5 Questions for Authors Allison Winn Scotch and Laura Dave
I recently read THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME by Allison Winn Scotch and THE FIRST HUSBAND by Laura Dave, one right after the other, and fully enjoyed them both. What struck me was how each began with a similar premise for the protagonist: a moment in time when suddenly all bets are off.
In SONG, Nell Slattery suffers a head trauma that erases her memory. Her husband, mother and sister all tell her versions of her history that suit their purposes, and she has to figure out what’s true–and more importantly, who she is now.
In HUSBAND, Annie Adams suddenly gets dumped by her long term boyfriend, and on the advice of a friend to “be the opposite of you,” she very quickly marries someone else and moves across the country. Jumping into an entirely new life with almost no back story is chocked full of challenges.
While reading, I learned that these two talented authors are also good friends. They were kind enough to pick five of questions to answer together, and tell us how they met.
How does being a writer make you a better parent, partner, friend, pet-owner, etc?
LD: Being a writer makes me patient, I think. And it reminds me that anything worth creating takes both devotion and generosity. That is great to remind ourselves for marriage, family, and friendship. (The dog ownership we are working on!)
AWS: For me, certainly being a writer has made me a better parent – I’m always up for tales of adventure and encourage my kids to both share their stories and read all sorts of other stories. But it has also made me a better pet-owner! Why? Because I do my best brainstorming while walking or running, and this often means that our dog, Pedro, gets treated to extra-long, meandering walks when I’m in the thick of drafting a book.
Name a favorite object. (No body parts, please.) Tell us why you like it so much.
LD: My bookshelf. It is enormous and messy and full of my favorite books. It traveled with me cross-country when I moved to Los Angeles. And it makes me happy to look at it.
AWS: My favorite object is probably the half-finished baby books I’ve made with my kids. Last summer, in a fit of exuberance, I printed up about 200 pictures for each child, and sloooowly, we’re forming them into something they’ll hopefully have for a lifetime. Filtering through all of our adventures and trips and occasions has been such a bonding experience.
What’s the oddest response you ever got when someone asked you what you do for a living, and you said, “I’m a writer.”
LD: He said: “Do you write greeting cards? I have some great idea for some polka dot greeting cards.”
AWS: Ha! I don’t know if I have a specific “odd” response, but I do (very frequently) get the, “Oh…have I read anything you’ve written?” response. How can I possibly answer that without a) knowing what you’ve read and b) sounding like a self-important jerk?
What’s the best, worst or most unusual advice you’ve gotten about writing, publishing or promoting your work?
LD: I was taking this writing class and the teacher told the class: “you shouldn’t write because you think getting published is exciting. Getting published often involves a box of books showing up at your door. Then you go back to making dinner.” What makes us writers is that we sit down everyday and write. Her advice reminded me that is the beginning, the middle, all of it.
AWS: The best advice I ever got was from a friend who was a well-respected editor at the time I was trying to break into fiction. She read a manuscript that I’d written and gave me honest, blunt feedback as to why it wasn’t good. (It wasn’t good for a lot of reasons that I won’t get into.) A few of her suggestions that I remember to this day include: go READ, NOW, the authors I want to emulate. Read them with a critical eye for craft, and then try to do the same with your own book. She also told me to stop adding in so much freaking exposition. No one cares or needs to read every last thought in a character’s head: show the action, don’t tell it.
Name a book that profoundly affected you, changed your thinking, or made you take a different path. Tell us why.
LD: THE GIRLS GUIDE TO HUNTING AND FISHING by Melissa Bank. It was so funny and wise. And I remember feeling like it was giving me permission to be funny and candid in my writing. It is still one of my favorite books to pick up and read. I feel the same way about WONDER BOYS by Michael Chabon.
AWS: GOOD GRIEF by Lolly Winston. Per my above answer, that was the book I picked up on my editor friend’s advice. Something clicked for me in reading it, and I finally understood how to write a good book. There’s a difference, after all, between writing a manuscript and writing one well.
You two are friends in real life, not just the writing/publishing world. How did you meet?
AWS: Laura and I met because I read her debut, LONDON IS THE BEST CITY IN AMERICA, and saw that she and I had attended the same college. I loved the book so much and wanted to reach out and let her know, but honestly, I was so intimidated! Here she was, a fancy published author, and even though my own debut was coming out a few months later, I was…nervous. But I looked her up anyway, sent her an email, and got a reply back within a day or so. Naturally (and I only know that this is natural now that I know her), she was lovely and kind and proposed that we meet for coffee. (Such a Laura thing to do!) We did, and had that wonderful moment where you just instantly “get” each other. From there, our friendship has really evolved to the point where we read each other’s early work, we offer critical career advice, and we gossip and talk about life almost every day.
Tags: Allison Winn Scotch, fiction, friendship, GOOD GRIEF, Laura Dave, LONDON IS THE BEST CITY IN AMERICA, The First Husband, THE GIRLS GUIDE TO HUNTING AND FISHING, The Song Remains The Same, WONDER BOYS, writers