I hope you all are staying safe and sane during these trying times. As I wrote about previously this is a very strange time to be a debut author. We are all struggling to accept that our first babies are launching in a world that is forever changed.
Since my book is releasing as a downloadable audiobook I haven’t had to deal with canceled author tours or book signings but many of my fellow debut authors have. We’ve all been working together to try and support each other through these cancellations and for my own small part, I will be featuring many of them in upcoming Q&A’s.
Today I am thrilled to feature the lovely and talented Alison Hammer. Alison is one of the founders of the 2020 Debuts group and a huge champion for other writers. I am eagerly awaiting the release of her debut women’s fiction novel – You and Me and Us – which comes out…tomorrow! Yay!
Reading Alison’s answers I realized we took very similar paths along the way to publication. Including taking more than a decade to write our first complete novel and then putting in a drawer. Something I suspect many other writers have done as well.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve honestly always been a writer, I just don’t think I realized it was something I could do professionally until pretty recently. I’ve always been a storyteller—I was that weird kid who would make up stories and put on plays for my parents. I was always reading, too. When I got to college, I decided to major in advertising because it seemed like a career option where I could use my creative writing skills. But it wasn’t until many years later after I finished writing the first draft of my first book that I realized I could potentially become a published author. It still kind of blows my mind!
What was the first thing you did when you found out your book was getting published?
The first thing I did was call my critique partner, Bradeigh. She was at Costco with her daughter, who was three at the time. It was such a cute moment—I could hear her daughter in the background asking why she was crying. My parents and my sister were the next phone call—but Bradeigh is the one who had been in the trenches with me and helped make my book what it was—so she had to be my first call.
How long did it take you to write your debut novel?
My debut novel, You and Me and Us, took me two months to write the first draft. But that’s probably because it wasn’t the first book I’d ever written. My first book, currently in a drawer, took me 15 years to finish writing. There was a lot of stopping and starting over those years. When I finally finished that book, it was September 2016, and I realized National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, was just two months away.
NaNoWriMo is an international writing competition, where writers are challenged to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I spent about 6 weeks prepping, and started writing You and Me and Us at midnight on Halloween, as soon as the clock struck November! I got in the habit of writing every day, and kept it going until I had a finished first draft the last week of December.
What does your writing schedule look like?
I work full time as a creative director at an advertising agency, so my writing is limited to nights and weekends. I usually try to finish work around 6 or 7, then switch gears to writing. I stay at the office because there are fewer distractions than at home. Weekends, I like to go to different coffee shops to work, sometimes for five or six hours at a time. My mom says “I’m in the zone” during those marathon sessions, and she’s right. I love it!
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk or habit?
Hmm. Good question. That’s not something I’ve thought of before, but I’m sure I have more than a few! Two that I can think of are my writing playlist. I have a playlist of songs saved at Starbucks, and if I’m writing at home or at work, I play that music. I’m particular about the order—it can’t play on shuffle. Once I hear that first song, it’s like my brain kicks into gear that it’s writing time!
Another thing that might be a quirk is that I re-type my second drafts from scratch. It helps me make sure I’m happy with the flow and rhythm of the writing, and it takes a lot of pressure of the first draft. There are sentences and paragraphs and even full pages in the first draft that are terrible—but I don’t worry about it until I go back to revise. Sometimes, that can be a full year later, and there have been a few times where I wasn’t too happy with my past self!
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?
I learned that writing is not a solo sport! I used to think it was such a solitary activity. Now I know how many people are involved in helping to make it better. Beta readers and critique partners, my agent, my editor, other friends. It’s a group effort. One of my favorite things about reading You and Me and Us now is pointing out all signs of other people’s hands and eyes on the book. I’m lucky to have such a great team and group of writing friends!
What is your biggest writing-related dream?
Oh, I have so many! I took a class with Rebecca Makkai about life post-publication, and she suggested making two dream lists—one that was achievable and another that was reach for the stars. So I’ve got two lists going. But if I had to pick one—or maybe two—I’d say seeing my book in an airport bookstore and being a Reese Witherspoon pick. ☺ Now that would be a dream come true!
ABOUT YOU AND ME AND US
The heartbreaking, yet hopeful, story of a mother and daughter struggling to be a family without the one person who holds them together—a perfect summer read for fans of Jojo Moyes and Marisa de los Santos.
Alexis Gold knows how to put the “work” in working mom. It’s the “mom” part that she’s been struggling with lately. Since opening her own advertising agency three years ago, Alexis has all but given up on finding a good work/life balance. Instead, she’s handed over the household reins to her supporting, loving partner, Tommy. While he’s quick to say they divide and conquer, Alexis knows that Tommy does most of the heavy lifting—especially when it comes to their teenage daughter, CeCe.
Their world changes in an instant when Tommy receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, and Alexis realizes everything she’s worked relentlessly for doesn’t matter without him. So Alexis does what Tommy has always done for her—she puts him first. And when the only thing Tommy wants is to spend one last summer together in Destin, Florida, at “their” beach, she puts her career on hold to make it happen…even if it means putting her family within striking distance of Tommy’s ex, an actress CeCe idolizes.
But Alexis and Tommy aren’t the only ones whose lives have been turned inside out. In addition to dealing with the normal ups and downs that come with being a teenager, CeCe is forced to confront her feelings about Tommy’s illness—and what will happen when the one person who’s always been there for her is gone. When the magic of first love brings a bright spot to her summer, CeCe is determined not to let her mother ruin that for her, too.
As CeCe’s behavior becomes more rebellious, Alexis realizes the only thing harder for her than losing Tommy will be convincing CeCe to give her one more chance.
You and Me and Us is a beautifully written novel that examines the unexpected ways loss teaches us how to love.
ABOUT ALISON HAMMER
Alison Hammer has been spinning words to tell stories since she learned how to talk. A graduate of the University of Florida and the Creative Circus in Atlanta, she lived in 9 cities before settling down in Chicago. During the day, Alison is a VP Creative Director at an advertising agency, but on nights and weekends you can find her writing upmarket women’s fiction. Alison is represented by Joanna MacKenzie of Nelson Literary Agency. Her debut novel, “You and Me and Us” is coming out on April 7th, 2020 from William Morrow (HarperCollins).
Author Website: AlisonHammer.com
Facebook: Alison Hammer, Author
GoodReads: Alison Hammer
Publisher’s Website: harpercollins.com