Author Profile – Allison Winn Scotch

Today’s post by  Allison Winn Scotch | @aswinn

We’re delighted to visit with New York Times Bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch today. Her new novel, THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES, is making waves and getting rave reviews. We were able to sit down with Allison and get pick her brain about this novel in particular and the writing life in general. We’ve also got a copy of THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES up for grabs to one lucky winner. See entry form below for details.

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Allison Winn ScotchGrowing up with the last name “Winn” was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because prior to any monumental event — a T-ball game, my SATs, a talent show -my dad would look at me and say, “What’s your last name?” And I’d have to reply, “Winn.” (Get it? Win.)  It was a curse for those same reasons. 🙂 There are only so many times your dad can say that to you before you roll your eyes with annoyance and wish that your last name weren’t an actual verb that stood for excellence. (Though I married a guy whose name is an alcoholic beverage, so I guess it’s better than shouting back “scotch!,” which surely would have put me in therapy for years.) Still though, my dad’s message stuck with me, long after I left the house and headed 3000 miles away for college. The message was this: be your best. Not THE best. YOUR best. And I think that this childhood mantra has probably influenced my writing and my characters as much as anything else in my life.

Be your best. It’s pretty simple right?

And yet. And yet, it’s not that simple. As busy women, we so often feel compromised; we aren’t as patient with our children; we eye the clock at work, wondering when we should rush out; we keep track of friends only on Facebook; we wish we did yoga more; we wish we ate organic food more; we wish we slept more, had sex more, relaxed more. I mean, I could write a list that went on forever. What is our best anyway?

I often try to answer that question through my characters, particularly in THEORY OF OPPOSITES, but in my other books too. I start with women who aren’t living their best lives (not to sound like Oprah or anything) and who have to find their own way to actually find their own happiness. And while none of these characters are me – in fact, in THEORY, I’m more like my protagonist’s best friend than my protagonist — it’s eye-opening to take the journey with them. To open up their lives and see how small changes, maybe not compromising on a unfulfilling relationship or maybe asking more of herself than she’d asked before, can change their worlds entirely. I push them to risk more, to be braver, to stand on a high wire and look down and see how beautiful it can be. And when I do that for them, I also do it for me. I discover that maybe I could be more courageous or more patient or more open to change. It’s a pretty amazing process actually: that I start with fictional two-dimensional characters in my imagination, and I end up with fully-formed  people  who have somehow taught me how to be a little bit closer to my best.

Here’s the truth: you don’t have to  be named Winn to understand your potential. You just need a little honesty, a little clear-headedness, and maybe, if you have a few hours in your day, a good book. And if you can’t find those few hours, don’t worry. There’s always tomorrow.

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The Theory of OppositesMarybeth: Allison, you were a journalist for a number of years before turning your hand to fiction. It what ways did that prepare you for writing novels? In what ways did it make it harder?

Allison: I can’t think of many ways that it made it harder, but there are many things that made it easier. For one, I understood the discipline that it takes to  write. It’s not a hobby, it’s a job. I learned about deadlines and revisions and exacting standards of editors. I apply all of these things to my fiction work too. Writing is work, whether it’s for a magazine or for a novel. Trust me, there are plenty of times when I’d rather not write or I want to quit before a revision is done, but I learned in my magazine days that it’s not done until it’s  done.  Also, that you have to show up every day and write. For my magazine work, this was because I had editors and contracts. Now, it’s because it’s habit.

Ariel: THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES is the first novel of yours that I’ve read, (I know, I am ashamed) but like all your other books it has a contemporary setting. Why are you drawn to writing about the here and now?

Allison: Ha ha, don’t be ashamed! There are so many great writers and great books out there; we can’t read everything. That’s the truth. I think, to answer your question, that I really enjoy examining what my peers and contemporaries are going through in their own lives. Women who are struggling to find a balance; marriages that need to be reinvigorated; parents who love their kids desperately but don’t always love the parenting aspect of it. Those types of things. I read books to hopefully find something within the pages that resonates with me, and maybe leaves a bit of an imprint, a tweak in my mentality or emotional landscape. I guess by exploring these every day things that we all come up against, I hope to do the same for my readers. There’s a lot about life that can be tough. I like my characters to go through those same struggles that readers do.

