In her new novel, “The Theory of Opposites,” New York Times bestseller Allison Winn Scotch asks whether everything in life is meant to be, or if we can control our own fates. The main character, Willa Chandler-Golden, must learn to reinvent herself after her husband proposes a two-month break from their relationship, and in the spirit of reinvention, this is the first self-published book from Scotch.
In the novel, Willa’s self-help author father has a cult following, writing that there’s no free will in life and you might as well just accept it and enjoy the ride. While Willa thinks she's managed to get away from his philosophies to a degree, her entire life she’s been content to accept what’s given to her, never reaching for more.
Willa’s living a comfortable life in Manhattan: while her ad agency job isn’t always thrilling, she’s married to Shawn, a hot, high-tech whiz (think friends with Mark Zuckerberg) and trying for a baby. But when Shawn suddenly starts to question their relationship, Willa is forced to take a hard look at her choices.
Unwilling to let Willa mope around, her best friend Vanessa invites Willa to help write a book that would basically debunk her father's theories. Instead, they’ll invite readers to make risks, try new things and take control of their own destinies. Part of the book involves going on a reality show where Willa’s forced to face one of her worst fears – and in the process she also most face the one who got away.
Scotch took the time to talk about her first foray into self-publishing, favorite characters and New Year’s resolutions.
KC: You’ve been traditionally published by New York houses – what made you decide to self publish your latest book?
AWS: I initially didn’t consider it. But over the past year or so, I’d grown demoralized over how many things were out of my control at the big publishers once I filed my manuscript. And I’d seen too many wonderful writers get pushed aside because their books hadn’t done well, when all they’d done was write a brilliant book. So I guess I’d grown disenchanted with the machine, so to speak.
Several people with in the industry told me I’d be crazy not to try this, and though I thought they were nuts, the more I researched, the more I thought they were actually brilliant. I have an entrepreneurial spirit, so it was kind of the perfect mix and the perfect time for me. I loved that I could control the price (the e-book is just $2.99), and the marketing and the cover and…all of it. I hired an amazing team of people who were comparable to whom I would have worked with at the big houses. So I didn’t really compromise anything but got a lot back in return.
KC: As a reader, you can see Willa’s character change dramatically throughout the book. Was it difficult for you to have her do such frustrating things? At times I wanted to yell “nooooo!” about the way she reacted to situations!
AWS: Yes and no. Willa is one of those women who I know (and am friends with, so of course, this isn’t said in judgment) who takes a lot of time to learn to make the right decisions. Yes, she is absolutely frustrating but at the same time, in life, we all often are. We don’t usually wake up with a lightning bolt or epiphany in how or what we need to change. In fact, change usually comes in bits and pieces, slowly rising us up on a wave that eventually alters everything. So I wanted to depict this realistically, even if it meant that we all got a little frustrated with her. That’s what ultimately makes her a hero.
KC: Willa’s father wrote a book basically saying that peoples’ lives are out of their control, and “The Theory of Opposites” explores the idea of destiny versus free will. Where do your beliefs fall?
AWS: I think I fall somewhere in the middle…I have friends who have suffered great tragedies, and you can't help but think, "Oh, if the timing had been different or if they hadn't been there when…" or whatever. Or thinking about the randomness of how I met my husband (at the gym) or even the timing of how your children are created. I ponder these ideas quite often. The world is such a question mark, and that is both thrilling… and terrifying. The notion that it really isn't all within our control. I think that I come down somewhere in the middle — I can't believe that everything is meant to be, because I really do believe that the choices we make matter. But I also know that some things just happen: happy accidents and not-so-happy accidents. I guess those are part of the mystery of life.
KC: Even though he was more of a minor player, Shawn’s nephew Nicky was definitely my favorite character in the book. Do you have a favorite?
AWS: Funny, I’m hearing that often, and I see why, and I agree – I looove him. When I first started the book, he was a totally different character – a toddler who wreaked havoc. I’m so glad that I changed him. Honestly, and I’m not saying this because I’m a proud mama, but I love so many of the players – Ollie and Raina, and Vanessa and Theo too. I don’t know. I had a lot of fun with all of them.
KC: Vandalia Films, Jennifer Garner’s production company, has bought the book’s film rights. Do you have a dream cast for the book? I could see Justin Timberlake being a fantastic Shawn.
AWS: Oddly enough, I really don’t have anyone in mind, which is such a boring answer!! I think with all of my other books, I had envisioned someone really specific. But…I just don’t know. Emma Stone? Amy Adams? I love hearing what people think though – I always think they’re great suggestions!
KC: What’s surprised you the most about your self publishing experience?
AWS: How warmly it’s been received by nearly everyone. A lot of industry-types are curious about it but haven’t wanted to take the plunge, so I’ve gotten a lot of support from others, hoping that I’m successful so others can follow.
KC: Is there anything different you’d do with your next book?
AWS: Honestly…not really. I wrote this book with very little to lose – I wrote it for myself and just had a hell of a lot of fun with it. And then to self-publish and be met with such support and enthusiasm from readers…it’s been a mostly ideal experience, and I can’t imagine I’d ever do it differently.
KC: What’s on your “to read” list for the new year?
AWS: When I am in the writing mode, I read a lot less because I find that other authors’ voices cloud my own voice, so I have a lot of books from last year to catch up on! "The Interestings," "Life After Life"…the new Amy Tan. It doesn’t matter if it’s “new,” if I haven’t read it, it’s new to me!
KC: Do you believe in New Year’s resolutions?
AWS: Not really, nope. I really believe more in reflecting back and assessing how I could tweak something the next year. To be honest, making sweeping changes doesn’t often work – instead, just like Willa, those small tweaks can lead to something great.
KC: What are your writing goals for 2014?
AWS: Ooh, great question. I think I’d like to start writing my next book. But I need to really be struck over the head with a new idea – if I force myself into a book, I end up really regretting it and hating the experience (and sometimes the book!). I’m starting to get inspiration and hear characters’ voices again, so hopefully, they’ll all come together into one big idea that will send me running to my computer.