Allison Winn Scotch, THE REWIND

Allison Winn Scotch, THE REWIND

Guest host Alisha Fernandez Miranda interviews New York Times bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch about The Rewind, an endearing 90s rom-com about two exes who wake up next to each other on New Year’s Day with wedding rings on their fingers and no recollection of how they got there. Allison talks about the joys and frustrations of the traditional publishing process, the difficulties of writing this book mid-pandemic, and her love of the 90s. She also shares her own Y2K New Year’s story (it involves a break-up and an impromptu trip to Cabo), the incredible Adopt a Library initiative she has launched, and the books she is reading and loving!


Alisha Miranda: I am here with Allison Winn Scotch, the author of The Rewind, which I just loved. I read it at the perfect time of year. It’s a book that takes place on New Year’s Eve. Reading it in the lead-up to the holidays was very, very good. I loved the nineties throwback. I really, really loved it. I have a huge smile on my face even talking about it because I enjoyed it so much. This was my first of your many books that I have read, so now I can’t wait to dive into the back catalog. It was great.

Allison Winn Scotch: Thank you. That means so much to me. You just love it when a reader loves a book, whether you’re an interviewer or not. You will find out soon. It’s genuinely sort of emotional that people read your stuff, who you don’t know, and actually enjoy it. Thank you very much.

Alisha: I love that you don’t feel jaded after having written so many books that people really love. I do sometimes wonder, when you get to your sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth book, if it starts to feel a bit rote. Maybe not.

Allison: You guys have done a gagillion interviews. I think there are aspects of the publishing industry that I am quite jaded about, but the reader connection never loses its magic for me. I think a lot of people who have been doing this for a long time do have a little bit of a hardened shell about the business aspect of it. It is such a difficult business that we wouldn’t keep doing it if there weren’t the pot of gold at the end. The pot of gold is making readers fall in love with your writing or resonating in some way or, with this book, honestly, hopefully, just giving people something to enjoy. I wrote it in the middle of COVID. I just wanted to write something enjoyable. That’s a win. That aspect will never lose. People will email me or leave me a comment or whatever. I try to reply to everybody because that aspect of it, somebody enjoying the year-long work that you’ve done, it’s the best part.

Alisha: That’s amazing. As you know — I know you know Zibby — her ethos behind Zibby Books was taking things about what she didn’t like about the publishing process and trying to change them. Is there anything specifically that you would highlight that really drives you crazy?

Allison: Sure. How much time do we have, Alisha? No. One thing that I find very difficult — look, my first book came out — I honestly can’t remember. I want to say fifteen years ago. I have been doing this for a long time. I have dear friends who are on the publishing and editorial side of it. I love my editor. The team at Berkley is amazing. I have had very positive experiences. My second book took off in a way that nobody expected, hit The Times list, blah, blah, blah. I have had really demoralizing experiences. I’m pretty open about all my ups and downs because I think it’s important to be transparent that it’s a difficult industry. The one thing, to pinpoint your question, that really upsets me is if a book does not do well, I feel as if — not “I feel.” An author is almost always blamed for it. I find that really frustrating because all we can do is write the book that a publisher or editor has asked for. It has been vetted. It has been edited probably five, seven times. That’s how many drafts I usually go through. A dozen people at the publisher have signed off on it. If for some reason it doesn’t sell, I find it really frustrating when the author is blamed for that because we have delivered the book that has been asked for. I can’t be responsible for sales, particularly in the early days when there wasn’t social media. Even now, more so, the ownness is placed on the author. Go post a pretty picture of it. Okay, I hope there’s more marketing than that. I just find it upsetting when either I’ve been blamed or friends have been blamed. They’ve written beautiful books that just, for whatever reason, have not received the sales figures that they deserved. Then some people find it really hard to get another book deal. I just think that sucks because all we can do is write the book that’s been asked of us. That’s my one big gripe.

Alisha: I hear you. The flipside of that — just today, Zibby posted a picture of her holding my ARC. She’s publishing my book. It’s her first release. I was just saying to my husband before I got on this call, I was like, “It’s our baby.” I wrote the book, but it’s been such a team effort to get it to the point of publication that it feels like I am really sharing this with all of them. Hopefully, we’re going to share the good and the bad.

