I am very excited to bring you today’s interview with dream chaser and New York Times Best-Selling author, Allison Winn Scotch. Not only do I love Scotch’s fiction – she wrote Time of My Life (Random House, October 2008) and The Department of Lost and Found (HarperCollins, 2007) – I love her dedication to her dreams. I’ve been following her blog (and Twitter feed) religiously for quite some time now and I’m constantly inspired by her determination and perseverance, not to mention how she translates them into tremendous results. That’s why I was beyond thrilled when she agreed to share her story with us today!
Q: Tell us about yourself. What was your dream and how did you reach it?
AWS: Wow, what a big question! Well, I’ve had a lot of dreams in my life, but for the purposes of this blog, I’ll stick to writing! I’d always enjoyed writing, and in fact, when my parents moved recently, they handed me a big box of childhood stuff, and lo and behold, I found old diaries that I didn’t even remember keeping! It turns out that I was a scribe from early on. As I got older, people told me to pursue it post-college, but I just thought, “Wow, that sounds C-R-A-Z-Y!” I mean, how does one even earn money as a writer? Well, after a few trial runs with different careers, I finally listened to all of the feedback, as well as my inner-voice, and went for it.
I started out as a freelance writer (more on that below), but in the back of my mind, I always knew I wanted to write fiction. I’d see profiles of authors in my college alumni magazine or roam through Barnes and Noble, and just feel both a sense of awe and a tug that I, too, wanted to be among those authors. I started a manuscript that took me about three or four years to complete. I got stuck halfway through (as many, many aspiring writers do), and only returned to the book two or so years later because I was determined to finish it come hell or highwater. The book got me agented, but never sold. But still, from there, I was on my way.
But beyond logistics, I think, frankly, pure determination, optimism and belief in myself got me here today. Being a full-time, bestselling writer is a DREAM. But it is a hard dream to accomplish. I can’t tell you how many times it would have been easier for me NOT to send out a flurry of magazine queries after receiving rounds of rejections, NOT to be 2000% sure that the articles I was filing were flawless, NOT to get a little lazy because it’s hard to be your own boss and your own marketer and your own cheerleader. But I didn’t give myself an option to fail. And truly, I really think this was a big part in getting here.
Q: As you worked toward your dream, what kinds of challenges stood in your way? How did you overcome them?
AWS: Well, for one, the agent whom I mentioned above, who didn’t sell my first book, didn’t want to shop around my second one after I turned it in. She suggested that I either a) write an entirely different book from scratch or b) find a new agent. Um, guess which option I chose? Again, this just goes back to my belief in myself. I trusted that the book I’d written was strong enough to stand on its own, so I said sayonara (nicely) to said agent, and promptly got several other offers of representation. It was terrifying – every author knows how hard it is to get an agent – but absolutely necessary. I wasn’t going to let someone hinder my dream if she weren’t 100% on my team.
Q: Now that you’re living your dream, what’s next?
AWS: I’m someone who is never too content to just stay in one place (figuratively), so I’m pushing myself to write better books each time I step up to the plate. I think next for me – in a dream world – would be to attach myself as the screenwriter to the adaptations of my books. Getting them made into movies WAS the dream, and now that this is happening (still surreal!), why not dream bigger?
Q: What advice do you have for people struggling to pursue their dreams?
AWS: Dream big while still being realistic. I think that dreams are ESSENTIAL (obviously!) but I think they also have to be tangible or else you risk getting too let down. I knew that I might have had a small shot of being a successful writer because too many people had told me so. This seemed doable, reachable, not totally, off-the-wall, out-of-nowhere improbable, even against the small odds of success. It wasn’t like I was trying to be an astronaut. It made sense, even if it wasn’t an easy path. Set small goals on the way to bigger ones. My dream was to write published novels. Once I did that, my dream was to hit the bestseller list. Once I did that my dream was to get my book turned into a movie. All of this was a progression, but if I’d expected ALL of this from the get-go, I’m not sure that I would have been satisfied when I did hit those milestones. So adjust your dreams accordingly, learning (and dreaming) as you go.
Also, of course, you just have to deal with loads of rejection in my industry. Not just in fiction but in freelance writing. You probably get 20 nos (probably more like 50!), for every yes. I often say on my blog that you need to have a certain personality to succeed in this business. I really just let rejection slide off my back – you can’t let it phase you, but yes, you do get a lot of doors closed to you before you get one open.
Are you actively pursuing or living a dream? If so, I’d love to hear from you! Please e-mail me at: Erika (dot) Liodice (at sign) hotmail (dot) com.