Lots of you know Allison from her Ask Allison blog. Her book, The Department of Lost and Found, is being released in paperback, and Allison graciously offered to do an interview. Now there are no excuses for going out to buy the book!
For those who might be unfamiliar with the book, can you provide a little background on the story.
The Department of Lost and Found is about a headstrong 30-year old woman who is diagnosed with cancer. But it's really about so much more than that. Did I say cancer? No, what I mean was, the book is about an ambitious 30-year old who discovers that the ideals she once deemed important might not be so important after all, and by tracing through her past - her former loves and her former life - she realizes that though she's been stripped of her career, her boyfriend and yes, her health, she's still able to persevere. And that her disease was just a catalyst for putting her on a path to self-discovery.
The book is now coming out in paperback. Was this planned in your original contract or based on book sales?
Yes, and I think this is true of most hardcovers, unless you sell the book to a publisher, like, I believe, though don't quote me, McCage/Adams, or unless your book really tanks. A lot of books - and I'm hoping this is true for the Department - really get a second life in paperback, especially for debut authors because a lot of people aren't willing to shell out for a hardcover author who is unproven to them. So often times, a publisher might release a paperback with renewed hope, as in the case of the Memory Keeper's Daughter.
Any changes from the hardcover version to paperback version?
Well, the big change is in the cover! I blogged about this in recent weeks, but the folks at HarperCollins thought - after some trial and error, I guess - that the hardcover jacket didn't quite have mass market appeal, even though I absolutely adored it. So they packed the paperback with a softer image that I wasn't totally sold on at first, but we've gotten a lot of positive feedback, so they seem to know what they're doing! :) Also, there's an author's Q/A with me in the back of the book, which, I think, is tucked in for book clubs, and hopefully gives some insights into why and how I made the choices I did when I was writing!
I know you have another book in the works. When should we expect to see it?
Yup, Time of My Life will be out in October, and I'm so super-excited for it. It's about a woman who seems to have it all but who is haunted by her lingering "what ifs." And she wakes up one day seven years in the past with the opportunity to redo it all and discover if the path she chose was the one she should have chosen all along. I'm totally fascinated by how even the littlest decisions can change the entire landscape of our lives, and I'm also a compulsive googler, so writing this book was a lot of fun for me. My publisher - this time, I'm with Random House - is doing some GREAT things for the book, really taking it to a whole new level, and I can't wait to see what happens.
Was writing novels in your long-term plans? How does magazine writing fit into your schedule now?
I think in the back of my mind, yes, it was always part of the larger goal,but to be honest, I didn't really know how to make it happen...which, I suppose, makes me just like 99% of other writers out there! I started my first novel eight or so years ago but got stuck half-way through. But every time I'd read about, say, an alumni from my university publishing a novel, I got a twinge of, "Why aren't I doing that? Why isn't it MY book they're promoting?" But of course, if you haven't written a book, there's no book to promote! (Duh.) So eventually, I forced myself to return to that
stalled novel and finished it (two years later!). It turned out to be good enough to get me an agent but not good enough to sell to a publisher, and though at the time I deemed it genius, in retrospect, it's embarrassingly bad. Really, really bad. Like, I'm-so-grateful-it-wasn't-published-bad.
Still though, I had now proven to myself that I was capable of writing a novel, and so, armed with the determination to prove these publishers wrong (and in some cases right, as many had given me a lot of praise, even while rejecting me), I dove into what would become The Department full-hog, and three months later, emerged from the whirlwind with what is mostly the current manuscript.
As far as magazines, I've really pared back. So many people say to me, "I don't know how you do it all!," but the truth IS, is that I don't do it all anymore! I have two small kids, and the grind of those daily or weekly deadlines was slowly taking its toll on my schedule and my stress level, especially know that I know what it's like to have these longer deadlines that come with a novel. I also felt like, after seven or so years of freelancing, that I'd covered just about every subject imaginable, and I was ready to flex new muscles. So, these days, I do still write for editors whom I love because I'm someone who still needs to have SOMETHING on her
plate, but mostly, I'm really hoping to craft a career mostly built around writing fiction. What a luxury that is, and trust me, not a day goes by when I don't appreciate the good fortune of my situation.
Me again: If you or one of your friends have published a book and want a little free publicity, drop me a note. I'd be happy to help.