Marybeth: You’ve got young children. How has motherhood changed or informed your writing? Are there any challenges that are inherent to this season of life?

Allison: Motherhood has informed my writing in so many ways. Not least is that I often explore the complications of parenting and parenthood in my novels. I think any mother will tell you that it’s the most wonderful thing in the world, but it is also exhausting and fragile and confusing and sometimes breaks your heart. And that’s all okay. And it’s also okay to wonder, as my characters do, how parenthood will change you or if you even want to or need to be changed. My kids are sort of the base note, resonating all the time, in my life. But I also try not to make them my  entire  life. So I enjoy exploring this theme in my books. As far as challenges? Sure, absolutely. I think most working moms can agree that we often leave parts of ourselves behind — when I’m with the kids, I am sometimes thinking about work; when I’m writing, I’m sometimes distracted by what I need to do for them. It’s not as if writers — or working moms, for that matter — can ensconce themselves in a bubble and just pick one thing to be in that moment. I felt this pretty acutely with my last book before Theory — I just felt pulled in too many directions and was exhausted by it. I took a break from writing, spent real quality time with my kids, moved with the family across the country, and sort of gave myself the nurturing I needed. I’m truly, truly fortunate to have the type of job where I can do this — step back, assess, decide how much of myself I want to give to work, etc — but yes, being all things to all people is a challenge. I’ve come to realize that I can’t be all things to all people, and that’s just fine. I give my best. That’s it.

Ariel: You tackle some difficult relationship issues in THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES. Willa and her over-bearing father. Will and her unreliable husband. Why do you think these themes resonate so deeply with women? How is it empowering to address them in story form?

Allison: It’s funny — I have a great relationship with my dad (and my mom, for that matter), and I feel sort of bad that my past few heroines have struggled with paternal figures. It has nothing to do with him. 🙂 But that said, I think a lot of us feel like we are products of our childhoods…we are a generation that spends time in therapy, trying to break the shackles of our early years or trying to, I don’t know, figure out who we are as adults. So maybe that’s why those story lines resonate. As far as the marital/relationship storyline, well, I think in this Facebook age, everyone stares at pictures of their friends or friends of friends or people they barely know and measures their relationship by that yardstick. “Oh, Jon and Kathy look SOOOOO happy in St. Tropez! What am I doing wrong?” And a) I think this kind of comparison is really destructive and ridiculous, b) I think it’s important to realize that no one’s life is shiny and perfect, and c) relationships are complicated, and that’s totally okay. Anyone who has been married for a while — or been in the dating world for a while — or just…wants to find some sort of partner in her life — knows that there are wonderful highs and lows to relationships. That’s how they go. Full stop. And I think women like reading about these highs and lows and knowing that their own partnerships are normal, and that no matter what happens with those relationships, the women themselves, the readers, are  going to be okay.  How empowering is it to pass along that message? So empowering. (I mean, without giving myself too much credit.) But I think, again, in today’s Facebook era, that is more important than ever to be honest about the fact that life and relationships are sticky and messy and sometimes glorious and sometimes much less glorious. That’s how it goes. It’s always nice to hear or read that someone else gets it too.

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Allison Winn Scotch Novels

New to Allison’s novels? Make sure you check out the rest of her backlist. I know I will.

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36 Responses to Author Profile – Allison Winn Scotch

  1. Bonnie K. November 18, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I’ve only recently heard about Allison Winn Scotch. I look forward to reading all of her books.

  2. Elisabeth November 18, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Loved The One That I Want! Looking forward to reading the newest!

