November 2009


Allison Winn Scotch is the author of The Department of Lost and Found, about a woman dealing with cancer, and Time of My Life, about a woman who finds herself seven years in her past. Her next novel The One That I Want is due out mid-2010. She is also a freelance magazine writer, and lives with her husband and children in New York. (Interview by Annmarie Ottman)

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  1. 1. What inspired you to write Time of My Life?

    Well, I'd been contemplating doing a time-travel story but I wasn't quite sure how to go about it – I’m definitely someone who looks back fondly on her past and occasionally gets nostalgic, so I understood this tug of wanting to go back in time. But I didn't know how to sort it out in my mind. But then one afternoon while the idea was brewing, my best friend called while she was on vacation where her ex-boyfriend lived, and she said, "I'm so weirded out ... I can't stop thinking about what my life might have been like." Then we had one of those intimate life conversations that you can only have with your closest friends, about her what-ifs and my what-ifs, and I assured her that this was all very normal, even though people didn't really talk about how much they wonder about what could have been. We hung up, and I headed out for a run, and BAM ... the idea, characters and plotlines just presented themselves very clearly. I came home, wrote what are now the first 14 pages, and sent them off to my agent, who flipped for them. I think, as so many of us get older and look back on our younger years with nostalgia, it's very easy to consider what the other possibilities could have been - and I wanted to explore that.

  2. 2. Were you ever undecided about which character Jillian should end up with?

    Hmmmm, good question. I don’t think so, partly because the wiser voice in my head reminds me when I DO have my nostalgic moments that the path I’m on – that we’re all on – is likely the path that we should be on in the first place. For me, this book isn’t really so much about going back to the past and making changes, rather it’s about reconsidering your CURRENT path and why maybe you’re not as happy with it as you’d like to be. Look, are there times when the crap has hit the fan in my life and I think, “Man, wouldn’t life be better if I’d x y and z-ed?” Without a doubt. But that isn’t what happened in my life, to my life. So rather than imagining a different life, I have to figure out what I can change in my present to be happier in the future. And that’s really what this was about with Jillian. That said, I don’t write with a game plan, so if she’d ended up with the other guy (don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read it!), then she would have done so because it would have been the best thing for the book and the best thing for her.

  3. 3. How is the film adaptation progressing?

    Right now, good things are happening. I just had lunch with the producers, and I’m really excited about it because it looks like it might actually get made! Hollywood is a strange beast, and as hard as it is to sell a book, it’s ten times harder to sell a movie, and ten times harder than that to get the movie made. But I’ve been really fortunate in that the producers seem eager to move ahead with it and have kept me in the loop through the process, something they certainly don’t have to do. Meryl Poster, who used to run Miramax, is producing the movie for The Weinstein Company – it’s her first collaboration with Harvey Weinstein since she left, so that’s even more exciting. But Meryl let me know how much the material resonated with her, and I trusted her immediately to do the book justice – I have no concerns about it at all. Right now, the screenplay is written and being revised, and from there, to the best of my understanding, they take it out to talent – directors, actors, etc. We’ve spoken about which actresses we’d all like to see star in it, and we’re all on the same page – anyone from Keri Russell to Reese Witherspoon would be amazing. So now, I’m just sitting back and waiting for more news!

  4. 4. I’m sure you’ve been asked this, but are Henry or Jackson representative of someone in your past?

    I AM asked this, and my answer is always no. ☺ I’ve never dated a guy like Jackson, and Henry doesn’t share too many similarities with my husband, other than their maddening habits of drinking from the orange juice container and leaving their crap all around the house. That said, as I noted above, certainly, I could relate to Jillian’s feelings of “what if”. I feel like I’m pretty lucky in that I’ve stayed friends with a lot of my exes, so it’s easy to understand why we didn’t end up together – when you see where someone ended up or their day to day, you can sort of go, “Oooooh yes, that would make me crazy in the long run.” And nowhere in my romantic history do I have regrets: for example, though I had two serious relationships in my 20s which didn’t work out, I’m grateful for them nevertheless – they really helped inform and shape my emotional landscape. So I do feel like I can look back on those men and say, “Well, I’m glad we were together for that period of time, and I don’t have too many unanswered questions because you’re great guys but probably not the greatest guys for me.” But again, sure, doesn’t everyone have those moments of wondering if you should have made different choices? But in this particular instance, no, this book wasn’t written with anyone in mind.

  5. 5. How did you choose the title of your first novel, The Department of Lost and Found?

    I actually didn’t come up with it! When I shopped the book around to agents, I called it Round Trip, because Natalie comes full-circle and because of her chemo rounds. But once I landed an agent, she didn’t think that was catchy enough, so she surveyed the agents in her office and one of them came up with TDLF. Everyone liked it, and that was that.

  6. 6. Tell us about your next book The One That I Want.