Allison: A hundred percent. Just to piggyback on that, as I said, I love the collaboration. The editorial part of it is my favorite aspect of the whole thing. I feel like I can usually write a decent first draft. I always say I can take something to a B+, but I need the outside guidance to write an A-level book. What I find frustrating is, it is such a collaboration, and then often, at least with traditional publishers — I know Zibby’s doing something different. If a book doesn’t work — I don’t know what goes on internally, if there’s, oh, we should’ve done this. In terms of the career, the author is the one who doesn’t necessarily get a second shot at it. Confidence is lost. It is such a collaboration. I find that collaboration very joyous. It’s hard. It’s hard when you feel like, well, what else could I have done? It’s depressing. That’s all, but there are a lot of positives about it. Sorry, I didn’t mean to…

Alisha: No, not at all. I wanted to know this. So many people that listen to this listen because they love books and reading, but quite a few people who are writers or aspiring writers listen to this. I actually think it’s really, really interesting for people to get into what publishing is really like because on social media, it does look all glitzy, glamorous. Here’s me with my special unboxing video. Doesn’t this all look incredible? You don’t see the rejections. You don’t see their challenges. It’s important to show that stuff.

Allison: Correct. It’s a wonderful job. I feel so lucky to be able to do it for so long. There’s a reason that you see authors saying, please go leave a review. Please go tell your friends. A lot of authors are sort of white-knuckling it to their next deal. I don’t want to sound, in any way, complaining. It’s just pulling back the curtain a little bit. If you are a reader and you loved a book, please tell your friends. That’s how it all snowballs. You guys at Zibby Books are doing such a good job advocating for authors who might not otherwise get a spotlight.

Alisha: It is a team of book lovers and book geeks. I’ll only speak for myself, no one else. I consider myself a geek, absolutely geeking out about books and stories. Being able to guest host these podcasts for Zibby’s podcast, for “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books,” has been, for me, the most joyful thing because I get to read a bunch of stuff that either isn’t out yet or just came out or maybe I wouldn’t have seen or picked up, and then I get to talk to the authors about it, which really could not be cooler, and especially when I like the book. I really have liked the books that I’ve read for this. It’s been such a joy. You have seen all sides.

Allison: I am also a book geek, so I understand.

Alisha: Good. I’m glad you are.

Allison: Again, I really do love the people I’m working with. I have had mostly positive experiences. I’m not even expressing this about my own experience, but authors get together, and they talk. It’s a tough industry.

Alisha: It is tough out there. There’s a collaboration I want you to tell us about, which is Frankie and Ezra.

Allison: Good segue.

Alisha: I want to talk about this book. Let’s start by, why don’t you tell listeners what The Rewind is about?

Allison: The Rewind is about two exes who really had a very difficult breakup and haven’t spoken in a decade but are back on their old college campus for a wedding and have vowed not to interact for the weekend and then the next morning, wake up in bed together with engagement rings on or wedding bands on and have no memory of how they got here. It’s really about retracing their steps from the night before and also retracing what went wrong in their history that led to such a calamitous breakup.

Alisha: You mentioned this was a pandemic book for you. How did you come up with the idea sitting in your hopefully COVID-free, but COVID-protected house?

Allison: It was COVID-free. I don’t even want to jinx myself. I need to be studied by science because I have not gotten it yet.

Alisha: I’m going to touch everything wood in my room for you right now.

