Tuesday, June 01, 2010

AUTHOR INTERVIEW - Allison Winn Scotch

AUTHOR INTERVIEW - Allison Winn Scotch

What was the inspiration for your new book, The One That I Want?
I wanted to take the themes I explored in my last book, Time of My Life, and flip everything on its head, while still delving into the concept of how we – and my characters – can create more fulfilling, fleshed-out lives. So it was this whole concept of, “What happens when you think you have a perfect life, and it totally gets shattered to pieces?” In this day and age, not an entirely uncommon – unfortunately – scenario.

How has becoming a New York Times bestselling author changed your career? Is there more pressure to create the next best seller?
Yes. There is no doubt that I feel a lot more pressure with this – and my follow-up – books. I felt it immensely while working on this one. But that said, this isn’t something that I’d ever think to complain about. It’s sort of an embarrassment of riches, to be honest, and if my biggest problem in the world is that I now feel the pressure to match the success of my previous book, well, then, I guess I don’t have too many problems! In terms of how it’s changed my career, I guess it’s just escalating things, put my name out there in a bigger scope, which ultimately means that I can build upon the last book and reach more readers. That’s really what it’s about: not having the NY Times moniker, but connecting and resonating with readers. So that aspect is, of course, really gratifying.

The One That I Want: A NovelMost of your books question the paths that your characters have taken in their lives and explore alternate paths. Have you pondered that for yourself?
Yes and no. I do feel like I do pretty consistent temperature checks with myself, along the lines of, “Okay, are you satisfied with XYZ and if not, what can you do to increase your satisfaction,” and part of that is undoubtedly considering the road not taken. But I don’t really have any lingering “what ifs,” in my life. Sure, I might think about them from time to time, but I really am the type of person who takes her current reality and tries to improve upon it. I think this is definitely one of the underlying themes in my books: if you’re not living the life you want, then what?

How much do you plan your novels before you start writing? Do you know how they will end before you begin to write?
No, I never have any idea how things will end, so I’d say that I plan very little. I’m a “pantser,” which means that I write by the seat of my pants and essentially let my characters lead the way and lead the plot. Sure, do I have a very vague idea of what I’d LIKE to happen? Yes. But mostly, I write from their perspective, throwing obstacles in their way to make things interesting, and let the ending find its way organically.

What is your writing schedule - do you write every day?
It all depends on where I am in a manuscript. When I’m writing the initial draft, yes, I write every day. I’ve found that for me, writing is kind of akin to going to the gym: I need to get into a pattern/schedule or else it’s really easy for me to slide of it…for weeks. So I sit down every day (excluding weekends) and require that I hit a certain word count, usually somewhere between 1-2k, depending on where I am in the book and the momentum that I have. Sometimes this takes me an hour, sometimes it takes me more. But once I hit that goal for the day, I give myself permission to log off. Which doesn’t mean that I don’t spend the rest of the day thinking about what I’m going to write next: I do. Only that the actual typing part can be shuttered.

Time of My Life: A NovelCan you describe how you found your agent, Elisabeth Weed from Weed Literary?
Sure: I found her like most other writers do – via blind query. I did a lot of research as to who might be a good fit, then fired off rounds of emails. She was immediately responsive, and I accepted her offer, despite having a few others, within, I think, about a week of sending that initial note.

How closely do you follow book reviews & critiques for your books?
I’d say I follow them closely upon the initial release, and with every passing month, follow them less and less. There’s something daunting about ushering a new book out into the world, kind of akin to a newborn, but eventually, you realize that it’s all going to be okay, and you let go. And then you write another one, and your energies and concerns transfer over to the new project anyway.

I understand you have two children, about the same age as my son. How aware are your kids of what you do? How do juggle responsibilities of being a mother, wife, and writer?
My kids pretty fully understand what it is I do: they’ve seen my books, they’ve come to a signing, and I’ve gone into my son’s school and done a little chat (as much as one can do so with 4 and 5 year olds) about what it means to be an author. They seem to get a kick out of it and practice writing their own books as well, which kind of delights me.  I juggle everything by having a great babysitter, being really well-organized and being entirely, 100% okay with saying no to things. I do feel pulled in A LOT of different directions – like any working mom does – and I don’t deny that I’m pretty tired a lot of the time too, so if I’m just not up for something: reading a to-be-blurbed book, attending an event, speaking somewhere, whatever, I just say no. There’s a lot of power in drawing lines in the sand and honoring those boundaries.

The Department of Lost & FoundWhat made you choose writing over acting as a career? How has your acting experience shaped how you write?
I don’t even know if I chose writing as much as it chose me. (Not to sound like a character from Lost.) But what I mean by that is that I almost fell into this career – with all roads pointing toward it but not with me, at least initially, seeking it out, and in that sense, I’m incredibly lucky and blessed. I definitely think that acting and writing are similar entities, and to that end, when I’m writing a character, I envision him or her much in the same way I would a character on stage or whatnot: you try to delve in and get under his or her skin to really bring her to life.

What books are you reading right now?
I’m halfway through Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart and really enjoying it a lot.

If you had a young writing protégé, what one piece of advice would you offer?
I always say that aspiring authors need to listen to criticism and take their egos out of the equation. Too many folks – myself including – think that their early/first work is untouchable, when, in fact, it’s far from it. The only way to improve is to figure out where your weaknesses are, and in order to do that, you need to be open to constructive advice. I can sincerely say that if I hadn’t taken criticism early in my career, I never would have been published. Sometimes, you think you know what you’re doing when, if fact, you have no idea.

Do you have another novel in the works?
I’m just wrapping up my draft of my 2011 book, The Memory of Us, which is about a woman who survives a plane crash but loses her memory in the process and has to piece her life back together with the stories told to her from folks around her. I’m really enjoying it and think it’s a nice companion piece to Time and The One. Sort of a middle ground, in terms of tone and feel.


Allison Winn Scotch is the bestselling author of Time of My Life and The Department of Lost and Found. Prior to her fiction, she was a frequent contributor to numerous magazines and websites including Cooking Light, Family Circle, Fitness, Glamour, and Redbook, and now focuses on celebrity profiles for a variety of magazines. She lives in New York with her family. Allison's new book, The One That I Want, is releasing today June 1, 2010. For those of you in the New York area, she will be doing a reading/book signing tonight 6/1/10 at 7:00pm at the Borders (10 Columbus Circle). For more about her and her books, go to allisonwinn.com or follow her on Twitter at @aswinn.

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