Interview with Tegan Wren, Author of "Inconceivable!"

How Storytelling Can Be Used to Heal and Advocate for Infertility

Romance novelist Tegan Wren, author of the infertility novel Inconceivable!
"I believe we need more works of fiction that give an accurate look at what infertility is all about and how it impacts people," writes Tegan Wren. Tegan Wren

“You should write a book!” How many infertile couples have heard this from friends and family, after hearing their personal story of struggle? Well, author Tegan Wren did just that – she wrote a book!

It’s a novel, not a memoir… but much of her personal story can be found between the lines. You may find your story hiding there, too.

Writing our stories – whether on a blog or as fiction or poetry – can be a healing experience. Our stories can also provide comfort to others who are going through similar struggles.

And while Wren is a professional writer, you don’t need to be a professional to write your story or gain from the experience of telling a story. We all should tell our stories, in whatever way possible.

I highly recommend you read author Tegan Wren’s debut romance novel, INCONCEIVABLE!, published by Curiosity Quills Press.

But before you read her novel, check out her author interview below, where she discusses her novel vs. her personal story, the process of turning pain into art, books, and movies that provide a healing message for the fertility challenged, and why she is donating a percentage of the profits to the Baby Quest Foundation.

What Is INCONCEIVABLE! About?

Can you please explain your book’s plot in just a few lines? Gives us a very brief summary of what to expect, without plot spoilers, of course!

Hatty, an American, is at a pub in the fictional European country of Toulene when she unwittingly has a run in with Prince John, who’s wearing a disguise.

After discovering she’s been awkwardly chatting up an heir to the throne, Hatty’s thrilled by their flirty encounter, but realizes she probably won’t ever see the prince again.

But then, her editor at the newspaper assigns her to help cover the royal family. As Hatty spends more time with the prince, their chemistry becomes even more apparent and they begin dating.

During their whirlwind courtship, Hatty and John go to great lengths to keep their romance a secret from the paparazzi, while also dealing with bouts of jealousy, the betrayal of a close friend, and determining how their relationship impacts Hatty’s career.

About six months after they wed, Hatty begins to worry because she hasn’t gotten pregnant. She’s in her early 20’s and healthy, and fertility tests reveal no obvious problems. As she and John navigate the turbulent waters of infertility, a heartbreaking struggle for any couple, they face added pressure from the royal family and tabloids.

As they fight to keep their privacy and protect their relationship from the emotional strain of dealing with infertility, they endure painful conversations with family, snarky stories in the media, and news that another royal couple has conceived a child.

Eventually, Hatty and John find their own happy ending; it’s both lovely and unexpected.

Young, Fit, and Infertile

I know at least part of the inspiration for this book came from your own experiences with infertility. Can you tell me a little bit about your own infertility story?

Like Hatty, I was in my 20’s when I first started trying to conceive. My husband and I were fit and healthy.

We underwent the usual battery of tests, which showed no problems. This was great news, but it was also confusing. How could we not be getting pregnant if we didn’t have any fertility problems?

Eventually, my doctor suggested I have a laparoscopy to check for endometriosis and an HSG test to determine if my tubes were blocked. The tubes were clear, but my doctor found endo.

Several failed Clomid / IUI cycles led us to scrape together enough money to pay for one round of in vitro fertilization. (Like many non-royal and non-celebrity couples, we didn’t have twenty grand lying around.)

One of the best doctors in the country, Dr. Sherman Silber who pioneered the ICSI technique, was a mere 3.5 hours away from where we lived at the time. So, we underwent an IVF cycle with Dr. Silber.

Despite my youth and high doses of ovary-stimulating medicine, I only produced three follicles. They became three perfect embryos, and Dr. Silber transferred all of them. I got pregnant but had a miscarriage a few weeks into my first trimester.

My husband and I already knew we’d only be able to afford a single round of IVF, and that adoption would be our next step if that didn’t work.

A few months after the miscarriage, we began gathering our paperwork to adopt a child from overseas.

We now have three beautiful, talented, smart children (I’m totally biased!) from three different countries.

It was a terrible, heart-wrenching journey, but I’m so thankful it led me to these three amazing kiddos.

Finding Inspiration and Support While Writing a Novel

Tell me about deciding to write this book. What was your inspiration? What was your writing process like, from idea to the actual novel? 

About the time I was trying to decide how to write a story that focused heavily on infertility and related issues, Duchess Kate was preparing to marry Prince William.

