Friday, April 8, 2011

Author Interview: Allison Winn Scotch

Yesterday, I reviewed Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch; you can read it here. Today, she has kindly agreed to answer our questions.

GJR: In Time of My Life, Jillian (aka Jill) is stagnant in her marriage and certain circumstances send her back to her old life with her ex-boyfriend, Jack. Do you think women are more focused on the past than men? Why? What made you decide to write a book about a character’s “what if”?

AWS: That’s such a great question! I suppose that it has something to do with idealizing the thing that we don’t have or couldn’t have while being faced with the imperfection of the life we DO have. I mean, isn’t it so much easier to romanticize how things could have been perfect with an old boyfriend rather than deal with asking your husband to pick up his socks for the ten thousandth time? To imagine that said ex would never leave his socks on the floor in the first place? Of course he would – and undoubtedly commit far more egregious sins – but since you never know, well, you never know. It’s the beauty of not knowing that keeps that “what if” alive in us.

And I suppose I wanted to write this book because I think so many of us have those “what ifs,” that it felt like it could really be a big, fabulous universal discussion. As in, there’s no shame in having them! So what? It’s perfectly normal, and it doesn’t take away from your current life or current happiness. I can’t tell you the number of emails I’ve gotten from women, all of whom say, “It’s such a relief to know that I’m not the only one who entertains the possibilities.”

GJR: Throughout the book, we see Jill vacillating emotionally between her two lives. The one where she’s trying to make it work with Jack and where she’s longing for her “real” life. Do you think this might have been different if Jillian hadn’t been a mom? Is it her tie to Katie that reels her back in more than Henry?

AWS: Ooh, another great question, and honestly, one that I’ve never been asked before. I think Katie certainly ties her to Henry permanently, and anyone who has ever been a parent knows that the tug and love involved in parenthood is stronger than just about anything. But to be honest, I actually think that Jill is reeled back to Henry because she comes to understand what love is, what a partnership is, and well, what life is. It’s not until she can step outside of her former life that she can see that the ups and downs are part of the deal, that you can’t have happiness without the taste of unhappiness, and that no relationship can be perfect all of the time. I think this is so easy for us all to forget: that life can be truly awful sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t also be glorious. Jill ultimately understands that she’s the one who needs to make some changes, and she can’t have the expectation that everyone around her should change if she can’t too.

GJR:What was the one thing that you wanted Jillian to repair in her past that was so significant in her future? Did it end up like you thought or did it take a different direction?

AWS: For me, her relationship with her mother was so scarring that it felt critical that she find some small sliver of forgiveness for her in order to achieve any real emotional evolution. Jill carried around the burden of her mother’s abandonment her entire life, and until she was able to shed some of that burden, she could never really be free. And it’s funny – initially, I had a much cleaner resolution for that relationship, but it didn’t feel truly honest. In life, sometimes things are messy, and so, well, I made their resolution a little less clean cut. It seemed truthful though – some healing but also still some space for forgiveness.

GJR: If you had a chance to do something over, would you? If so, what would it be?

AWS: Oh gosh, I’m a bit of a fatalist, so I kind of believe that all roads lead to my current state. That said, certainly, in my early to mid-twenties, I allowed myself to be in, well, some less-than-ideal relationships. And those lumps are totally fine – that’s what your early-twenties are for! But there were a few times when my self-esteem took a little bit of a beating from a boyfriend, and looking back, I would just tell my younger self to stick to my gut, stick to my guns, and get the hell out of there a lot sooner. (When I say beating, I don’t, of course, mean physical! Just the typical hoping that I could change him type of stuff that resulted in me compromising in ways that I shouldn’t have.) That said, again, those lessons brought me to where I am now – married for nine years, two amazing kids, and a great career. So, you know, it’s all good. :)

GJR: Do you believe even if we had the chance to go back and change something in our lives, we’d end up in the same place with slightly different outcomes? Meaning, fate is fate. You end up where you are because that is exactly where you are supposed to be?

AWS: Again, great question, and one that I’ve pondered endlessly. It’s such a hard call. I’d like to believe that we have some bit of control over where our lives go – that it’s not all pre-destined, that, if we really work hard enough, we can steer ourselves onto a different course. But then, who’s to say that wasn’t the course we were going to be on anyway? For the most part, I do believe in fate, but by fate, I mean that maybe there are a few different ways that your life could go, and whichever one it does go is the one that was (mostly) supposed to happen. Is that a vague enough answer for you? 