  3. wjbooks November 18, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I have ran across the name Allison Winn Scotch, and now reading how she digs into characters, and gets to know the smallest things is really wanting me to reach out and try her books! It sounds like books that I could completely get lost in.
    Thank you She Reads! for a chance at winning this book.

  4. Ann Bresnan November 18, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Would love to “Winn” a copy!

  5. Marie November 18, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This is the first I’ve heard of this author. Thanks for the introduction!

  6. Gwyn November 18, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    She sounds like a great author! I can’t wait to read her books. Thanks for all the great ideas.

  7. Janet Kemper November 18, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I am going to check out more of her books!

  8. Christine November 18, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds awesome!

  9. Deby Coley November 18, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Pick me! Pick me! I am always looking for
    new great authors to feed my reading addiction:)

  10. Katherine Jones November 18, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    “be your best. Not THE best. YOUR best.” What a great reminder!

  11. Carl November 18, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Thanks for the wonderful interview, I enjoyed that, and the opening essay as well. Thanks also for the generous giveaway, I’d love to win a copy of this book.

  12. Christi Craig November 18, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Wise and wonderful words! Thanks for the interview and the giveaway.

  13. Alisa November 18, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    The title intrigued me. The concept even more. I remember how scared I was when I went against the norm of my family. This should be an interesting read!

  14. Paula Caurro November 18, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I am new to Allison Winn-Scotch’s books also. Her books have been on my list to read for quite some time though.

  15. Edible Tapestry November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Such good reminders for a Monday. Thanks!

  16. Susan Schleicher November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    I am been meaning to read one of Allison’s books and just haven’t yet. Thanks for the chance to win one. I am putting all of her titles on my TBR list!

  17. shannon brown November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Her books sound amazing, another new Author for me to follow!

  18. Danielle November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    I have heard great things about Allison Winn Scotch’s books and I look forward to reading them, whether I win them or buy them. 🙂

  19. Miranda Knudson November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    I am so inspired by her writing style!

  20. Rena Ackley November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    The Theory of Opposites has been mentioned on many of the book sites that I visit and has sounded like one I would enjoy. I like the contemporary setting and people changing or trying to change their lives for the better.

  21. Suzy November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    I love Allison’s books and have been a fan since The Department of Lost and Found. I really want this copy. : )

  22. Nancy Pate November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    I love the titles of AWS’s books — familiar yet surprising. I want to know more when I hear “The Theory of Opposites” or “The Song Remains the Same.”

  23. Belle November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    This one looks great!

  24. Kathy November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    “The Theory of Opposites,” sounds like a book that would resonate with many readers. I would enjoy reading this contemporary tale of lives that must change and how it affects relationships.

  25. Jpetroroy November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    I love her books!

  26. Amy November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    I’m sorry to say that I haven’t read any of Allison Winn-Scotch’s books yet. She’ on my list of author’s to be sure I read. I have read many wonderful reviews of her books by my fellow bloggers. I plan to read one of her books, hopefully this newest one, very soon!

  27. Michelle November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Looks like another book on the to read list!

  28. Cheryl November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    My maiden name is also Winn, so I definitely understand about growing up with it. Would love to win!

  29. Lauren B. November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Looking forward to reading The Theory of Opposites once this crazy semester is over!

  30. Susan G. November 19, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Another great book to read – my list is really long now! 🙂

  31. Sarah G November 19, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Can’t wait to start this one!

  32. Cammi Hevener November 19, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    My niece would love this for Christmas!

  33. LRF November 19, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    This is also a new author for me:) However, I love discovering new books to add to my “to read” pile:) I have tweeted and am already following on twitter and FB & here’s my comment on the blog so guess I am entered to win!!! Thanks again for all the great new read ideas!

  34. Kristy Feltenberger Gillespie November 19, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    I’ll def mention your blog and amazing giveaways on my weekly review 😉 Thanks again for the chance to win!

  35. Melanie Backus November 19, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Keeping my fingers crossed!

  36. Michelle November 21, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Loved this interview! I really enjoyed Allison’s previous novels, and can’t wait to read this one.

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