There has been a lot of heavy discussion going on here of late so I thought it was time for a little fun. Summer’s here and I for one am looking forward to lots of reading on my porch. But even better than a relaxing summer afternoon reading on the porch, is a hot summer day at the beach, nestled in sand with a cold drink and a good book.
With that in mind, I’m pleased to welcome author Allison Winn Scotch to Coffees & Commutes. Earlier this month she published her third novel, The One that I Want, which ,coincidentally, makes the perfect book for the beach. But more than that, she’s a woman after my own heart. A former communications professional turned full-time writer, she’s sharing her thoughts on writing, her favourite books, working and motherhood. Nice fit, right?
A. 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.
Q. What was your writing process like for THE ONE THAT I WANT? How long did it take you to write it? Do you write for a specific time every day?
A. I wrote the few drafts over the course of about six months, which felt like a long time compared to my first two novels. When I say “first few,” I mean that I couldn’t quite get the first 100 or so pages right, so I kept going back and changing them until finally something clicked into place, and then the rest of the manuscript followed. So that part took 6 months, and then I spend three more months doing several more revisions. This didn’t come easy! 🙂 I usually write in the mornings, after I’ve dropped my son off at school and after I’ve gotten my web-surfing out of the way. I give myself a deadline, say, 10:30 AM, to stop messing around, and then I have to hit a certain word count before I can quit. I find that if I don’t tackle the writing in the morning, I’m capable of procrastinating all day and never getting to the manuscript.
Q. If you had a young writing protégé, what one piece of advice would you offer?
A. 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.
Q. On your blog, Ask Allison, you offer advice and resources to aspiring writers. How do you get so much done?
A. Ha! Okay, another tip for productivity is that I do things in chunks. So, this morning, for example, I did some book promo stuff and got all of that off my plate. Then I take a break and workout and run errands. Then I devote the afternoon to another chunk of stuff – in this case, I’m interviewing Ian Somerhalder from The Vampire Diaries, so I’ll do my prep work and then chat with him. The same is true for my blog: I write three or four entries at a time, get it off my to-do list, and that’s that. I really think if you’re organized – and get into a pattern – it’s not so hard.
Q. What if traditional publishing went away? Would you still write just for the fun of it?
A. I’m sure in some regard, I would. My parent recently dumped all of my childhood stuff at my house (hello, nostalgia!), and I found journals upon journals, dating back to when I was about six. I’ve always loved to write, and I can’t imagine that would change, whether or not I was paid for it. Would I sit down and kill myself in crafting the perfect novel? Well, that I don’t know. But I’d always have something to say.
Q. What types of books do you like to read? What are you currently reading?
A. I gravitate toward books that are similar to what I write: engaging, fun, fast but still not too flighty – something with a bit of meat behind it but that doesn’t take me more than a week or so to read. Right now, I have so many books in my TBR pile! I’m halfway through Leah Stewart’s Husband and Wife, which I’m really enjoying. I have Holly LeCraw, Saving CeeCee Honeycut by Beth Hoffman, and The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris on my nightstand, along with about 10 ARCs for potential blurbs! I’m looking forward to my long plane rides out to Seattle and California for my book tour, when I can hopefully catch up!
Q. What are some of your favorite books and authors in the women’s fiction genre?
A. Oh wow, this list could be endless, especially because I have so many dear friends who write in this genre. So I feel like this is an impossible question! 🙂 But a few that come to mind are anything by Laura Dave, Leah Stewart, Julie Buxbaum, Elin Hilderbrand, Amanda Eyre Ward and Joshilyn Jackson. I’ll pick up anything they write. And Good Grief by Lolly Winston really helped shape who I became as a writer.
Q. How has motherhood affected your writing?
A. I couldn’t have written Time of My Life, the break-out book of my career, without understanding that resonating bass note of unconditional love that we have for our children. Exploring motherhood – and our complicated relationship to it – was a big part of that book, and that theme is further explored in my follow-up, The One That I Want. Having children has certainly made me both more introspective and more empathetic, and I have no doubt that this has come through in my writing.
Q. You’re a working mom and wife. Any tips on work/family balance?
A. Ask for help from whoever can provide it: a sitter, your parents, your husband, a friend. There’s no martyrdom in trying to do it all yourself. Also, learn to say no with a big, fat capital N. I think that moms tend to put themselves last on their lists (myself sometimes included), and the only way to start climbing back out of that hole is to recognize how valuable your time and energy are. To that end, I now have no problem prioritizing and passing on plenty of things that people ask me for.
Q. Finish this sentence…The mom in me can’t live without…..?
A. Does anyone ever answer their babysitter? Ha ha! I am TOTALLY kidding. Hmmm, well, one of the things that the kids and I really like to do together is have dance parties, so I’m going to have to say Napster. We fire up a rotation of songs, and just let loose. I’m really intent on instilling a love of music and art in them, so we listen to so many differe
nt artists for hours on end…it occupies them for a long time but we’re all enjoying ourselves. Also, obviously, a good washer/dryer.
Or if you’d like to win a copy of The One That I Want for your summer reading enjoyment, simply leave a comment and tell me the name of your favourite guilty pleasure book. I’m looking for a new title or two to round out my own summer reading plans. I’ll select someone randomly on Monday July 5. Good luck and thanks for reading.