GJR: I came to be a fan of yours through Twitter before I even read one of your novels but it made me want to read them. How has being on Twitter affected your relationship with your readers? What is one pro and one con as a writer of social media for you?

AWS: I think Twitter is amazing, and I truly love interacting with readers (and other authors) there. How has it affected my relationship with them? Well, I suppose I know plenty of them “personally” now, and we’ve forged friendships that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. It’s also nice to know that there are readers out there who are rooting you on and that your work is being read and affecting a few people. That’s really the pro: that you’re not working in a void and that you have company and friendship while you work.

I suppose the con is that sometimes, there is a bit too MUCH familiarity – everyone feels like they know everyone, and to be honest, sometimes, this is exhausting. I do like my solitude as much as I like my socialization. (I’m a Gemini, what can I say?)

GJR: You write for a variety of magazines as well as your novels, how do you find time to do all this and raise your family?

AWS: Well, for one, I want to be sure that I give an accurate impression: I’ve significantly reduced the amount of magazine work I do because I simply don’t have the mental energy for everything. And the mag work that I do now is work that I love: celebrity interviews and profiles. I’m such a pop culture junkie that this really doesn’t feel like work.

For two, I also have a great support system: I have a babysitter who has been working with us since my first child was five months old, and I’m not afraid to say to my husband, “Hey, pull your weight, I have a deadline, and I’m stressed, and I need you to deal with XYZ.”

For three, I am super-organized with my time. Every day, I know when I’m writing, when I’m exercising, when I’m running errands, when I’m walking the dog. There’s no way for me to get everything done – and be happy and well-balanced – if I don’t have a pretty uncompromising schedule. And I’m also totally willing to say “no” to a lot of things: lunches, social obligations, and work that doesn’t interest me.

GJR: Can you give us and our readers a glimpse of your next novel? Title? When is the expected release date?

AWS: My next book will be out in January or February 2012, and I am SO excited about it. It’s called THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME, and it’s about a woman who survives a plane crash but who loses her memory in the process. She has to put the pieces of her life back together without relying on any information from the past, and must discern what really happened in her former life, what really matters about that, and whether or not she wants to hang on to that baggage anyway. I’m really so proud of it and can’t wait to get it out into the world.

GJR: When you write do you have to have total quiet or background noise? Has this changed over time?

AWS: Funny – in college, I absolutely COULD NOT do any work without music blasting, either on my CD player (I went to college in the ‘90s) or my stereo. Like, I couldn’t function without it. Now, music is SUCH a distraction – I find it impossible to write to. I listen to A LOT of music…it’s on just about every moment that I’m not writing, but I’m such a lyrics freak that while writing, I tend to listen to the lyrics rather than the voice of my characters, and that just totally screws me up. So it’s silence for me, though sometimes, my kids are playing in the next room or whatever. That’s fine – I’m able to block out just about everything other than music.

GJR: What motivates you to write? How do you avoid the dreaded writer’s block?

AWS: Um, usually a contract. :) No, in all seriousness, I really can’t write much or write well if I don’t fall in love with my character and her story. I spend a lot of time making sure that I know her and understand her and HEAR HER VOICE, and once I do that, it’s not so difficult. Also, I force myself to write every day (other than weekends, which are strictly family time), and think once you get into the habit of sitting down and writing – even if what you write that day is total crap – it gets a lot easier.

Thanks to Allison for stopping by and answering our questions. You can follow her on Twitter @aswinn, Facebook, her blog Ask Allison and her website Allison Winn Scotch.



Unknown April 8, 2011 at 12:11 PM  

Great interview! I haven't read any of Allison's books yet but they're on my tbr list. I'm especially interested in Time of My Life because I think Jillian is experiencing issues many women can relate to especially thinking what her life would be like now if... It's hard to imagine that someone hasn't thought that whether because their life is going really well or not so great. Of course, it's easy to look back on things and see them as os much better (or even worse) than they really were.

Now, if only I was as organized as Allison....

Thanks for a wonderful interview!

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