Allison: I’m knocking on everything. Exactly. Maybe I’ve had it. I should say I haven’t tested positive. I stumbled on this idea about nine months into it. I hadn’t written anything. Again, very transparent. I was just dealing with — I live in California. My kids hadn’t been in school since the lockdown. There was a lot of aggrieved people in my house who were arguing. I had gone out to take a walk, as we all did very often. I was talking to Laura Dave, who’s another author who I’m sure everybody listening to this knows, who is a very good friend of mine and one of my first collaboration partners. I was like, “Ugh, I feel like I have to start writing something.” I was just spitting out ideas. I said, “What if it’s like The Hangover, but a romantic comedy?” She was like, “That’s a brilliant idea.” I mention this in the acknowledgments. She’s like, “But it’s going to be really hard to write. Don’t mention it to anybody because they’re going to make you write it.” I was sort of desperate for an idea, so I did mention it to my agent. She’s like, “Great. Now you have to write it.” It was literally just that seed of spitballing. She and I came up with four different ideas. I sent them in to my agent. This was the one, of course, that she picked. Then I started writing it. I would say every fifty pages, I would call my agent and be like — again, this is a little insider baseball. I was like, “Please, can you just sell it on a partial? I don’t want to finish this without an editor. I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s so hard.” She kept being like, “Send me a few more pages. Then maybe we will.” She made me write the whole thing. That’s how it reached where it was now. Not where it was now because then obviously, your editor comes in and makes it better, but that’s how we sold it.

Alisha: I’m kind of amazed, actually, that you wrote it in pieces because of the structure of the story and the working backwards bit. You would think that you would’ve had it all planned out. What was your process like for this book?

Allison: That’s a great question. That is what made it so hard. I am a pantser, so I do not outline. I just start on page one, and I go. I did outline for one book, and I found it really, really difficult. I just like to see where the characters go, put problems in their way and see how they would react to them. That is what made it so difficult. I knew how it was going to end, but I did not know how they were going to get there. I just had to, like the characters, stumble along the way to figure out where they were going. It was really difficult. I was juggling three different timelines. I was juggling the day that they woke up. I was juggling the night before. Then I was juggling their history from a decade ago. It was really arduous, which is why I kept calling my agent and being like, “I can’t write this. I want you to sell it, but I can’t write it,” which is not what your agent wants to hear. I do make my life harder for myself by not outlining, but I just had such a difficult experience with that book where I did. I don’t know. I always manage to get to the other side. I’m working on a book now. I’m on my fifth draft of it. It’s almost good, but it’s not quite good. If I had outlined, it probably would’ve been better, but this is just my process. Every time, I’m like, why am I doing this? I did a signing at an independent bookstore. Zibby listeners will know that she’s opening up her own store here in LA. I came home. I was like, I think I just want to work in a bookstore. That sounds so enjoyable. Maybe in my next career.

Alisha: Is it like having a kid that once you’ve finished it, you forget how horrible it was?

Allison: A hundred percent. It’s like raising kids. I have two teenagers. The toddler phase sounds so delightful. I know. Listeners are like, what is wrong with you? I have two teenagers. That’s exactly what it is.

Alisha: That’s so funny. Where were you on Y2K, on the eve of the millennium? What were you doing?

Allison: I had gone through a breakup. I had figured we would spend that evening together, but we didn’t. My brother — I don’t know if he had gone through a breakup. I can’t remember. Anyway, he was like, “I’m going to Cabo. I have a free room for you to stay in.” I went down to Cabo with him, my older brother. I was there. I didn’t really buy into it. I was a little like Frankie. I didn’t buy into any of that Y2K stuff. I thought it was absurd. It was an early night. I remember some of people we were on the trip with went out. I’m not a big New Year’s Eve person. I don’t know if you are. That’s where I was, probably just very sad and mourning my breakup that, in hindsight — like many listeners, I’m sure, I was like, oh, my god, thank god that I didn’t end up with that person. Where were you? Do you remember?

Alisha: I used to spend all my New Year’s in Miami with my family, which is where I grew up. My uncle still hosts a really big New Year’s Eve party. I think we skipped it that year. I have a vague memory of being in the back of someone’s Jeep with my best friend and her sister. Tyson Beckford, the male model, was riding behind us. We were on Ocean Drive, or we were on Collins.

Allison: That’s such a Miami story.

Alisha: It’s such a Miami story. He was on this motorbike behind us. We were trying to get his attention.

Allison: That is a very Y2K Miami story.

Alisha: Thinking about that now, I’m like, oh, my god, that’s such a cliché. Miami’s a great place to be for the New Year’s. Like Cabo, it’s warm and sunny. Now we celebrate Hogmanay, which is Scottish New Year. The past few years, we’ve been on the Isle of Skye. It’s very cold, and fires and lots of whiskey and lots of traditions. You have to listen to the bells ring at midnight. Then you have to have a tall, dark stranger darken your doorstep, and you have to offer them whiskey. That’s your good luck for the new year. Also, my family is Cuban.

