This week I’m doing something a little different. It’s quite special, actually.
What is it?
What have I been banging on about for the last week?
Why did I tell you to watch this space?
Why am I teasing you this way?
Well unlike what Phillip Black thought, no, there will be no live streaming video of me on the blog – although that made me laugh very hard. Ha. Can you imagine? “Here I am sipping my morning tea and giving the diabetic fat cat a shot of insulin. Tune in later when I clean up a hairball they’ve hacked up on one of the dining room chairs.”
That would be gripping. Um, no.
Anyhow, I better spill the beans because Lisa Bonchek Adams will come hunt me down. She’s been (im)patiently waiting to find out what my “special something” is. That, as Walker Lawrence said, is love.
Well, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing New York Times bestselling author, Allison Winn Scotch, whose new book, The One That I Want, from Crown Publishing is released today in hardcover. I’ve posted the entire interview below. I hope you enjoy it enough that you go out and buy one (or all!) of her wonderful books.
Allison, at what point in your life did you decide you wanted to be an author?
I think it was something I always aspired to but thought, to be honest, was impossible. But at about 28 or 29, I started earning money as a writer (after trying on a few other career hats), and thought…well…maybe. I wrote my first manuscript around then, but it was god-awful. Still though, the seed had been planted.
Did you find yourself losing hope and wanting to throw in the towel at any point before you got Elisabeth Weed as an agent?
Actually, I had another agent before Elisabeth. She took on that aforementioned god-awful ms, but couldn’t sell it. I wrote another manuscript, we revised it, and then deemed it unsellable, and we mutually agreed to part ways. That, I suppose, was the point where I could have lost hope, but for some reason – and perhaps because I am an undying optimist – I saw this as an opportunity and was really jazzed by it. Having written a totally crap manuscript, I knew this one was actually good (I could see the difference between the two), and within hours, literally, of dissolving my relationship with that first agent, I was out querying again. I was fortunate in that it only took me a few weeks to have a few agent offers, but there’s no doubt that I could have gotten down on a) the rejected initial manuscript and b) the broken agent situation. But I didn’t, and I think this definitely contributed to my success.
With the release of your latest, The One That I Want, you have completed 3 novels to date: The Department of Lost & Found – and – Time of My Life, and made it onto the New York Times Bestseller List. What makes this latest book stand out in your mind?
The One that I Want is probably my most grown-up book of all of them. Time of My Life has a very, very special place in my heart and will probably always be my favorite because of the ways that it changed my life and because of what it means to be, but TWTIW is a little darker and more serious and I think, in some ways, an honest assessment of how we all deal with difficult situations in our life and the grief – and joy – that they cause us. It was also a really hard book for me to write, and in that sense, I’m almost the most proud of it. That I struggled but forced myself to keep going, and now, it’s receiving some wonderful reviews. Incredibly gratifying and a good life lesson.
Who’s your favorite character in The One That I Want, and why?
Eli. He’s the substitute art teacher who is a bit of a wanderer and a little lost but still in good touch with himself and who he is. I had the most fun writing him and think I could relate to him on a lot of levels when I couldn’t always do so with my heroine.
As an author, I find myself coming up with dialogue at inopportune moments – i.e. while I’m in bed, taking a shower, driving, etc. Does this happen to you?
Oh, all the time! I try to repeat it over and over in my head so it doesn’t get lost. Sometimes, I run to my desk and jot it down or rush to my computer, but mostly, I let it marinate in my head. I should probably jot it down more often, but I’m a little lazy like that! Which, of course, means that I do lose some of this dialogue out of my own inertia!
What would you do if you were in Tilly’s place? What if you could see into the future? Would YOU want to know what fate has in store?
I’ve thought a lot about this question, and when I first started writing the book, I think my answer would have been yes. Why not? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if I saw something that wasn’t positive – god forbid, something horrible with my family or what not – I wouldn’t be able to handle it. Wouldn’t be able to keep living in the present without that foreboding sense of dread. So sure, if everything could be wine and roses, but that’s not how it works. And also, one of life’s greatest pleasures is getting good news or achieving something you didn’t think was possible, and if you already knew these achievements were coming down the pipeline, I imagine it would numb you to the joys of them.
If you had the 3 main characters from your books in one room, who would you most want to hang out with? Tilly from The One That I Want, Jillian from Time of My LIfe, or Natalie from The Department of Lost & Found?
Oh, gosh, great question! Ha! I’m surprised by my answer at this, but I think I might say Natalie. As I said above, I have such a great fondness for Jillian, and I appreciate Tilly for a variety of reasons, but Natalie has the sharpest edges – she’s snarky and witty and smart (not that the others aren’t smart!) – and I bet she’d be a really good time. 🙂
Because you already had 2 under your belt, did you find it easier writing this book than the others?
Actually, this was my most difficult book to write. I try to improve on each book as I go, and the pressure that I felt to compete with Time of My Life was enormous. Also, the structure of this book plays out almost like a thriller, and having not tackled that before – and because I write without an outline – I found that the actual plotting was tremendously hard. Like, how can I write about my character’s future when I don’t even know what’s going to happen? In the end, this went through more drafts than any of my other books had (or my next one will, as I’m just wrapping up the draft on that), but that’s okay. It was a process, and I didn’t quit or give up, and the end result is as strong as I could have hoped for. And I set my standards high.
What advice would you give someone who wants to write a book?
Read a lot. Read authors you want to emulate to really understand how they structure a book and how they create vivid characters and dialogue. Also, be very, very open to constructive criticism. Writing has an endless learning curve, and as good as you think you are from the starting gate, you can be – and likely will be – 200 times better with an editor and with more experience. Be open to advice and don’t take it personally.
What did you find to be the hardest thing about writing this book?
Living up to the expectation of readers who loved Time of My Life. I’ve never been one to complain about the pressures of this job because, well, that’s ridiculous, but I definitely felt overwhelmed in terms of getting it right, to please both them AND me.
What was the easiest?
This book was also really difficult because it was like putting puzzle pieces together without having the luxury of looking at the box cover to see what it actually looked like. So, that said, once I wrote the first two-thirds (and formed the frame of the picture), I was able to write that last third in about two weeks. I was just flying, throwing the pieces into place, trusting that they were going to come together well. It was exhilarating and my favorite thing about writing any book – that momentum and that rekindled love of putting words on the page.
What did you learn from it?
That writing isn’t always fun. This book was pure hard work, unlike my previous ones which had come really easily. But guess what? If you roll up your sleeves and push through it, the end result can be just as great. I was worried for a long time that because this was more arduous, that it meant it was a lesser book, but it isn’t and it’s not. In some ways, I’m even more proud of it because of the time and effort that went into it.
And, because it’s me, and YOU’RE in New York, what’s your favorite baseball team?
Ha! I grew up in Seattle, so I’m a Mariners fan. And my husband is a die-hard Red Sox fan…so…will you still run this interview?
As you can see, I did indeed cut Allison and her husband some slack on their baseball team choices, which, I think, shows what cool people Yankees fans are. It also shows how much I respect and admire Allison’s amazing storytelling abilities.
I hope you enjoyed the interview. Next week it’ll be back to my regularly scheduled rants. Have a great week.