What a treat to welcome my friend and agent sister Alison Hammer to the dance today! I met Alison in a group for querying writers, and she signed with my dream agent, Joanna MacKenzie about two weeks before I had my own “the call” with Joanna. Then, Alison and I proceeded in tandem through every stage of the publishing process: revisions, submissions, more revisions, copy edits, final pass pages, covers, second novel angst, and a million other things. Her friendship has been such a gift to me, and her book? Well as a child of the 80s, this is the highest compliment I can offer: It reminds me of Beaches in all the best ways. You and Me and Us tells the story of a family that’s both breaking apart and fusing together over the course of one beautiful summer. Read on to find out more about Alison, and also for a chance to win YOU AND ME AND US
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 April 7th from William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Talk about one book that’s made an impact on you:
When I think about books that have had a big impact on me, I think of my first literary loves—The Babysitter Club books and the Sweet Valley High series. But as an adult, I’d have to say Good In Bed by Jennifer Weiner. That was the first time I really related to a character in a novel. I was so moved by the book that I actually wrote a letter to Jennifer. That was the first time I’d ever done that.
Tell us about your next big project:
I’m really excited about my next project! It’s coming out next spring, and it’s called LITTLE PIECES OF ME. It’s the story of a woman who finds out through a DNA website that the father she grew up adoring isn’t her biological father. It has a somewhat unique structure, going back and forth between present day in present tense, and 1975 in past tense. My first book isn’t even out yet, but I’m already excited for the second one to come out!
Do you have a regular first reader?
Thank goodness for first readers! The only reason I was able to finish the first draft of my first book that took me 15 years to write was because of my first first-reader—a friend from work, Lauren Cabot Altergott. She read chapters as I went, and helped me stay motivated because she was anxious to read how the story ended!
These days, my first reader is Bradeigh Godfrey—my amazing critique partner. I’d probably have her read my grocery lists if she’d be willing. I seriously have her read everything I write first. She is brilliant and I’m grateful that she puts up with me!
If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
If I could tell my younger writer-self anything, I would tell her to stop being so precious with words and just get them down on paper. There’s time to edit later. I spent so much time worrying about making words perfect that I never finished a story. That’s part of the reason it took me 15 years to finish my first manuscript.
I spent about 12 of those years revising the first one-hundred pages of the book. And the first seventy-five pages ended up getting cut. That’s why I have a strong finish-first philosophy. My first drafts are never pretty, but they’re finished!
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
There are two things in my writing life that I say were the best money I ever spent. The first, was my membership to the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Every year, it’s the one bill I don’t mind getting! The organization changed my writing life and introduced me to “my people.” The second, was the $28 I spent at a writing conference in Chicago for ten minutes with my future-agent Joanna MacKenzie! She was the very first agent I pitched the project to, and we hit it off right away. I’ve told her many times that I’d want to be her friend even if she wasn’t my agent!
About the novel:
You and Me and Us is a mother-daughter love story. It’s about about a workaholic mom and her distant teenage daughter, and the way their relationship evolves as they go through a tough summer, losing a member of their family. It’s a tearjerker, but there are plenty of parts that will make you laugh and smile.
What the critics are saying:
“You and Me and Us is that rare novel you want to savor even as you’re turning the pages as fast as possible. This poignant and heartrending story of a family redefining their roles in the face of a crisis made me smile and cry. Alison Hammer is an exciting new voice in women’s fiction, and I can’t wait to read what she writes next.” (Camille Pagán, bestselling author of I’m Fine and Neither Are You.)
“A compassionate and deeply moving exploration of love and loss, You and Me and Us will break your heart and put it back together more than once by the last page. Alison Hammer has crafted an emotional story about marriage, family, and friendship that is both intimate and universal, and most importantly, unforgettable.” (Lisa Duffy, author of My Kind of People and This is Home.)
“Hammer is an expert at both tugging heartstrings and keeping the reader utterly immersed in a world of hope and heartbreak. A great new voice in women’s fiction.” (Kristin Harmel, #1 international bestselling author of The Winemaker’s Wife)
“A glorious, beautiful book.” (Kimmery Martin, author of The Antidote for Everything)
“Written in alternating chapters narrated by Alexis and CeCe, this tale of love and loss will make readers think about what we hold dear and how far we’ll go to keep it. Those who love a poignant family drama will tear up as they consider how to navigate life without the one person who makes every day worth living.” (Library Journal)
“Hammer shines in a debut that takes readers on a journey through one family’s heartbreaking summer… readers will want to keep tissues nearby.” (Booklist)