author interview:: Allison Winn Scotch

I am so excited to reintroduce you to Allison Winn Scotch.  Allison is an amazing novelist whose fourth book, The Song Remains the Same, was just released last week.  When I started out as a writer, I paid particular attention to the bylines to articles that I read and loved.  One name that kept popping up?  Allison Winn Scotch.  I started following her web-site and loved how generous Allison was about sharing what she had learned about the writing business and how genuine she was as she did it.  Soon enough, Allison’s byline moved from magazines to book covers and I’ve really enjoyed her last three books.  She grapples with real issues in unique ways and teaches you a little something about yourself while she’s doing it.  I am honored to feature this Q&A with Allison with you today and hope you’ll check out The Song Remains the Same.
The central issue of The Song Remains the Same is provoked by an airplane crash.  What inspired this plot for you and how did it impact (if it did at all) how you felt about air travel?  
I am not an irrationally fearful person but once I became a parent, I developed a deep fear of airplane crashes. It very clearly has something to do with a loss of control and my mortality. I was painfully aware of this last month when a flight I was on was queued up on the runway, and I found myself questioning whether or not air traffic knew to wait a certain allotted time after the plane in front of us took off. I had to stop and remind myself that I am not the only person in the world who knows how to do something! Anyway, I do travel a lot, and I guess this was my way of coping with my anxiety – I was writing through one of my biggest fears and allowing my heroine to thrive, despite the horror of what happens to her. How has it affected my view of air travel? If anything, I think it’s allowed me to approach it a little more rationally, as I mentioned above. I’m someone who works best when she is armed with hard facts, so I educated myself on the facts and probabilities, and even if I’m internally freaking out, I know – or at least I tell myself – that I’ll be fine.

I asked you this about Tilly Farmer from The One that I Want and now I want to ask you it about Nell Slattery.  What do you love or appreciate about her?    
I love this character so much. So very much. With Tilly, I had to struggle to relate to her, but Nell is a really likeable person who also has a lot of hard edges. And I think, in real life, I gravitate toward women like that. A lot of my friends are wonderfully complicated people, and guess what? I appreciate that about them. They’ve earned who they are, and I think that’s awesome. So with Nell, I enjoyed her fight, her spirit, her wit, and the realization that she might have to move some very big chess pieces in her life to find happiness. That’s not an easy realization, and she pulls it off with a lot of grace.

The Song Remains the Same examines love, trust, betrayal, and forgiveness.  What inspired you to examine these themes?  
You know, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because the truth of the matter is that this is a fairly dark book. And I don’t have a particularly dark life. I had a great childhood, I have a strong marriage, I have fantastic kids. But there must be something about me that loves to examine the underbelly of what makes people tick – and what makes us both loyal and disloyal. Certainly, in my own life, I’ve had experiences of betrayal – fortunately, nothing like what Nell has gone through – and I guess they must have stuck in my subconscious. Also, I always love exploring characters who go through something difficult and find a way to make it out the other side.

The joy of reading is finding that moment in a book that grabs you by the throat or, even,  the heart.  Even as writers, we have those moments with our work- often because we don’t always know where we’re going or what we’re thinking until it appears on the page.  Was there a moment in the book—without being a spoiler- that grabbed you by the throat or the heart?    

There are a few of them, all of which have to do with Nell realizing – bit by bit – the extent of which she has been betrayed. Also, the book shifts perspective a few times so the reader can see just how unreliable her friends’ and family’s perspective is, and I’m pretty emotionally attached to those passages too. You realize (I hope) that no one is malicious or has malicious intent, they’re just all trying to muck their way through a terrible situation.

Your work has expanded.  Could you talk a little bit about what makes up your professional life and how you make it happen?  

Hmmm, that’s a great question. A lot of it hasn’t necessarily been mapped out choices. What I mean by that is that I’m always open to change, and I listen to my gut, in terms of if something is working for me or not, in my career. For example, after writing for magazines for about seven years, I could sense how much I needed a change: my enthusiasm had waned, my level of devotion to my articles had waned, and I was just really blah about it all. I wanted to write fiction – or at least try to – so…I did. I think this is really maybe the answer to your question: that I did it. (And I don’t mean that in a horn-tooting way.) A lot of people want to make career changes or write a novel or whatnot, but at the same time, a lot of them don’t take actionable steps to make those very changes. I sat down every day and worked on my novel. If I hadn’t, quite simply and quite frankly, it wouldn’t have been written. I always tell people that saying you have a book in you is great. But until you actually WRITE the book, it’s an idea, not a book. So I guess I apply that way of thinking to a lot of what I do in my life and career: I better get ‘er done because no one else will do it for me.

You are a mom.  If you were sitting down with an expectant mom, what insight or advice would you offer?  
Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect things to be perfect. Know that your child isn’t expecting you to be perfect either. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a “good-enough” mom. My priority is hanging out with my kids, exploring the world with them, nurturing them into happy, independent, curious people. This way of thinking also means that I’m probably not baking homemade muffins for the bake sale, and that sometimes, their rooms are going to be a disaster or other times, I throw in the towel and accept that if they want to watch TV for a morning on a weekend, so what? Choose what’s important to you and be okay with letting some other things slide. I honestly believe that once you do this – and accept yourself for doing this – you become a much happier parent (and person).

If you could have one more talent, what would it be?  

The gift of flight! Then I’d never have to worry about getting on a plane again. :)
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