I remember watching the coverage on television and thinking, ‘If anything could make infertility worse than it already is, it would be going through it under the unblinking eye of the paparazzi and with the expectations that you produce an heir for the royal family.’ That idea prompted me to tell the story from the perspective of young royals.

My process was simple: find every opportunity to write and do it.

When I started writing my novel, I had two young children and we were about to adopt our third. As you can imagine, the writing was slow going for a long time. I had bursts of inspiration and I’d write a full chapter at once.

But sometimes, I’d only get through a short scene in one sitting. A few times, I had longer pockets of time to write. I pushed through and wrote as much as possible in the time I had.

Then, I connected with editors and other writers, primarily through Twitter. We exchanged pages; I’d edit their first 50 pages and they’d edit mine. It was fun, time-consuming, and completely necessary.

During that time, my manuscript changed quite a bit, always getting better and stronger.

I’m in awe of the big and welcoming community of writers on Twitter. I’ve become quite close to a few other authors primarily through social media. We work together in a spirit that’s supportive and non-competitive.

Finding Hope in Fiction

Why did you decide to write a fictional novel instead of a memoir?

When we were going through infertility, I read several non-fiction books on the subject. Several of them were Christian/inspirational, and a few were memoirs.

But I’m a fiction lover to the core. I wanted to read a well-written, engaging novel that, on some level, reflected my experiences with infertility.

Reading about an illness or a dangerous situation in fiction allows you to step away from the details of your own life and focus on the characters in the story. Seeing that they have a happy ending gives hope that you, too, will find a happy ending, even if it isn’t exactly the one you have in mind at the beginning of your journey.

That’s the kind of book I wanted to read when we were unable to conceive month after month, so that’s what I wrote.

Additionally, I think a romance novel is a great vehicle to educate those who aren’t directly impacted by infertility on how the inability to conceive creates stress that carries over from the bedroom into other parts of the relationship.

Because couples often choose to keep private the intimate details of their infertility struggle, many people outside the community—I lovingly call them “the fertiles”—don’t understand the breadth and depth of the pain we endure.

The Healing Journey of Creating Art from Pain

Creating art from struggle has a long tradition. Can you share how writing this book has helped you with your personal journey?

It forced me to revisit some very difficult times. Writing one scene in particular—I won’t name it because it would be a huge spoiler—brought me to tears.

In the course of mining my life for the details that would bring authenticity to my novel, I was able to look back on those experiences with fresh compassion for myself.

When I was on the roller coaster month after month (hope that you’re pregnant followed by deep despair when you’re not, then new hope for the next cycle), I felt guilt for being so consumed and obsessed with trying to get pregnant, shame that my body couldn’t do what it was supposed to do effortlessly, and grief over the loss of a child who never was.

I spent a lot of time beating myself up emotionally.

As I channeled those feelings to write this book, I stopped judging myself and began to let it go.

Part of the healing came from being able to recall those difficult times from where I am now: the mother of three children. Knowing I have my happy ending helped me put all those earlier struggles in proper perspective.

Advice for Future Fertility Novelists

What advice do you have for those wanting to create fiction from their infertility experience?

Go for it! I believe we need more works of fiction that give an accurate look at what infertility is all about and how it impacts people. There are many misconceptions and myths held by “the fertiles” that we need to correct.

But before you begin, make sure you’re comfortable reliving your own struggles because it is quite an emotional experience.

However, I believe it’s well worth it and can bring healing and a more complete closure, as it did for me.

Infertility in the Movies and Arts

What are your thoughts on infertility being a plot point in books and movies? What do you wish we saw more of? And are there any infertility cliché stories that you think we need less of?

I’m a big advocate of seeing more books and movies that address infertility directly or indirectly, as long as it’s handled in a way that doesn’t perpetuate misconceptions.

I’m automatically skeptical of any film that implies couples who adopt magically get pregnant. I can’t even tell you how many people told us after we adopted our first child that, “at last!” we’d get pregnant.

I find that line of thinking very offensive because it diminishes the joy of adoption.

I’d like to see realistic portrayals focused on the lack of affordable treatments, the shots, side effects, and surgeries women endure when they go through an IVF cycle, and infertility impacting younger couples.

I think we’ve seen plenty of stories about “older” women who put off having children to focus on their career, and then find themselves unable to conceive. That’s an important and valid story to tell.

