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Q & A with Winn Scotch!

December 31, 2012 - Amy Phelps
A woman wakes up after a plane crash, one of only two survivors and no memory of her life beforehand in New York Times bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch's "The Song Remains The Same."

Nell Slattery doesn't recognize her mother, sister or husband, let alone remember her relationships with them. Family and friends bring photos and her sister brings a playlist of her favorite songs in hopes of jogging her memory, but all Nell knows is the life everyone tells her she was leading doesn't seem right. She begins forging new relationships with her family, and with the other survivor of the crash, a brash young actor named Anderson. Soon Nell is learning who she was may not mean as much as who she is now. This is a thought-provoking story of relationships, memory and the possibility of getting a fresh start on life. Winn Scotch paints a vivid picture of Nell and her family, both good and bad, that makes them real.

"The Song Remains the Same" is published by Berkley. It is $15 and 332 pages long.

A Q&A with Allison Winn Scotch follows:

What inspired you to write a story about an amnesia patient?

WINN SCOTCH: I love writing stories about women who are forced to reinvent themselves. In the past, I've used various facets of magical realism to explore reinvention, but this time, I wanted to ground my heroine in reality. As unrealistic as amnesia sounds, it actually happens, and I loved this notion of: what happens if you woke up one day and had no idea what your history was? Would you make the same choice? Would you live the same life? It's a tricky but really interesting concept. How did you pick the songs for "the best of" Nell's life?

WINN SCOTCH: Well, I'm a bit of a music nut, so I spent a lot, a lot, a lot of time manipulating the "soundtrack" to Nell's life. I knew I wanted music to be the backdrop of this book, but it took me a long time to figure out how to do it. Eventually, I honed in on a specific decade of her life, songs that would be emotional triggers for very specific moments. I researched what songs were out when, what emotional resonance they would have for me, and thus, what emotional resonance they might also have for her. I tried to choose songs that weren't too uncommon (so they could get stuck in the reader's ear without too much prodding), yet also fit the scene and the memory that Nell was exploring. It was such a blast to do. (And gave me the excuse of listening to music as "work!") What would be some of the songs for your soundtrack?

WINN SCOTCH: Gosh, I have so many because music really is the backdrop of my own life too. But here are a few: from high school - "Babe" by Styx, "Teach Your Children," by Crosby, Stills and Nash, "Right Here Waiting," by Richard Marx (really!); from college: "Little Silver Ring," by The Samples, "Better Man," by Pearl Jam, "Express Yourself," by Madonna; and from life in general: "Read My Mind'" by The Killers, "Needs," by Collective Soul, "A Murder of One," by The Counting Crows, and "The Long Way Round," by The Dixie Chicks. What advice would you give aspiring young writers?

WINN SCOTCH: Keep writing and take your ego out of the equation. I think that one of the best things I ever did when I was starting out was being very, very open to constructive criticism, and not getting my feelings hurt when I was offered less than wonderful feedback. Instead, I recognized that I had a lot of room to grow, and I took that criticism (and the failure of my first manuscript to sell) and turned myself into a better writer. If you can't do that, if you can't accept that your work may not be genius and that there is room for improvement, I think you are doomed to fail. Even now, four published books later, I rely on my agent, my critique partner and my editor to help guide me with honest feedback. My work is always stronger because of it. Who or what inspires you when you have writer's block?

WINN SCOTCH: When I am stuck in the middle of a book, I do a few things: 1) I go for a run or take a lot of long walks. I find that running is often the only time that I have for myself, when I'm really able to quiet my mind and let my imagination go free. Often, I find myself drifting back toward the work, even if I don't mean to, and I get home and feel rejuvenated. 2) I also just write. I force myself to do an hour a day. Even if it's terrible. I do it anyway. Writing is very much like exercise: the more you do it, the easier it is. And the less you do it, the harder it is to get back into. That said, if I'm blocked and I'm NOT working on a book, I just let myself be. I don't try to push the issue. Almost always, eventually that urge to write, to create, to explore new characters comes back to me, and if I try to jumpstart something before I'm ready or inspired, it's often a waste of time.


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