The Divining Wand

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Allison Winn Scotch and Time of My Life

October 05, 2008 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations

ToML
On Thursday, June 5, 2008 the Ask Allison blog post read: Official Press Release for TOML Film Announcement!

On June 3, 2008:

TIME OF MY LIFE is the story of a thirty-something housewife who is at an emotional crossroad in her marriage and gets the chance to go back in time to squelch those tiny, lingering doubts that send women googling old friends and exes or wistfully pulling out pictures of days gone by.

“We are thrilled to be finally working again with Meryl and thankful she has brought us this incredible project,” stated Harvey Weinstein, “Scotch’s writing is both outright honest and at the same time comically engaging. She provides a strong female voice with characters that easily relate to the screen. Considering our strong track record with Meryl, we are very excited to begin moving this project forward. There is no finer film executive that can single out talent and maximize theatrical potential.”

Meryl Poster added, “What struck me about this project is that it speaks to women who have reached a very specific and self-reflective moment in their lives. The material is both relatable and romantic with a fabulous starring role for an actress.”

Yes that was four months ago but tomorrow — when Allison Winn Scotch’s (The Department of Lost and Found) Time of My Life is released online and/or hits the shelves of your favorite bookstore, you’ll be able to read and discover what Hollywood is so excited about. And, having read an Advanced Reader Copy, I finally have the opportunity to present Allison’s second novel.

As usual, it begins with the backstory — generally the “what if” of the plot. However, in this case, Allison’s “what if” became focused on “what ifs.” Why? The author explains how the book’s idea developed:

“I was chatting with one of my closest friends, who happened to be on vacation in a city where an ex-boyfriend currently lives. She and I were having one of those conversations that you can only have with your dearest confidantes, one in which she said, “‘I’m here and I’m so weirded out. I mean, what if I run into him? And I can’t stop thinking about what would have happened if we hadn’t broken up.'” I concurred about the weirdness, having just visited a city of one of my ex-boyfriends, and we proceeded to talk about our various life decisions and how different — for better or worse — things could have been if these decisions had been tweaked. Then, eventually, we hung up, and I went for a run. As I circled the reservoir in Central Park, our words lingered in my head, and I was instantly struck with my character, Jillian. She came to me immediately, and I had a complete understanding of where she was in her life, why she was so discontent, and how she was haunted by her “‘what ifs.'” (I’ve always been fascinated by this concept: how small changes can change the entire outcome of your life – if, say, I hadn’t joined the gym at which I met my husband.) So I came home and wrote what are now the first 15 pages, sent them to my agent, and voila, a book was born. My vision of Jillian never wavered from that first moment because I understood her so completely. (I should note: I didn’t understand her because I share her sentiments, only that I could understand how she had gotten to where she’d gotten.) The rest of the book was up in the air — I had a general idea of what I wanted to do but the details fell into place as I went. But my character’s backstory held steady, and for me, that is what made this book.

“Everyone says that you should “‘write what you know,'” and to a certain extent, I believe that this is true. I’ve found, for me personally, that I need to find the seed within my characters that I relate to – something within them that resonates with my own life — so that I can really get under their skin and minds. In Time of My Life, for example, I didn’t have a difficult time of how off-kilter I would feel if I had long days and no stimulation other than a newborn, and certainly, I could relate to having “‘what if’'” moments like Jillian. But — in both obvious and non-obvious ways — my life is really nothing like hers at all. So, in this sense, I’m close to my characters emotionally, but not circumstantially, and I think this is an important distinction.”

One such distinct example is the estranged relationship between the protagonist and her mother. It’s a major factor in the character’s development as Allison states: “Jillian’s mom’s abandonment affected *everything* about how Jillian came to define herself, and certainly, it affected her discontentedness as a wife and a mother. In some ways, unconscious, definitely, because just as her mother was wired to want more in her life, so too was Jillian, but also consciously as well: Jillian often struggles with honest communication, and she’s really learned to temper both her needs and speaking up for those needs. I always traced that back to her mother leaving…as young children often do, Jillian placed the burden of the situation on herself, and maybe always wondered if she’d been a better daughter/less demanding/more loving/etc, maybe her mother wouldn’t have left.”

