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Words with a Wordsmith



Novelist Allison Lynn, author of Now You See It and The Exiles, and a creative writing instructor at Butler University, is in the middle of teaching and traveling while overseas, but she took some time out to chat with Sky Blue Window about her work and writing proces.

Sky Blue Window: Sounds as if you travel overseas often. Where are you now, and what are some of your favorite destinations?

Allison Lynn: Right now I'm in the French Alps. My husband, Michael Dahlie, is directing an abroad program open to MFA students and adult writers, run through Butler. We'll be here for six weeks, and then we're heading to Italy. I love Italy, mostly for the food. As for other favorites, Berlin is a city that's really boomed in the last decade. It's full of energy, child-friendly, has great art, tons of bookstores, and is quite international. Visiting was an idea I resisted, but I felt immediately captivated once we arrived.

  • Courtesy Allison Lynn

SBW: You mention in your bio that you enjoy visiting book clubs. What do you find most appealing about those experiences?

AL: Writing a book is a really solitary endeavor -- for years it's just you and the text, and it can be easy to forget that writing a book is really about the readers. To me, a book isn't complete until it's read. The mingling of the writer's narrative and the reader's perception really bring it to life. Book clubs are full of people who don't merely pick up books, but who are eager to talk about them, drink wine over them, eat lunch over them, and make time in their busy lives to share books with others. These are the people who allow me, and other writers, to do what we do. That's something to be thankful for.

SBW: At one time, you said you had no interest in dating writers, but then you met your now-husband. Do you have any insight about that experience that you'd like to share?

AL: For a long time I refused to date writers because I figured I had enough writing angst in my life already. I thought the two-writer relationship would drag me down, but in fact it's done the opposite. To have someone sitting across the dinner table every night who truly gets the highs and lows of what I do? You can't beat that. It helps that while our writing is quite different, we view writing similarly and it plays a similar role in our lives.

By strange publishing luck, both of our second novels came out in 2013, and we did a number of events together, both on the east coast and in Indianapolis. It was such a thrill to be able to discuss our books together in public, to hear his take on the writing process alongside mine -- in a place other than our kitchen. It was like the ultimate date, especially when the bookstores served wine! Having a compatriot like this has made every step of the writing/publishing process less daunting and more of a joy.

SBW: You and your family moved from New York to Indianapolis a few years ago. Can you talk a bit about how things have changed since your relocation?

AL: The Exiles deals quite a bit with the rising cost of living in NYC -- the fallout of which is that writers and artists are having to find new home bases, which is a good thing for cities like Indianapolis. I've only lived in Indy for four years, and even in that short amount of time we've seen the cultural scene in the city grow, the food scene, and more. It seems like such a good time to be in Indy. And we've met so many great people. At heart, I think I'll always be a New Yorker, but when it comes to day-to-day living and its cost, Indianapolis has so much to offer.

SBW: Do you think you might continue to write about New York couples, or might your future novels take on a Midwestern slant?

AL: The novel I'm working on now is quite different from my first two, and not set in New York. I have an idea for a fourth novel, and it's an idea that involves a Midwestern setting -- but who knows if I'll ever write that? It depends on where my mindset is when I finish this next book.

  • Courtesy Allison Lynn

SBW: Before moving to Indianapolis, you were a guest of IUPUI's Rufus and Louise Reiberg Reading Series. How did that come about?

AL: My husband and I had sent out feelers to the writing community in the area, including [English Department now-chair] Rob Rebein, who my husband had known years ago when they got their MFAs. Rob passed my name along to [series coordinator] Terry Kirts and he was kind enough to invite me.

SBW: You've said you enjoy writing in an airy space where you can observe life through the window. Can you tell us about your writing routine?

AL: I used to write late at night, but age and having a kid have sort of killed that. These days, I'm exhausted by 10 PM. I try to do my writing in the afternoons, after I've gotten the day's freelance work or student papers out of the way. When I'm in the middle of a first draft, as I am now, it's slow going. Most days it's like pulling teeth to get the words on the page. Once I'm in revision, though, I love to sit with my manuscript. To me, revision is like solving a puzzle. All the pieces are there, but how do you make them truly fit? And when they do truly fit? And might there actually be a piece missing? Non-writers are often shocked to hear that I (and many writers) will spend two or three or more years revising one book. But I love that.

You can learn more about Allison Lynn at http://allisonlynnbooks.com.

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