Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Interview with Allison Winn Scotch!

Holy Krakow! Today is the day! I got to ask NYT bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch questions in support of her new book, The One that I Want, which is released today!

Allison is the author of two previous novels, The Department of Lost and Found, and Time of my Life. She's very active on her blog and Twitter, and has a lot of advice for writers. For this interview, Allison and I went out together and got mani-pedis, and then sat in leather club chairs and sipped mimosas and ate cupcakes.*

*Not really. But while we're dreaming, the cupcakes were Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla with thick buttercream frosting.

Sierra: The One That I Want is about looking forward in time as opposed to backward (as with Time of My Life). I love this idea of going forward because I am curious about women in the later parts of their lives looking back over their accomplishments. What were your goals for writing this?

Allison: Well, kind of akin to TOML, I wanted to explore a woman who wasn't living her fullest life. But in this case, we find Tilly, my heroine, who thinks life is actually pretty complete, and the only way to shake that up is to show her how much more it could be...and how much she has to lose by not stepping up to the plate. So really, she's just a bigger metaphor for taking
the reins of your life and driving it someplace.

Sierra: What are some of your favorite books and authors in the women's fiction genre?

Allison: 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.

Sierra: Where would you like to see books in the women's fiction genre go? More sex and the city style, or more issue-centric?

Allison: Great question.* As I've gotten older, I've found that I gravitate toward heavier subjects, so I'm less inclined to pick up a fun romp that doesn't have a lot of weight behind it. Which takes nothing away from those books, only that these days, they're not what I tend to grab. I lean toward books that linger with me, have me ask questions of my own life, and really
resonate for a few days after. So, I guess I'd like to see more of that, if only because it means I'll have more to read!

*Note that she said "great question." BFFs!

Sierra: Do you have a critique group? If not, how do you step outside yourself and solve logic/plot problems you can't see?

Allison: I don't have a critique group but I do have an editor and agent who serve the same purpose. I'm the type of writer who knows how to take a book to a certain level and then recognizes that she needs a second set of eyes to illuminate what to do next. To take the book from good to (hopefully) great. So I very vocally seek out these critiques and support, and then use the advice to go back and revamp.

Sierra: You've said you have written novels in 2 or 3 months. Is that still your time span? Including revision?

Allison: The One That I Want took about six months for a draft, then three months for
a revision, and that was much longer than my previous two. But I think those two were sort of lightening in a bottle, and now, yes, six months is probably my standard, with a few months for revising. Then I vegetate for a few months before starting the cycle all over again. :)

Sierra: How do you know if you've written winning first pages? Experience? Agent/editor feedback? Do you have a few trusted beta readers?

Allison: This is something that's come to be only via experience. When I wrote my first manuscript, I thought it was BRILLIANT. Just brilliant. It was only when I wrote a much better one that I realized how god-awful it was. (Needless to say, it was never published.) Now, four books in, I have a very good idea of when something is working - and just as importantly, when it's not - but it's almost a sensory perception thing. Ephemeral. I just know. I wish I could explain it more than that, but I think as with many jobs, you just learn via doing it.

Sierra: You've said many times that your biggest piece of advice to other writers is to be open to criticism. But how does one break out of that bubble of ego and find humility about what they've written? How did you do it?

Allison: Honestly, I don't think writers - if they want to be successful - have any other choice. You have to decide: do you want to recognize that you're flawed or do you want to continue to go unpublished? In most cases, those are your options. And if you can't take criticism, in all honesty, this isn't the career for you. The rejection is both harsh and bountiful, and you either learn to use it to improve your craft or you going to be mired at the bottom. As far as my own ego, I think I was sort of born with an oversized dose of confidence, which actually helps me take my ego out of the equation. I trust myself and also am confident enough in myself to know that criticism is usually meant to help, not something to take personally, and I very rarely see it as anything other than a tool to make me a better writer. I don't know, it's just never bothered me, as long as it's not personal.

Sierra: You've written about conquering the expanse of time twice now. If you could have a secret power, what would it be? Mine would totally be teleporting. Or invisibility at will.

Allison: Mine would also be teleporting.*Or similarly, the ability to fly. I love to travel but hate airplanes, so to have the capability to just, say, go to Paris for the afternoon, would be heaven.

*This proves we are BFFs.

Sierra: What is a guilty procrastination pleasure that you have while trying to write? Twitter, Google maps, Glee, M&Ms?

Allison: Pop culture websites, blogs and forums. I could lose days upon days at places like Television Without Pity, EW.com, and the like. What can I say? As much as I love books, I also love TV and gossip. :)

Sierra: Do you have any idea how much your tweets and blog posts help sell your books? I, for example, found your web site before I'd ever read your books. Because of your online presence, I bought your books.

Allison: Hee! I have a very vague idea that it helps, but no concrete proof other than anecdotes like yours. (Thank you, btw!) I think that readers like to know who an author is and hear her voice...it gives them an assurance that a) there's a human behind the book jacket and b) if they like the author, they might like her books. So that's certainly part of why I tweet, etc. But
mostly, it's also a lot of fun, and I enjoy the hell out of it.

Thank you, Allison! I really enjoyed you answers and I can't wait til my copy of The One That I Want arrives in the mail.

Want more Allison? (Why wouldn't you?) Check these:

Allison's web site

The One That I Want at:


Lt. Cccyxx said...

Awesome, Sierra. Great Q&A! The only question you forgot to ask was whether she'll introduce you to her agent. ;P

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Terrific interview and always love being introduced to a new author. :) Thanks!

Travener said...


Anne R. Allen said...

Excellent questions. I'm intrigued. I read a lot of women's fiction, so I'm going to check out her work. So I guess that's more evidence that blogs help promote books. Thanks for the question about critique groups (my blog subject this week.)

Sierra Godfrey said...

Lt -- funny you should ask, if you check out her blog and buy her book THIS WEEK, you get a guaranteed read on query and first chapter from her agent! Check it out.

Roni -- Definitely check her books out, glad to make the connection!

Trav - bad Trav. bad.

Anne - Glad you liked it! I'm always curious as to whether authors with books out continue to do critique groups, and I read your blog yesterday with interest -- I too knew that Amy Tan still does it. It's interesting.

Allison said...

HA!! This was great! Thank you so much for hosting me! (We really can pretend to be BFFs.) :)

Lt. Cccyxx said...

Holy cow, Sierra, that is INCREDIBLY AWESOME. Thank you for bring that to my attention!!!

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

Great interview! I read another interview with her today on another blog. I definitely have to check out her books now. :)

coffeelvnmom said...

Great post and interview, Sierra! I'm definitely going to send her agent something. *Makes mental note to stop procrastinating and get to the bookstore already*

Meghan Ward said...

Great interview, Sierra! And I love the pull quote!

Kristan said...

Like you, Sierra, I found Allison through her blog first and then decided to try out her book (TOML). So yeah, SHE at least is clearly making it work for her.

Great interview!

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