Since LAY's release (hey, did I mention it is a Target Breakout Book? Yes? Onward then), many people have asked me for advice about the writing and publishing world. And my stance on dispensing wisdom has not changed; I don't like doing it. I don't feel equipped to offer guidance or expertise. That said, there are a few things I have learned along the way that I willing to share. That I am eager to share.
Ask. Yes, it's that simple. Ask people for help and information. Questions are meant to be uttered. Once I started writing, I flexed my asking muscle big-time. Fiery friend Danielle LaPorte geniusly refers to this as the askus requestus muscle. Anyway, I learned to ask people things. People who knew far more than I about the literary landscape.
People like bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch.
Allison, a fellow Ivy Leaguer (the secure kind, go figure!) and New Yorker and mother of two, maintains a very successful writing blog appropriately called Ask Allison and has just published her third novel THE ONE THAT I WANT. (Yes, the title of her book is so good that I had to steal it for this blog post. I would also like to steal her commercial success but unfortunately it's not that simple.) I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to consult and commiserate many times with Allison during the publishing process and you know what? This woman knows her stuff. She is a wonderful mixture of wisdom and approachability.
And, trust me, she can write.
Because Allison has been so helpful to me (she even included LAY on a short list of picks for debut summer reads!) and because I am a big fan of hers, I thought it would be fun to pin her down with a few questions. I asked. She answered. I know that interviews can sometimes be, well, blah, but not this one. Read on. You'll see...
ADR: Congratulations on the publication of your third novel THE ONE THAT I WANT! Have things been different at all the third time around? If so, how?
AWS: Yes, definitely. I feel much less frantic than I did with my earlier books when I didnt understand how the process worked. I think putting out a book is almost akin to labor: the first time is terrifying (and painful) because you simply have no idea what to expect. Now, I know to ask for my epidural early and often. So in that sense, I was able to calm myself and be a little tamer with my hyperactivity in the weeks leading up to the release. ADR: Do you feel more or less career pressure than you did when you released your first book? How do you deal with the pressure?
AWS: Much more. Much, much more. Look, Im not complaining. Complaining about the weight of expectations place on you after your previous book has sold really well is akin to celebrities complaining about having their picture taken: its ridiculous. But that doesnt mean that there isnt much graver pressure placed on me this time around, and that sales figures arent much more important. When my first book came out, I suppose that I was nervous about how it would be received (i.e. based on the merits of my writing), now Im much more nervous about matching my previous success. ADR: Do you ever feel insecure about your writing? Do you agree that insecurities - in life and in literature - can very often be inspirations?
AWS: I wouldnt say that I feel insecure I was born with a healthy sense of confidence, and honestly, self-doubt isnt a big part of my emotional map but I think that this mostly comes from the sense that now, three books in, I wont put out a book until I am completely at peace with it. What I mean by that is that, for example, The One That I Want went through seven drafts. If I had put out any other incarnation of the book, yes, I would have been worried about how it would be received. But now, I truly, truly know that I couldnt have done any better. I am completely satisfied WITH MYSELF in what I put out, and if people dont like it? Well, again, three books in, Ive long since learned that not everyone is going to like what you put on page. Whats important, at least for me, is that Ive challenged myself and pushed myself as far as I could possibly go. If I can raise the bar and get over it each time, Im good.
As far as insecurity being inspiration, Id say so, as long as youre willing to put those insecurities aside and do the work that needs to be done to get over them. Fear of not living up to expectations, for example, isnt a reason not to move forward with something, be it a book, a relationship, whatever. If youre paralyzed by those insecurities, then youre sunk. If youre willing to acknowledge them take tangible steps toward taming them then thats a good thing.
ADR: Has having children enhanced your creativity and focus or detracted from these things?
AWS: Im not sure if theyve enhanced my creativity (Im always exhausted!), but I would say that theyve significantly deepened my empathy for life and for others, and I dont think I could have written my two most recent books without that understanding of unconditional, underlying love that you have for your kids. As far as focus, with that, they may have actually helped. I only have so many hours in the day when I have childcare, and I either write then or I dont get it done. So Im probably much more disciplined with my time.
ADR: How has social media (blogging, Facebook, Twitter) affected the writing and publishing experience for you?
AWS: Its made publishing a book much more exciting, to be honest, simply because its opened up a two-way dialogue with readers. When my first book came out, I was publishing in a vacuum but now, I hear from readers all the time, and Im able to write them back, to have real discussions with them, and I love it. Of course, it also takes up a lot of time tweeting and Facebooking and blogging but I also see this as a positive. Writers are now more in control of their PR, and Im always in favor of anything that gives you more control over any aspect of your life.
ADR: If you had to offer one piece of advice to aspiring and rookie writers, what would it be?
AWS: Learn to take your ego out of the equation. Maybe this gets back to my answer on #3, but I firmly believe that you cant take reactions to your work personally. (Unless, of course, someone is personally disparaging you, in which case, then its totally different.) Many years ago, I wrote a manuscript that I thought was truly, truly brilliant. It landed me an agent but didnt sell to a publisher. I was fortunate enough to have several people an editor friend, an agent tell me (bluntly) where I was going wrong. And thank goodness they did! And thank goodness that I listened. I learned SO MUCH. Sooooooo much. If I had steeled myself against their criticism, I can honestly say that I never would have written my next manuscript (at least not written it well), and thats the one that got my published. I often say that there is no ceiling for the learning curve in this industry, and I think that applies even to seasoned writers. Just this morning, I had an hour-long conversation about the state of my current manuscript and all the ways that it can be improved. I took notes, listened, digested, and am now so excited to get to work. ADR: What's up next for you? (After that well-deserved nap of course!)
AWS: Getting back to the revision of my next book, The Memory of Us. Its out next summer, which feels like a long way off but I know will be here sooner than I realize. Books are like kids, you step back one day and cant believe how quickly the time has gone! :)
Thank you, Allison, for your friendship and guidance throughout the wild and wonderful publication process. And for carving out some time during your own post-publication madness to open up to me and my readers.
- Are you good at flexing your askus requestus muscle?
- How do you handle pressure - personal or professional - when it manifests?
- Do you think that insecurities can be inspirations in writing and in life?
- How has social media affected your life and career?
- If you are a parent, has having kids helped or hampered your professional focus?
- Do you agree with Allison's advice that it is best to take our egos out of the equation? (I do.) Is it truly possible to do this?
- Do you have any questions you'd like to ask Allison or me? (Come on. Flex that muscle!)
**Please leave a comment (or question!) on this post before 6am EST on Friday, June 18th for a chance to win Allison's latest novel THE ONE THAT I WANT which can also be purchased online with a few simple clicks.**