Allison: That sounds amazing.

Alisha: My husband’s family is Venezuelan, so you’re also supposed to run around the street with a suitcase. I don’t know. We’ve got six thousand traditions. You have to eat twelve grapes. There’s a lot to do on New Year’s Eve, actually. We’re pretty busy that day.

Allison: While drinking whiskey. Sounds like a lot of stuff to get done. Sounds great.

Alisha: It’s definitely a lot, cake and whiskey. You set this book in the nineties, which was so fun to go back to that time. Is that a time period that you really loved? Did you just think this story fit there? Tell me about that decision.

Allison: Great question. Sort of all of the above. One is, I went to college in the nineties, so I have a very nostalgic love of that experience and that time. Part of it is just that time in your early twenties where anything feels possible. You feel a little bit invincible, even if you’re miserable or whatever. It’s just like the whole world is wide open. I have a very fond memory of my college experience, so that was a little bit that. Also, I realized very quickly that if I had set it in current time, they would have just checked their phones. There isn’t a lot of mystery left anymore because of our phones. I had to eliminate smartphones. Then when I realized, oh, that millennium New Year’s Eve, we were all — it felt sort of foundational. It felt like an important moment in your life, even though, of course, it wasn’t, but that’s how the media was playing it up. We’re never going to be alive again for a new millennium. It just felt like a really romantic time where people, maybe, made heady decisions that they wouldn’t otherwise. It worked out that that happened to coincide with the no-smartphone decision. The music and the fashion, it was super fun.

Alisha: It was so great to read. I just kept thinking of Frankie going around with her Walkman. I just loved that image.

Allison: With the yellow headphones. Remember? We carried those clunky things around and then transitioned to CDs, which we thought were so high-tech. The clothes and the Doc Martens — I have a teenage daughter who dresses exactly like I dressed in college now.

Alisha: It’s weird, right?

Allison: Child, what is happening? It was very fun to revisit. In the middle of COVID, that brought me a lot of joy.

Alisha: I went into Reformation, which is a store I really like, even though I’m way too old to be shopping there.

Allison: No, you’re not.

Alisha: I walked into a store. This was right before lockdown, actually. It was in March 2020. I was like, I actually owned these clothes. I’m not going to buy them again. I already owned them once. It was terrifying, actually, because I was like, how have I become so old that my clothes have come back around and they’re ?

Allison: My daughter’s about my same size. I really regret getting rid of all that stuff. They’re wearing the massive baggy jeans — some of it is acid wash, which is even more horrifying — and little tank tops or massively oversized hoodies. They go to Urban Outfitters, which we had on my college campus. Reformation, same thing. It was fun to write. It is wild to watch your kids make the same fashion mistakes that you did.

Alisha: It really comes around.

Allison: It really does.

Alisha: I was browsing your Instagram, and I came across Adopt a Library, which is something you’ve been doing. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about that.

Allison: Sure. Thank you for asking that. Over the summer, I was contacted by a librarian in Alabama. I sometimes mistakenly say Arkansas, but it’s Alabama. She asked me if I could donate some of my books because they didn’t have the budget for it. I was like, “Of course. I’ll send you a full box.” I said, “Could I also send you –” As you know, a lot of authors get free books all the time. It’s one of the perks. I said, “I have a whole bunch of other books I’d be happy to send down.” She willingly took them. Then I was like, why aren’t we all — so many authors or readers are in a fortunate position of having full bookshelves of either books that we’ve read once and set aside or books we’ve never read. How about if I try to do this for other places? I put a call out both for readers and authors and librarians. It turned out that a lot of people wanted to do it. We ended up sending about two thousand books to various libraries and schools. I should say a lot of schools are in dire straits. That was the start of it.

