way, and a few other couples are preparing to have fertility treatments in the next few months. So exciting! If you or someone you know needs hope in the way of financial assistance for fertility treatment, please check out Baby Quest.
  3. It’s an entertaining read. Most reviews on Goodreads have been extremely positive. Actress and infertility warrior America Olivo Campbell has read INCONCEIVABLE and highly recommends it: “Wren beautifully illuminates the joy, grief, and adventure of creating a family against all odds in this heart warming and impactful story.”

To celebrate release day, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment letting me know why you’re purchasing my book. Is it a gift for someone who’s going through infertility and needs to know they’re not alone? Is it for yourself because you need to immerse yourself in a story filled with humor, hope, and heart? I look forward to hearing from you!

A Conversation With My Adopted Kids About Miscarriage

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There isn’t one right way to have this conversation. I’m going to share with you how it went down with my three children, ages 8, 5, and 4. My kids don’t remember ever being told they were adopted because it’s always been a part of their life story. They also have always known that Mommy and Daddy tried for a lot of years to get a baby to grow in my belly before we changed our plan and pursued adoption.

In a recent conversation, we were talking about how my belly doesn’t work quite right because it can’t hold a baby. I mentioned that there had been a baby in my tummy briefly a long time ago before we adopted them, but that it didn’t grow. I explained that this made us very sad and that’s when we decided we wanted to adopt children. The conversation then went something like this:

8 yr old: So the baby died?

Me: Well, yes. But it wasn’t a baby in the way you think about a baby who drinks from a bottle and cries. It was extremely small. Like this. (I showed them the tip of a pen.)

5 yr old: Was it a boy or girl?

Me: I don’t know. When a baby is that tiny, you can’t tell. We actually don’t even think the heart ever beat.

4 yr old: Mommy, what is your baby’s name?

Me: (pause) We didn’t give the baby a name because we didn’t know if it was a boy or girl.

5 yr old: How did the baby get out of your body when it died?

Me: When your body stops holding on to a baby, it bleeds. It’s not like bleeding when you get a cut on your arm. But it’s a way for your body to clear out the things that would make it sick if they stayed inside. The baby was so small, I never saw it.

8 yr old: How did it die?

Me: It stopped growing. You know that when babies are born, they’re much bigger than the end of this pen. They’re about the size of some of our baby dolls. My baby stopped growing when it was still very, very small. And we don’t really know why it stopped growing.

And that was it. We were on to coloring after that. Had I planned to talk about my miscarriage with my children on a Monday afternoon? No, but it came up in the course of normal conversation about our family and the fact that our family was formed through adoption.

The story that binds us together is a story of how beauty comes out of loss. My husband and I think a lot about the terrible, irreversible losses our children have experienced by being away from their birth family and birth country. But our losses as an infertile couple are also a part of our family’s narrative. It felt good to speak to my children about our pregnancy loss in a straightforward and honest manner, to show them that I don’t feel shame, only sadness, over my body’s inability to grow my baby.

Have you ever spoken to your children, adopted or biological, about your miscarriage(s)? I’d love to hear how other parents have handled similar conversations. I’m sure this conversation may come up again with our children.

Top image via Flickr by SarahCartwright