    The One That I Want is being called the bookend to Time of My Life because it sort of flips everything on its head from TOML. It’s about Tilly Farmer, a small-town guidance counselor who has what she deems a perfect life: she’s married to her high school sweetheart, works at her old high school, lives in her old town. A chance encounter with an old friend gives her the unwelcome ability to see into the future, and she discovers that what she thinks is perfect isn’t perfect at all. And then the question arises, as it does in all of my novels: what can she do to steer herself on to the path that will provide her the most happiness? The path that she always envisioned for herself or a different path entirely? It actually unfolds a little bit like a thriller or mystery, which was really different for me, and I’m just hoping that readers like it!

  7. 7. What is your heroine Tilly like?

    Well, I’ll be the first to admit that it took me a LONG time to understand her. She’s the first character I’ve written for whom I really didn’t hear her voice until far along in the writing process, which means that I wasn’t satisfied with what I was putting on the page until probably the second-to-last draft when it finally clicked. But Tilly is someone who had to grow up too quickly due to family circumstances that I don’t want to spoil, someone who has always been ready and able to nurture other people while likely neglecting her own needs, someone who is pretty easily satisfied and is content to live out a quiet existence, not asking for too much other than some of the simpler pleasures from her friends and marriage.

  8. 8. Would you like to be able to see into the future?

    Gosh, I’ve thought about this and the answer is, I think, only if I were sure that I’d see good things. That’s part of Tilly’s problem: what she sees is pretty traumatic, and well, then what? Can you change it? What if you can’t? So if I were to see something negative, and I had to live out my days with that shadow of knowing that doom was just around the corner, then no, I’d rather deal with it when it gets here.

  9. 9. Who is your favourite chick lit heroine?

    Oh, impossible question! I’ll tell you one who inspired me, how about that? That’s the heroine – and just the overall book – of Good Grief by Lolly Winston. This is just one of my all-time favorite books, partly because I love everything about it and partly because it’s the first book I read – on an editor’s advice – to help me understand how to craft my own novel. I read it in, like, 36 hours, it was that good, and enjoyed every aspect of Sophie’s journey from damaged widow to triumphant self, and thought, aha, maybe I can do that too.

  10. 10. Do you think blog tours are important for authors?

    YES. Blog tours and everything about the internet is critical to generating interest in you as a writer and your books. The former, by the way, is just as important, in my mind, as the latter. I think that readers really like to connect with authors, in the same way that television viewers like to feel like they have something in common with actors, and blog tours and Q&As and all of the current social media sites allow authors to do just that: demonstrate some of their personality, who they are, which definitely helps sell books. Also, these days, publishers aren’t too inclined to send authors out on real book tours, so blog tours are the new hot thing.

  11. 11. If you weren't a writer, what would you be doing?

    I’d probably be an actress: I think the process of immersing yourself into a character while writing a book is pretty similar to immersing yourself into a character via acting, and I really enjoy this aspect of my work. Prior to discovering my writing career, I actually WAS acting – I’d gotten my SAG card, done some off-Broadway, and this sort of fell in my lap naturally, so who knows what would have happened if it hadn’t? Again, that’s one of those “what ifs?” What if I hadn’t left LA to start on this path? I wouldn’t have met my husband … wouldn’t have my children … who knows?

  12. 12. Which celebrities do you most enjoy writing about?

    Well, as you probably know, when I’m not writing fiction, I interview celebrities for magazines, and undoubtedly, one of the BEST things about my job is interviewing actors whose work I admire. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to squeeing for more than a few of those interviews! Some of my recent favorites include Michael Vartan (how perfect would he be as Henry in the movie), who was sooooooo amazing that we chatted far longer that my allotted time, Scott Speedman, who was super-casual and passed me his email address should I have follow-ups (rarely, rarely done by celebrities), Leslie Mann, Jennifer Garner … I could go on. Also, Steve Carell was so egoless and hilarious and witty that he’ll likely earn my All-Time Favorite award for … for like, forever.

  13. 13. Which TV shows are you loving this year?

    I just checked out White Collar on USA, which I LOVED. (Matt Bomer would also make a great Henry.) Also loving FlashForward, Community, Modern Family, Cougartown, The Good Wife, 30 Rock, and some reality shows like Project Runway, Top Chef and The Amazing Race. Lest you think I watch a lot of TV, do know that I record most of them and watch them while I work out! And I can’t WAIT for the return of Friday Night Lights (my favorite), Lost and Chuck.

  14. 14. What was the last book that you read and what book is on your must-read list?

    The last book I read was Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You, which I’d highly recommend. I LOVE Tropper – I’ve read every one of his books, and thinks he gets every one just right. I’ve gotten to know him a little bit on Twitter and feel like it’s an honor to be his friend. What book is on my must-read list? I’m dying to read The Kids Are All Right by the Welch siblings. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but this book written by all four siblings whose family got torn apart and then who found their way back to each other sounds amazing.

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