Then I have a friend who runs Lids, the hat company, and they have a foundation. They reached out and were like, “We’d actually like to give some grants to these libraries.” I just compiled a list of ten public libraries. They’re sending them all a thousand dollars. We’re hoping that it can be an ongoing thing. I feel like I was really lucky as a child to have books come into my life. My mom was a teacher. I think it really shaped my worldview. To be able to help communities that maybe don’t have the same funding or households that don’t have the same access, it’s really gratifying. Literally, I said to my husband — talk about the theme of if there’s something else I wanted to do. I was like, “I would just like to help libraries for the rest of my life.” I think that if you are in a position where you have books coming in or you can just go to an independent bookstore and pay money for whatever you want or shop on Amazon, you don’t realize that not everybody has that access. To be able to do that, it’s one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done recently.

Alisha: I think it’s awesome. Is there a way for people to get involved locally? Is this something people can do at their own library and stuff like that?

Allison: Absolutely. What people may not know is most public libraries or even schools, particularly, under-funded public schools, accept donations. I will say they prefer good-condition books. Don’t pull out your books that you’ve had for thirty years and are yellowing and dusty. It’s one less thing that they have to allocate for their budget. I actually do have a big spreadsheet, if people want to find me on Instagram, of schools or public libraries that have specifically requested — they told me what they’re looking for, whether it’s YA, middle grade, LGBTQ types of things that they’re in need of. I will probably start that drive again in the spring. I’ll do a whole nother push for book donations. It’s super easy. You can send them media mail. It’s very inexpensive. I really wanted to keep costs low for people who are donating. You just put them in a box. You take them to the post office. I sent twenty-five books off to the library in Alabama for eleven dollars. That’s several hundred dollars’ worth of books that they don’t have the budget for that they don’t have to pay for now. So easy.

Alisha: I love it. It’s really amazing. I don’t remember if we had a lot of new books when I was a kid. I don’t think so. I would go to the library all the time. That was where I found my love for reading. It was such an amazing place. I just love this idea. I thought it was so cool that you started doing that.

Allison: Thank you. Hats off to the librarian who took a chance to email me and say, “Can you send in your books?” Very appreciative of Lids Foundation, who was like — we really looked for libraries in communities that are probably not getting a lot of funding where a thousand dollars can make a big impact. A lot of these towns or small cities, that’s the resource. People go there, as you said, after school or on their weekends. We’re hoping to make those libraries in those communities a beacon for them.

Alisha: That’s awesome. Everybody, keep your eyes open for the next drive.

Allison: Thank you. It’s very exciting.

Alisha: What are you reading right now?

Allison: Right now, I’m reading The Dead Romantics, which I’m really enjoying. I’ve been in a big rom-com reading phase because I feel like — it’s funny. When I was younger, I never read anything in my genre while I was writing because I was so worried that I would hear that voice and mimic it in my writing. Now there’s so many — there have always been great romance and rom-com writers, but there’s so many women — it’s mostly women — who are doing it so well that I’ve been reading them to sort of absorb it to help my new draft. I’m really liking The Dead Romantics. I loved Funny You Should Ask by Elissa Sussman. I loved The Spanish Love Deception. It’s funny, I read on my Kindle, so I inhale them, and then I sort of forget what was on there. I just listened to Rob Delaney’s book, A Heart That Works, which I thought was wonderful. I would encourage people — I really enjoyed listening to it. I think people will maybe be hesitant to read it because it is about the death of his son, but I didn’t find it sad. It was really written out of love. He’s funny. It sheds light on humanity. I would really recommend that as well.

Alisha: You said you’re working on a book. What’s up next for you? What’s on your 2023 agenda?

Allison: I have a book that is supposed to come out around this time next year. I don’t know if they’ve finalized the date for it. It’s called The Retake, as opposed to The Rewind. It is about the world’s most famous actress, like a Julia Roberts in her heyday type, who blows up her career. She’s a rom-com actress, America’s sweetheart. I haven’t, obviously, honed this pitch yet. I’m making a mess of it. Anyway, she goes home. She finds an anonymous love letter. Her team thinks that it’s the way that she can get back in America’s good graces, so she sets out to find out who sent it to her. It’s a fun rom-com, road-trip, second-chance romance.

Alisha: So here for that. I’m so here for that.

Allison: Even with my bad pitch.

Alisha: Do you know what, though? I like that. When I’ve done these, I’ve asked authors. A lot of times, people do not want to share what they’re working on. It’s going to change a lot.