And yet she’s quick to laugh and affirm this bears no resemblance to her own mother-daughter bond:

“I realize that both of my characters have had issues with their mothers! I feel sooooo badly for my own mom because I’m sure that people suspect that it stems from something in my own life, but I actually have a great relationship with both of my parents, and can’t blame any damage or scars on them. (That’s all my own doing!) J No, in reality, I think when writers create these characters, we always try to uncover the “‘why'” behind who they are. And often times in life, our families and yes, our parents, create so much of our foundation that it’s hard to shed it once we get older.”

From that thoughtfulness — and SO much more –, the novel followed as did the Synopsis:

“From the outside view, Jillian Westfield has a pitch-perfect life. Her cherubic 18-month old daughter, her wildly successful investment banker husband, a four-bedroom, five-bath, lemon-scented home with landscaping and neighbors to match. But that doesn’t stop her from mulling over the past, from pushing away the “‘what ifs'” that haunt her when she allows them to seep into her consciousness. What if she hadn’t married Henry? What if she hadn’t abandoned her job at the first sign of pregnancy? What if she’d never broken up with Jackson ? What if she answered her mother’s letter? Because underneath the shiny veneer of her life, Jill waddles around in a faltering marriage, brewing resentment, and an air of discontentedness.

“But after an ethereal massage in which her therapist releases her blocked chi, she wakes up to discover that she’s been whisked seven years back, back to her old life, her old self, back to the moments in which she made decisions that charted her future course. And now that she’s back, she’s faced with the same roadblocks and obstacles, only this time, armed with hindsight, she can choose a different path and finally lay to rest all of her “‘what ifs.'”

Time of My Life is much more than a story about a real life desperate housewife. Instead, it speaks to so many of our tiny, lingering doubts, the same doubts that send us googling old friends and exes or wistfully pulling out pictures of days gone by. And through Jillian’s journey, in which she rediscovers the mother who abandoned her, reacquaints herself with the strengths she once deemed important, and may literally rewrite her future, we all get a chance to peek inside the windows of our own “‘what ifs,'” and consider if the path we took was the one that has granted us the most happiness.”

Although I have (jokingly) commented that the book could have been titled “The Time Traveling Wife,” there are other early readers who found it reminded them of films like “Peggy Sue Got Married” and “Back to the Future.” Allison agrees to an extent while believing it has a “more modern take” by pointing out that:

“It explores themes that a lot of women I know have dealt with. It’s not just: What if I didn’t marry the right person? It’s about the many choices you make along the way, where you get swept up in life, and how they can snowball and lead you to where you are now.

“I think so many women have these what-if fantasies, but we don’t talk about them a lot. Somehow, they imply that our current life, our real life, is flawed. That’s not it at all. I think you can look back on your past and reflect on it and use it to help you understand where you are now.”

And where Allison is now? How about in the midst of high praise from literary trade journals to a variety of magazines, such as:

“An engaging, fast-moving, high-concept drama. Scotch keeps one dexterous step ahead of page-flipping readers eager to guess the outcome.” – Publishers Weekly

“Scotch’s second book shows a writer coming into her own, a storyteller who doesn’t take the easy way out, and a woman with a fine understanding of human nature.” – Booklist

“If you’ve ever wanted your own do-over, this read will keep you guessing ’til the end.” – Library Journal

“After this hilarious read, you may just return to your own crazy-busy routine a little happier.” – Redbook

“Perfect to read with friends. A book we love.” –Cosmopolitan

“Book pick of the month. Insightful and honest, Winn Scotch keeps it light but delves into the dark doubts of the road not taken.” – Family Circle

“A must-read. A fantastic, often funny novel.” – Hallmark Magazine

For author reviews, please scroll down the Reviews: Time of My Life page.

Then, to read an excerpt, here’s: Excerpt : Chapter One.

It’s true that Time of My Life may be initially thought of, chosen and read for its “what if” fantasy, yet the story is actually grounded in diverse and discomforting universal issues that are not limited to marrying the right man. Writing in a strong, confident and smart voice, Allison is in total control of Jillian’s indecisiveness and this is what gives the book a well-earned reality check mark. Whatever time of life you may be in, this novel is a reminder that the past holds the lure of potential but the present is where all things are created possible for the future.

And that future includes Allison’s dream for the movie. Consider the fact that she found out about the movie deal the day of the American Idol Finale. When David Cook was crowned and emotionally began singing “Time of My Life,” Allison’s tears flowed too as she thought, “This has got to go in the closing credits of my movie!” Well, what if?

For now, though, there is the certainty that you’ll be entertained, engaged and experience your personal “Aha’s” by reading Time of My Life, absolutely no if’s, ands, or buts. Enjoy!

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