Today marks the release of Allison Winn Scotch’s third novel, The One That I Want–a book that’s already been named a top summer pick by the editors of Cosmopolitan and Glamour.com, and tagged for summer reading round-ups from the Chicago Tribune and Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Allison’s last novel, her sophomore effort, Time of My Life, hit the New York Times Bestseller list, and I suspect history will repeat itself, if early reviews are any indication:
“A June book pick. ‘(A) novel about the choices we welcome and the choices we resist.'” – Redbook
“With a thriller of a conclusion…keeps readers in suspense until the final electrifying pages.” – American Way
“An aching, honest look into the death and rebirth of relationships. Scotch answers hard questions about the nature of personal identity and overwhelming loss with a wise, absorbing narrative.” – Publishers Weekly
“Scotch specializes in heroines at a crossroads, questioning their life choices and preparing to embark on journeys of self-discovery. . . . [She] creates eminently relatable characters, with a particularly excellent understanding of the way sisters interact, and has the ability to craft scenes of real emotional weight.”- Booklist
“Well-told . . . a good choice for fans of women’s fiction and book clubs. It’s fast-paced and feels light yet still packs a satisfying emotional punch.” – Library Journal
Sounds great, yes? We’re glad Allison took some time out of her hectic schedule this week to tell us more about her latest.
Q: What’s the premise of your new book?
AWS: Tilly Farmer is thirty-two years old and has the perfect life she always dreamed of: married to her high school sweetheart, working as a school guidance counselor, trying for a baby. Perfect.
But one sweltering afternoon at the local fair, everything changes. Tilly wanders into a fortune teller’s tent and meets an old childhood friend, who offers her more than just a reading. “I’m giving you the gift of clarity,”
her friend says. “It’s what I always through you needed.” And soon enough, Tilly starts seeing things: her alcoholic father relapsing, staggering out of a bar with his car keys in hand; her husband uprooting their happy, stable life, a packed U-Haul in their driveway. And even more disturbing, these visions start coming true. Suddenly Tilly’s perfect life, so meticulously mapped out, seems to be crumbling around her. And as she furiously races to keep up with – and hopefully change – her destiny, she faces the question: Which life does she want? The one she’s carefully nursed for decades, or the one she never considered possible?
Q: What would you like people to know about the story itself?
AWS: I think – if you like commercial fiction with a bent toward female characters – there’s a little bit of something for everyone in here. It’s darker, I think, in tone, than my other books and explores some weighty issues. But it’s still what I consider to be a beach read, and I mean that in a positive way. There are lighter moments melded with heavier ones, and for me, as a reader, that really hits the sweet spot. Beyond that, I think it also get to the issue that a lot of women – and working moms – struggle with, and that’s how do we learn to put ourselves first? If no one else is cleaning up the mess, are we okay ignoring the mess and stepping over it? If not, why? If so, how?
Q: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenge do you set before them?
AWS: Oh gosh, my poor protagonist. She just has a whole mess of problems. To begin with – the most obvious one – is that she’s gifted with the ability to see into the future, which proves very much to be a curse for her. What she thought was a very well-appointed life proves not to be at all.
Additionally, she’s mired with a recovering alcoholic father, a discontent husband, an angry little sister, and a small-town environment which hasn’t forced her to take any substantial steps to self-reflection or really, self-expansion, in a long time.
Q: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any?
AWS: What unique challenges DIDN’T it pose? :) I’ve been pretty candid in the fact that this book was very difficult for me to write. To begin with, I felt a lot of pressure to live up to both readers’, as well as my own, expectations after Time of My Life, and for the first few drafts, I think I was a little paralyzed by that pressure. When people are writing to tell you how resonant your book is and how much it means to them, well, a small voice plants itself in your ear that echoes that you simply won’t replicate this magic. (Don’t get me wrong: I am NOT complaining! I LOVE hearing from readers, and the entire point of writing is to create something that resonates. Only that I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d peaked and wouldn’t be able to match what I’d already done.)
The second obstacle was that the structure of this book ended up being more akin to a thriller than anything I¹d written in the past, and because I write without an outline or any real idea of what¹s going to happen next…I simply couldn¹t figure out how to write the book. Like, literally. What I mean by that is that my heroine starts seeing into her future, but the truth was, I didn¹t know what was going to happen in her future, so essentially, I needed to intuit where she was going to go (along with the rest of the characters) well before she got there. And given my writing style – which is to let my characters lead me to the next twist in the plot, this was just very, very difficult. So I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to write an organic book without using what I feel is my most organic process. (Which sounds very high-brow, and I don’t mean it to but don¹t know how else to explain it!)
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?
AWS: That I wrote it at all, to be honest. And that, after six or seven drafts, I’m hearing very nice things about it. There were SO MANY times when the easier thing to do would have been to abandon this manuscript. I mean, I was so frustrated by what I’d backed myself into, but I couldn’t and I didn’t, and so I rolled up my sleeves and got it done. It was an incredible learning experience: that I can still produce a book that I am proud of and that, I think, is as strong as anything I’ve ever written, AND that it didn’t come easy. My other two did. But guess what? That’s been a blessing, not a reality. The reality is that writing is work. Pure and simple. This book was gut-wrenching work. And so, in some ways, it’s also the most rewarding. I heard from a reader the other day who said, knowing how much I struggled with it – and this was the highest compliment possible – that I had stripped every last ounce of myself, of who I am in real life, from this character, and as a result turned in something totally new and profound in a different way than ever before. And I hadn’t thought about it in that way, but yes, that’s what I had to do. I mean, come on, what could be more rewarding than hearing that?
Click HERE to learn more about Allison’s latest book, The One That I Want, or skip all that and click HERE to order. And, writers, don’t forget that ordering the book before June 5th means a guaranteed read of your query and first chapter by Allison’s agent, Elisabeth Weed. Click HERE for more details.