Allison Winn Scotch on Music, Memories and “The Song Remains the Same”
As someone who has always used songs to illustrate school projects and even the themes of our original StyleSubstanceSoul site, this book resonated so strongly with me. What does music mean to you?
Oh, what a great question! I don’t think I’ve ever been asked this before, and the truth is, that music means something so vast to me that I know that I’ll struggle to answer this. I think, perhaps even more than books, music has always been the medium with which I have emotionally connected. Ever since I was very, very young, I related to lyrics and the melodies that lifted those lyrics and turned them into an art form. And the combination of lyrics and melody…well, again, I’m having a hard time explaining it, but they are very moving for me. Some people read books as a sort of sidebar in their lives, and some people read books in a way that is very integral to their lives. The same can be said of music: music isn’t really background noise for me, it’s not something that comes on the radio and goes in and out of my ear. It weaves itself into my life every day and has since my childhood. For every year, every instance in my life (school, camp, boyfriends, friendships, graduation, etc), I can pinpoint a song that resonated for me at the time. So…I guess you could say that music has provided an emotional soundtrack to my entire life. It’s that invaluable to me.
How did you put together “The Best of Nell Slattery” playlist?
I spent a lot of time filtering through music that spanned about three decades. I really wasn’t quite sure how to put the playlist together, if I’m being honest. I went back and forth about how to choose songs (songs that I loved personally and wanted to pay tribute to vs. songs that would heighten the metaphor of what I was trying to connote in a particular scene vs. a variety of other things!). Eventually, I realized that I needed to limit these songs to a very specific time in Nell’s life (mostly a childhood summer that I explore in the book), and from there, things became easier. I listened to a lot of music from that era and honed in on songs that readers would know – you want them to feel an emotional connection to the songs too, and obscure songs might not allow for that – that also would mean something, would speak to Nell at that particular snapshot of her life as well as the rest of her life too.
What songs would be on the soundtrack to your life? What moments do they represent?
Gosh, so many songs fall onto my playlist because as I said, so many songs have had an impact on my life! But here are a few: from high school – “Babe” by Styx, “Teach Your Children,” by Crosby, Stills and Nash, “Right Here Waiting,” by Richard Marx (really!); from college: “Little Silver Ring,” by The Samples, “Better Man,” by Pearl Jam, “Express Yourself,” by Madonna; and from life in general: “Read My Mind’” by The Killers, “Needs,” by Collective Soul, “A Murder of One,” by The Counting Crows, and “The Long Way Round,” by The Dixie Chicks.”
The Song Remains the Same and Time of My Life both have themes that revolve around women who in some way get a chance to re-make the past. What would you do differently if you were given a re-do?
You know, it’s funny: nearly all of my books explore the concept of “what if,” on some level, and yet I’m not a person who spends a lot of time lingering on things I should have done. I suppose that there are times in my 20s when I would have better advocated for myself in relationships, but all roads lead to here, you know? In other words, who knows what would have happened if I’d done things differently? Maybe I would have dumped that no-good boyfriend and met someone else rather than eventually meeting my husband, and then I’d never have gone on to marry him or have my kids or whatever. So, sure, I suppose that there are small tweaks I could have made but I really think the only thing to do is embrace all of your choices and decisions – both good ones and bad ones! – and roll with it.
Nell strongly believes that people never change. Why did you arm her with that philosophy? Do you agree with it?
Great question. I think I armed her with that philosophy because it’s something I debate in my own life: do people really change, and if so, what does it take to spur them to make that change? The idealist in me says that of course people change – to assume that they can’t or don’t is a pretty fatalistic view of human nature. But the realist in me says that when people do change, it occurs over a very long period of time, and trying to corner someone into changing him or herself rarely works. Just talk to spouses who try to “change” their partner. It’s an uphill battle. So, getting back to your question, I guess I wanted to explore what it takes for someone to change. I believe that people can and do grow, but often times, growth is hard work and the person has to be ready to do some heavy lifting. Not everyone is always willing to do that. And of course, the question then becomes to that: if someone can’t change, how can you change your reaction/behavior toward him or her? Obviously, I could talk about this all day!
I love that Nell wants her life to be like Friends – and is disappointed that it’s not! What piece of pop culture would you like your life to be like?
Ha ha! Well, most of my favorite pieces of pop culture aren’t necessarily situations in which I’d want to live: Felicity (I loved college, but don’t feel the need to go back!), Alias (really don’t need to deal with the stress of being a superspy!), and Friday Night Lights (not sure I’d really want to live in a small, depressed town in Texas!). So, I don’t know. Maybe Friends?!
What’s next for you?
I have a few projects in the works that haven’t yet been given the green light but have been brewing since last year. A few are screenplays that are being shopped around or packaged, and I also have a book project or two. It’s funny: early in your career, you think, “I’m waiting for everything to take off, and the waiting is unbearable!” But later on in your career, the waiting is still equally unbearable! There’s a lot of “hurry up and wait,” in this business, which stinks no matter how many years you’ve been doing it. I finally got sick of waiting and got my rear in gear and started a new book. At this rate, that might be “what’s next” for me, even though these other projects got a head-start! Regardless, I’m happy to be writing. I forget how happy the actual writing makes me until I start doing it all over again.