Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Writers in their own words-GCC

Allison Winn Scotch joins us today to talk about her wonderful, warm, witty debut novel, The Department of Lost and Found. In this book, Natalie Miller, the novel's heroine, is faced with questioning everything she knows when, on the very same day, her doctor gives her the shocking news that she has breast cancer and her boyfriend dumps her. So she decides to take on her cancer the way she does everything—with steely determination. But as she becomes a slave to the whims of chemo, her body forces her to take a time out. She gets a dog, becomes addicted to The Price is Right and, partly to spite her counselor’s idea to keep a journal, Natalie embarks on a mission. She is going to track down the Five Lost Loves of her Life and figure out what went wrong.

Here is just some of what reviewers are saying:

"Funny and frank. A serious comedy that shines light into the darkness." - The Tampa Tribune

"Smart and well-written.” - Marie Claire

"Too good to pass up. You'll laugh a lot (and cry just a little) as Natalie rebounds from the big C and reinvents her life." – Cosmopolitan

"Scotch handles the topic of cancer with humor and hope, never dipping into the maudlin. The changes and realizations that the characters make are profound and moving. An impressive debut." – Booklist

"A bonbon of a book." - Publishers Weekly

And now, let's hear from Allison in her own words. . .

1.) How did you come up with the idea for this book? Are you more driven by plot or by character?
I lost someone close to me to cancer, and that was definitely the emotional spark for the book, but from there, I took it and created fiction. I’m definitely driven more by character…I swirl the characters around in my head and see where they lead me. Rarely do I start out with an overarching plot with everything filled in. I mean, I have an idea of where I need and want to go, but my characters are the ones who take me there, and sometimes, much to my surprise, they deviate from where I thought they’d go…which is why I let them lead me in the first place!

2.) Who's your favorite character in this book and why?

Great question! Hmmm, probably Sally, who is the protagonist’s best friend. She’s a little batty and sardonic, but she’s also a voice of reason and a loyal friend, and on all of those fronts, I related to her. She also infuses her scenes with a much-needed levity, and I always had fun writing her.

3.) What's your writing process/writing environment like?
I write fast and furiously…I procrastinate and procrastinate and then I finally can no longer procrastinate, so I force myself to spit out as much as possible as once. Usually, this involves setting a daily word count for myself, and I have to keep writing until I reach it. (Which means a lot of clicking on the “Word Count” button in Word!) I can write with a lot of distractions – my kids screaming in the background, my husband constantly IMing me (even when I tell him to STOP!) – but my ideal environment is my home office with my door closed and my dog snoring at my feet. In other words, quiet, but not eerily so.

4.) What's your favorite part of writing?
The last chapter! And yes, I’m being serious. I’ve discovered that I don’t actually enjoy the process of writing as much as I enjoy creating characters and the worlds they live in. What I mean by that is that I create dialogue and scenes in my head all day, but then when it comes to the effort involved in getting these things down on paper, well, as I said above, I procrastinate because it’s not as much fun as the “creating” part for me. So, to that end, the sense of accomplishment I feel when I bang out those last pages and last words is unmatchable!

5) What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten about writing?
It’s okay to fail at it. Actually, I don’t know if anyone specifically told me this, though I’m sure that I’ve read anecdotal advice that says something similar, but it’s certainly something I’ve learned along the way. My first book was decent enough to get me an agent but not good enough to sell, and in retrospect, that was such a blessing because, man, I read it now, and it just STINKS. But writing that book taught me so much about how to craft a novel and what not to do, and hey, you know what? That’s all good info to have. There’s no shame in it for me. It lead me to where I am now – a published author with a second novel on the way – and so, I’ll own that failed attempt and consider myself luckier for having it.

Sounds like a perfect pick for your holiday shopping lists!


Larramie said...

I had the honor of being gifted with an ARC of TDLF last Christmas. It was a wonderful story then as it is now. Besides, Allison wrote the novel for the best reason -- forever friendship.

And, Judy, you've been tagged. Please visit my blog.

Lisa said...

I have read such great things about this book, I'm going to have to order it. And it's reassuring to hear Allison's advice -- especially right now :)

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Larramie-how cool that you got to read an ARC of this book. I love when I get those sneak peeks!

I'll get to the meme later today.

Lisa--So glad Allison's advice hot the mark for you.

Carleen Brice said...

Thanks for the interview Allison and Judy. I got a kick out of Allison saying her favorite character was a secondary character. I'm writing a secondary character now who I just love. I wonder if it's because they're not as much work as the main character?