But where are the stories about the healthy women in their 20’s who are career-minded but are also ready to have children and can’t?

That’s one reason I felt very strongly about making my main character in her early 20’s. You don’t often see young women dealing with infertility in books and movies.

If you don’t mind, could you share your top 5 infertility-related books/movies? Why are they in your top 5?

When We’re Young: I just saw this movie recently. I loved how infertility was woven into the story as an undercurrent that came to the forefront in just the right ways at just the right times. It was handled in a very authentic way. My husband and I both adored this film and appreciated how it handled infertility.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: This book touches on miscarriage in a way that’s unusual and poignant. Even though the miscarriages are related to the time-travel aspect of the story, the emotions the couple experiences, especially their grief and sense of helplessness, are palpable.

Up: The storytellers at Disney/Pixar are so talented. Without a single line of dialogue, we get a brief but powerful glimpse at the couple’s journey through infertility.

What I love about this montage at the beginning of the movie is that it emphasizes the fact that sometimes the pain is so deep, so raw, you can’t put it into words.

Juno: This movie had the potential to irk me. After all, it’s about teenagers who get pregnant and don’t want to raise the baby. What I loved about the movie were the subtle ways it revealed the pain of the infertile couple who wanted to adopt the teenagers’ infant. Jennifer Garner, in particular, gave a great performance in this film, showing her character’s deep desire to be a mother.

Finding the Rainbow by Rachel McGrath: Reading this memoir is like chatting with an old friend who has walked the infertility/multiple miscarriage road with you. Rachel shares her journey in a way that’s refreshing: with plenty of humor and honesty. She doesn’t hold back in describing her pain (physical and emotional), and I appreciated that.

I also loved her obsession with doing pregnancy tests. I think most women who are trying to conceive develop a similar unquenchable desire to test and test and test.

What You Walk Away With After Reading INCONCEIVABLE!

For readers with infertility experience, what do you hope they will get from reading your novel? And what about for readers without infertility experience?

For those who have gone through infertility, I hope this book comforts them—hey, you’re not alone in feeling all the anger, pain, hope, bouts of jealousy, bursts of joy, confusion, and any of the other emotions that bubble up along the way.

They should come away from the book knowing that each couple’s journey is different and that happily-ever-afters don’t always look the way we imagined they would.

By reading this story, which I tried to infuse with hope and heart, I want them to gain some perspective on their own journey. They’ll laugh and probably identify with Hatty’s obsession with doing pregnancy tests, want to give her a hug during the tough times, and take heart from her resolve to do what’s in her own best interest rather than what other people want her to do.

For readers who haven’t gone through infertility, I want them to come away from this book with a new level of compassion for what infertility does to individuals and couples.

I also hope they have a deeper understanding of why some couples choose to keep the details private. As readers go through the story, they see how much emotional suffering happens behind closed doors.

So many of us who go through infertility learn to suck it up and soldier on, going about our lives as though a great drama isn’t unfolding each month as we try to get pregnant.

Ultimately, with more compassion and understanding in society, I’d like to see broader support for policies that encourage access to affordable fertility treatments and more funding for medical research.

Why Baby Quest Foundation

You’re donating 50% of the royalties to the Baby Quest Foundation. Can you tell me more about this organization and why you’re personally interested in this organization in particular?

My husband and I have long wanted to help other couples afford fertility treatments because it was one of the challenging parts of our own journey.

I decided earlier this year that it was fitting to donate half of my royalties from INCONCEIVABLE! to help others who are having trouble conceiving. It’s a way to leverage my story to help other people.

It’s been such a joy to connect with Pamela Hirsch who founded and runs Baby Quest Foundation. The foundation has a long list of grant recipients, many of whom have babies through procedures funded with Baby Quest grants.

Pam is an open, giving, and caring person who birthed this foundation after her own daughter wasn’t able to conceive. Pam has tremendous compassion for couples who, like my husband and me, don’t have money on hand to pay for treatments such as traditional IVF, an egg donor IVF cycle, and conception through surrogacy.

Pam’s enthusiasm for helping others, her foundation’s track record, and the fact she accepts grants from couples all over the U.S. made Baby Quest an ideal charity for me to support with proceeds from this book.

I’m honored to be partnering with Pam to raise awareness about infertility and the financial assistance that’s available to couples through Baby Quest.

Incidentally, the next grant application deadline is November 16!

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