Alison Hammer’s debut novel, You and Me and Us, is a beautifully written and ultimately hopeful look at how people and relationships can change and grow, even in the grip of tragedy. Hammer writes with compassion and nuance, showing the myriad emotions—love and courage, as well as fear, anger, and hurt–with which Alexis, Tommy and their daughter CeCe grapple in the face of Tommy’s cancer diagnosis. As a reader, I smiled and cried. And now that I’m done, I’m really hoping I run into Alexis and CeCe in another story.
Alison was gracious enough to tell me a bit more about herself. To start, she’s 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 nine cities before settling down in Chicago. During the day, Alison is a VP and 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 April 7th from William Morrow (HarperCollins).
- When did you know you wanted to be a writer? What draws you to writing?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer—I’ve always been a writer, but I didn’t always realize it was something I could do professionally. I’ve been telling stories since before I could put pen to paper, it’s just something that’s always been a part of me. When I went to college, I started out as an English major, but added advertising once I discovered that I could use my creative writing skills and get a salary. Turns out, I love advertising as much as writing, so it’s worked out!
And as far as what draws me to writing, I think it’s a form of self-expression, and craft. I love getting a story down on paper and finding the best words to bring it to life!
- Did any events in your life inspire You & Me & Us?
You and Me and Us wasn’t inspired by my life—the idea actually came from something I’d written before this book. My first book also featured Tommy and Alexis, just 15 years earlier. At the end of that book, I knew a secret that Alexis didn’t even know—she was pregnant. And that sparked the idea for You and Me and Us!
The only thing I knew is that I wanted to show Alexis with a daughter the age she had been during some flashback scenes in the book. But that was all I knew. When I realized that Tommy was sick, the story pretty much came tumbling out.
I do have a very close friend who went through something similar to the story while I was in the process of editing the book. She was amazing and talked to me about her experience, and I was able to include one of their stories in the book. The boat scene, if you read it, was something she shared with me. I love having it in the book as a little tribute to her and her amazing husband.
- What’s your writing routine like, if you have one?
I don’t have much of a writing routine, but I do have a few writing habits! Since I work fulltime, I tend to write in the evenings and on the weekends. At night, I usually finish up work and switch right to writing. I have a Spotify playlist that I only listen to when I’m writing, and as soon as that first song plays, it puts me in the zone.
On weekends when I have more time, I like to do marathon sessions. I’ll go to Starbucks for five to seven hours at a time. I love days like that!
- Who are your heroes—writing or otherwise?
I have so many writing heroes, and I’m inspired and motivated by so many women writers. Those who use their words to open people’s eyes to ideas and stories they may not have experienced before. Jodi Picoult comes to mind. Another writer I really admire is Taylor Jenkins Reid. The stories she tells are so originally hers. I love the bravery of trying something new and the way she brings them to life. Another one is Jennifer Weiner. She’s the first author I ever wrote a fan letter to after reading Good in Bed, because it was also the first time I saw myself in a character like that.
- Any thoughts on who you’d like to play the main characters in You & Me & Us?
This is SUCH a hard question, and I honestly have no idea. A friend recently read the book and gave me her suggestions, and I think she nailed it for Tommy. Chris Sullivan who plays Toby on This is Us. He would be perfect! I’m still looking for the dream cast of Alexis and CeCe and would love any ideas or suggestions!
- Can you give a hint about the themes or story of your next book?
My next book, LITTLE PIECES OF ME, is coming out Spring 2021. It’s about a woman who finds out through a DNA website that the dad she adored wasn’t her biological father. There’s a similar element of a mother-daughter relationship in this story, but this time more in the context of identity.