“Sweet, quirky, surprising, and altogether lovely, The Invisible Husband of Frick Island is everything I long for in a book. I fell in love with Oakley’s sparkling prose, charming characters, and quaint island setting. This is a story I can’t wait to revisit, again and again. A must read.”—Emily Henry, New York Times bestselling author of Beach Read
If you enjoy stories set in charming island towns filled with a colorful cast of characters, you can easily lose yourself in the pages of Colleen Oakley’s latest novel, The Invisible Husband of Frick Island. The story centers around Piper Parrish after the loss of her husband, Tom. Since his body hasn’t been recovered, Piper deals with her grief in a very unique way, she goes on about her daily life as if nothing ever happened. Each day she makes her husband breakfast, walks him to the docks, and even keeps their standing dinner date every Friday night. When a down on his luck journalist, Anders Caldwell comes into town determined to restart his career with a story about Piper, he has no way of knowing just how much his life is about to change.
In this interview, Colleen shares about her writing process, what drives the characters in her novels, and an intriguing sneak peek into her next novel.
When did you first come up with the idea for the novel’s storyline?
The spark of the idea came from a pretty big news story about four years ago. A woman in Australia whose husband had died of natural causes in their home left his body in their bed and continued to live outwardly to friends and neighbors as though everything was OK. Her grief caused a pretty obvious psychotic break, which was tragic and devastating, but to my novelist’s brain, also wildly fascinating. I’ve always been interested in how as humans, we process grief. This was one of the more unusual and it started my story-idea wheels turning.
How much of the novel do you plan in advance before you start writing?
I typically know where my characters are starting from and where I think they’ll end up, but I have no idea how I’m going to get from point A to point B.
Where is one of your favorite places to write either at home or elsewhere now that COVID restrictions are lifting?
I mostly write on my couch in my den. I have an office, but I think it’s too much pressure to write in there—like I’m supposed to be Writing, with a capital W.
Your novels tend to feature women faced with difficult obstacles and tragedy. What do you think drives these characters despite their circumstances?
I think it’s the same thing that drives most of us through tragedy—resilience, hope, and a curiosity for what will happen next in their lives, even when the chips are down.
Is Frick Island based on a real place or purely imaginary?
Yes! It’s based on Smith Island off the coast of Maryland in the Chesapeake Bay.
What is one of your favorite scenes from the book?
So many of them were fun to write, but I think I have to say it’s the breakfast scene when a bug finds its way to Anders’ plate (and he’s terrified of bugs) and Mrs. Olecki wrongly presumes that he’s a Mormon (which has nothing to do with the bug). I laughed a lot while writing that.
If the book was turned into a feature film who would you want to play Piper, Tom, and Anders?
For Anders, I would love for Skyler Gisondo to play him. He has just the right amount of charm and awkward vulnerability. I’m not sure about Piper and Tom! But I feel like it would be one of those things when you see the person, you would know (like casting at first sight- is that a thing?)
I loved the quote from Emily Griffin on the front cover, “This is the hopeful book we all need right now. I loved it!” How did you feel when you read the quote for the first time?
I was genuinely thrilled because that’s exactly how I hoped people would respond to the book—that it was uplifting and hopeful and made them feel better about life during a time when life has been a struggle for most of us with this pandemic.
What are some of the books you’re reading right now?
I just finished Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid and it was fantastic. I also recently loved Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica and Seven Days in June by Tia Williams.
Are you working on your next novel and if so, can we get a sneak peek?
Absolutely! The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise is about two women: Louise, an 83-year-old suspected international jewelry thief, and Tanner, her 21-year-old college-dropout caretaker. They end up on the lam from the police and Tanner is trying to figure out who Louise actually is. It’s part homage to Thelma & Louise, part comic caper, and part treatise on what it currently means to be a woman in this world. It will be out February 2023 and I’m so excited for people to read it!