Galley Gossip: Interview with New York Times best selling author Allison Winn Scotch

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book I couldn’t put down. In fact, your book, Time of my Life, made me wish my commuter flight from New York to Los Angeles would never end. It’s that good! With heavy issues like abandonment, divorce, escape and fate, what inspired you to write the book?

Well, I’d been contemplating doing a time-travel story, but I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. I mentioned it to my agent, and I think she was deeply perplexed by both the idea and me! But I didn’t know how to sort it out in my mind. But then one afternoon while the idea was brewing, my best friend called while she was on vacation where her ex-boyfriend lived, and she said, “I’m so weirded out…I can’t stop thinking about what my life might have been like.”

Then we had one of those intimate life conversations that you can only have with your closest friends, about her what-ifs and my what-ifs, and I assured her that this was all very normal, even though people didn’t really talk about how much they wonder about what could have been. We hung up, and I headed out for a run, and BAM…the idea, characters and plotlines just presented themselves very clearly. I came home, wrote what are now the first 14 pages, and sent them off to my agent, who flipped for them. I think, as so many of us get older and look back on our younger years with nostalgia, it’s very easy to consider what the other possibilities could have been –and I wanted to explore that.

As a flight attendant, I love my job because it allows me to jump on a plane and go wherever I want whenever I want, as long as there’s an open seat available. Just knowing I can travel like that brings a sense of calm to my life. My job also allows for a little “me time” since I’m gone for a few days at a time each month. Women today are so busy working full time jobs and then going home to clean the house, make dinner and take care of others, they have a tendency to forget about themselves. Which is why I believe escape is a popular theme for women and why so many women wonder about what could have been if they had made different choices in life. Have you as a wife, mother, and a New York Time’s best selling author, ever wondered – what if?

Definitely! As I said above, I think this is so, so, so common, but it’s a strange thing – we’re all sort of hesitant to talk about it, as if talking about our “what ifs” somehow mean that we’re truly unhappy with our current lives. But I don’t think that’s it at all – I think you can look back and reflect and use those memories, those what ifs, to propel you toward MORE happiness rather than less. Remember the choices you made and why, and if you ARE unhappy, remember your original list of goals and maybe tweak your current course to get back to where you wanted to be. But…yes, I’m totally guilty of what-ifing. :)

I, too, have wondered what-if. What if I hadn’t been working the flight from New York to Los Angeles when I met my husband? Without a doubt my life would have turned out completely different if I hadn’t been working that flight. While reading your book, I found myself conflicted. Part of me was excited that the main character was given a second chance, an opportunity to create a new life with an ex-boyfriend she seemed to have never gotten over, while another part of me rooted for the husband and child she’d left behind. While writing did you ever feel conflicted in the direction in which the main character was headed? Did you know from the beginning what was going to happen to her in the end?

I think the only real conflict I felt was about her relationship with her child, and I was worried that readers wouldn’t like her/accept her for needing time away from her child to get back in touch with who she once was. But…I HAD to take that leap because part of Jillian’s dissatisfaction with her life was the fact that motherhood wasn’t what she had expected it to be, and she needed to regroup in order to understand WHY it wasn’t what she expected it to be and maybe to realign those expectations. So that was definitely a big concern/conflict. But look, I’m a mom of two kids, and while I would do ANYTHING IN THE WORLD for them, truly, I also understand those occasional days when you think, “Ugh, what I wouldn’t give to have an entire free 24 hours to myself, FOR myself.” So I tried to play this balance delicately.

Many years ago I walked a blind passenger to her first class seat. As I held her hand, she began telling me things about my past that were right on, and then went on to predict my future – all of which came true. I never really thought about fate until I met her. I always thought people were in control of their destinies, but now I’m not so sure. Do you believe in fate?

Great question! And the answer is…I don’t know. :) I sometimes have a hard time accepting that fate is in charge of everything because I’ve seen some pretty sad situations in life (friends passing away too young, children who are terribly sick), and I feel like the blanket explanation of, “Oh, what’s meant to happen will happen,” is almost a cop-out. I guess that I believe in fate to a certain extent but only in so much as WE are the ones who control it. I’m pretty proactive about my life, for example, and while maybe it was fate that I ended up joining the gym where I met my husband, I DON’T think we would have met if I hadn’t gone up and introduced myself. (What can I say? I thought he was cute!) So I think it’s a blend of the two.

The people I meet and the places I go completely affect my writing, obviously. Your book is set in Westchester and Manhattan. How important is location to your stories?