Allison: No, I’m not precious.

Alisha: I guess they’re worried about sharing too much. I kind of love it because then when this book comes out, people can come back and listen and be like, huh, is that what this book ended up being? Did she turn it into a horror novel? Who knows?

Allison: It’s funny. In the back of The Rewind, I think there’s a blurb. It says, “She’s a romance novelist.” I understand that, but just go along for the ride with me, listeners. I never know what’s about to happen, as I said, since I don’t outline. She is now a movie star. It’s very fun. It’s not quite done to where it needs to be, but I feel like it’s finally getting close. I think I’m on the fifth draft now. I’m in the middle of editing. Sometimes I’m like, ugh, this is terrible. I was reading parts of it yesterday. I was like, oh, okay, I wouldn’t be mortified if this section of it came out.

Alisha: That is a great place to be, I will say.

Allison: I wouldn’t want to crawl under my bed.

Alisha: I wouldn’t want to just literally disappear if someone read this one paragraph.

Allison: You know. You’re an author.

Alisha: Oh, I know.

Allison: You never know how you’re going to feel reading that iteration of it. Sometimes you’re like, this is amazing. I’m so awesome. Sometimes you’re like, this is the biggest pile of dog poop ever.

Alisha: I have all the emotions all the time. This has been the most fun chat. I feel like it’s New Year’s Eve and we’ve had a party. We always end this, as you know, with advice to aspiring writers. What beautiful pearls of wisdom do you have to share with the “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” listeners today?

Allison: I probably shared the same advice the last time I did this. I have a few. I think my top two are, revise one or two more times than you think you have the stomach for. Having been a writer who thought her first book was done and it didn’t sell, a book that you think is done is very often not done. If you can just dig in and stomach through going through one more time with objective criticism from a trusted reader or your agent and editor — if you’re just starting out, you may not have that, but somebody whose guidance you trust. I find that those edits, the one or two more times that you feel that it’s done, but it probably isn’t, really elevates the book. As I said earlier, it takes it from sort of a B book to an A book. Don’t send it out yet. Sit on it. Revise it one more time. Then tying into that is, I think that the biggest mistake that a lot of first-time authors make, actually, even veteran authors, is they have an ego about being precious about their work.

I think that ego is the most damaging thing that you can bring to the collaboration. Nothing you write should be so valuable that you can’t take a look at it objectively and say, this could be better. If somebody is giving you constructive criticism, it’s only because they’re there trying to help. That doesn’t mean you have to take everything they say and apply it. Putting up that wall of, oh, no, I’m not willing to hear this, it’s so detrimental to the process. I think I’ve mostly always been this way, but really going on — this is my ninth book. I still, as I said, go through five to seven revisions. If I were sort of proprietary about what I was willing to look at and examine and make better, the books wouldn’t be as good, which isn’t to say everybody loves the books. I just think having an ego in this process, it’s not good for the work. Try to not take things personally from people who are rooting for you. If somebody tags you in a really nasty review, you can take that personally. From the people who are working to help you, don’t take things personally.

Alisha: That is exactly the advice I needed to hear at this exact moment in time. I am very grateful for that.

Allison: I feel like everybody probably says that. I don’t know if that’s a common — I don’t know.

Alisha: I’ve done ten of these. I feel like there’s been real range. I’m not sure anybody has repeated advice, actually. Everybody’s so unique in their own process. Sometimes you hear the thing you need to hear at the exact moment you need to hear it. That is what I need. Even if no one else finds that helpful, which I suspect will not happen, you have helped me. Allison, I have loved this. Thank you so much for joining on the podcast today.

Allison: I’m so glad. Me too. Have an amazing New Year’s Eve doing all of your things with the whiskey and the grapes.

Alisha: Thank you. It’s all scheduled to make sure we get it in before twelve. Whiskey, grapes, suitcases, dark strangers, we’re doing it all.

Allison: That sounds amazing. Oh, dark stranger.

Alisha: Oh, yeah, that too.

Allison: Thanks so much, Alisha. Have a great one.

Allison Winn Scotch, THE REWIND

THE REWIND by Allison Winn Scotch

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