Important and not so important. My first two books were set in New York because that was the environment I was most comfortable writing about, and for me, writing books was challenge enough – I wasn’t about to set my book in a city that I couldn’t immediately grasp. That said, New York plays an important role to each of these protagonists – in Time of My Life, it represents Jillian’s old life, her single days, so yes, it WAS important to set the book there. For my next book, The One That I Want, location becomes even more critical – it’s set in a small town in Washington State, and the town defines just about everything about the heroine. So I think, once I really got comfortable with the novel-writing process, I was able to take more risks with imagining locations other than my own.

Has a fabulous vacation to another city/locale ever inspired or changed something you were in the process of writing?

Hmmm, not a specific city, but certainly, I take inspiration from wherever I travel to. We just spent part of the summer in California, and the wide open beaches, beautiful weather, and calming attitude really helped nurture my brain for the last round of revisions for The One That I Want.

Rumor has it you’re afraid to fly. What do you do to overcome that fear in order to get on an airplane?

I try to just be logical about it! I know – rationally! – that my fear is totally crazy, and so I sort of talk myself off the ledge with statistics and such. It’s only a relatively recent fear (since becoming a mother), so even though I probably don’t sleep the night before a flight, a small part of me, way in the back of my brain, knows that I’ll be fine. Still though, I really, really wish I could get over it! :)

If it’s the turbulence that frightens you, sit near the front of the aircraft next time. It’s much less bumpy up there. That’s why you’ll sometimes see flight attendants working in first and business class while the ones working in coach are buckled into their jumpseats. It’s that big of a difference between cabins. Favorite city?

Ooh, probably Paris.

It’s such a romantic city. Which reminds me, years ago on a layover in Paris I went to an ATM and accidentally took out my entire life savings. I was so nervous walking around the city with a purse full of cash. Sadly, the only times I’ve ever been to Paris were on layovers, which, of course, only happened on reserve months. It’s a senior trip, which means it’s a very desirable place to go for flight attendants. You live in New York City, so what do you recommend for families traveling with small children to the Big City?

Oh my gosh, there is SO MUCH to do here with kids. The Museum of Natural History is a big hit for our kids because it’s in our neighborhood, as is the Children’s Museum. I really enjoy taking my older one to Broadway shows, and both of them to children’s concerts and children’s theater, like the Vital Theater at 75th and Broadway. If you’re here in the warmer months, of course, you have to stroll through Central Park – you can often catch a
great spontaneous breakdancing show. :) The kids love it.

I’m dying to take my three year-old to the Central Park zoo. What about when family or friends are in town visiting, what are some of the things you always make sure to do with them?

Eat! New York has the best dining in the world, so the one thing we always do is eat out!

I think we’re going to have to hang out. I, too, love to eat. That probably explains why my favorite place to vacation is in Italy. The food is just amazing there. Now tell me about your best vacation?

Wow, that’s a hard one. I love everything about Europe – everything – but if I had to say the best vacation ever, I’d be remiss not to say last year’s vacation to Grand Cayman that we took as a family. It was just a perfect string of nine days in which my kids were wonderfully behaved, the resort was out-of-this-world, the beaches were breath-taking, and we, as a family,just sat back and enjoyed the hell out of each other. One of the very few vacations when we truly were not ready to return home.

Okay, now you’re going to have to tell us where you stayed!

The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman – have you been? It’s SOOO good for families. I think we’re heading back this year.

I’l have to check it out. City/country you’re dying to visit?

South Africa. I wish I’d taken a safari before my kids were born…now it will likely be a few more years until I can do so.

That’s also on my list of things to do / places to go. In fact, I feel sorry for my South African passengers because I’ve always got a million questions for them. I’m dying to go on Safari. Favorite traveling outfit?

J.Crew sweatpants, sweatshirt and tank top. (Yes, I might be J. Crew’s favorite customer.) My converse sneakers. I travel comfy.

Comfort in flight is very important. Book last read on a flight?

I haven’t flown without my kids recently, and there’s no chance I get to read when I travel with them. BUT, I think I eked out a few pages of Elin Hilderbrand’s The Castaways on our recent trip to California.

Now finish the following sentences.

Once on a flight….I thought the floor was going to fall out of the plane. My husband and I were in Italy, flying on some tiny, God-forsaken, who-knows-what airline, and the entire floor was shaking/rattling/making-VERY-strange noises the whole flight. Even my husband – who has absolutely no fear of flying – was ashen.

If I could be anywhere in the world I’d…Be living in Paris or Hawaii. Either one sounds heavenly.

Next book?

As I mentioned above, the next book is called The One That I Want, and it will be out June 2010!

Interested in reading more about Allison Winn Scotch? Visit her web site –

Photos courtesy of (book cover, author photo) Allison Winn Scotch, (Hermosa Beach, CA, Waikiki Beach) Heather Poole, (Paris) Fly for Fun