📚 A Bookish Chat with 'The Key to Circus-Mom Highway' Allyson Rice | Author Interview | #AuthorInterview #BlogTour #Interview


Today we welcome Allyson Rice to The Writer's Life e-Magazine! Allyson is the author of the women's fiction, The Key to Circus-Mom Highway. This interview is part of her The Key to Circus-Mom Highway Blog Tour by Pump Up Your Book. Enjoy!

Allyson Rice is a writer, an award-winning mixed media artist, and a producer with Atomic Focus Entertainment, currently splitting her time between Los Angeles, CA, and Rehoboth Beach, DE. She’s a graduate of Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. After spending many years as an actress on stage and on television, she left acting and spent the next decade running yoga/meditation retreats, women’s retreats, and creativity retreats around the country. After that, she pivoted to focus once again on her own creative work. In addition to her writing and art, she’s also a photographer (her work was most recently chosen for an exhibition at the Soho Photo Gallery in NYC).

Some random bits of Allyson trivia: 1) She’s been skydiving, paragliding, bungee jumping, ziplining through a rainforest, and scuba diving with stingrays; 2) she has an extensive PEZ dispenser collection; 3) she played Connor Walsh on As the World Turns for seven years; 4) she’s been in the Oval Office at the White House after hours; 5) she’s related to the Hatfields of the infamous Hatfield/McCoy feud; and 6) her comedic rap music video “Fine, I’ll Write My Own Damn Song” won numerous awards in the film festival circuit and can now be seen on YouTube https://youtu.be/7Xe3nuVDkC4.

Also available from Allyson Rice is her line of women’s coloring books (The Color of Joy, Dancing with Life, and Wonderland), and The Creative Prosperity PlayDeck, an inspirational card deck about unlocking and utilizing your creative energy in the world. She’s currently at work on her second novel and her fourth women’s coloring book. But she is most proud of being mom to musical artist @_zanetaylor.

Website: www.allysonrice.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CircusMomHwy

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AllysonRiceAuthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/allysonriceauthor/



My e-commerce site:


Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  When did you come up with the idea to write your book? 

I actually came up with the idea for The Key to Circus-Mom Highway while I was working on another novel (which will now be my second novel). At its inception, all I knew was that I wanted to write a story about someone trying to get somewhere and obstacles keep getting in the way. I knew I wanted some of the supporting characters to be funny, as in odd and unexpected. Then it was a matter of answering questions: Who is trying to get somewhere? Why do they need to go there? Who are the people in the world of the protagonist? Etc. The story unfolded organically that way. Because I didn’t know where I was going when I started it, I was constantly surprised and delighted with some of the things that flowed from my fingers and onto my computer screen. I was also frustrated at times when I found a hole in the story that didn’t work. But then I just asked the question: What needs to change for this part of the premise to work? It wasn’t a fleshed-out story when it first came to mind, but I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I put the other novel aside to work on this one. That was the right move.

Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

You can’t get to a publisher without a literary agent to submit your work. But before I began querying lit agents, I signed up for a consultation with a book coach who was a former lit agent. He read the manuscript and loved it, and had some good feedback that I incorporated into my next round of revisions. My question to him had been: Where in the book did you feel like you wanted more? What’s missing for you as a reader? Though he loved the book, he also said that it was harder to categorize because it doesn't neatly fit into just one genre. It was going to take more query letters to find the right lit agent, possibly even a hundred queries. Then the book got waylaid for a bit while I was working at a very demanding job at a start-up streaming network. 

Well… when I got back to writing and did another round of revisions/expansion, I felt like it was time to begin querying agents. After about a year of sending a hundred query letters without any requests to read the manuscript, I knew I probably hadn’t written an effective query letter. I was frustrated that the book still wasn’t out there. I needed it to come to completion after several years of working on it so that I could focus on other projects. So one day, as I was looking through all the queries I had sent, I decided in that moment that I was going to self-publish through The Total Human Press, the company I created 10 years earlier to publish my 3 women’s coloring books, The Color of Joy, Dancing With Life, and Wonderland. (This was years before adult coloring became all the rage, and I couldn’t find a publisher who thought the adult coloring concept was viable). 

My college friend Robyn Peterman, a bestselling author, told me that she had started with a traditional publisher, but now self-publishes all of her books and makes a much better living from her writing. I had resisted for a while because the thought of having to do all of the marketing myself was overwhelming when I knew nothing about book marketing. But I reached the point where my desire to get the novel out there in the world was greater than my dread of having to learn how to market a book. And you know what? I hired a marketing duo to teach me all about marketing, and to do the creation of the book’s One Sheet, and do all of the initial outreach on my behalf. I had them cc me on everything so I could see how they approached the outreach aspect and I could continue to learn about marketing. Then as I got closer to my release day, I hired Pump Up Your Book to help me with a virtual book/blog tour so that I could reach more potential readers who are going to love The Key to Circus-Mom Highway.


Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

I do. There are so many books on the market, whether you’re online or in a physical bookstore, that you want a cover that’s going to catch someone’s eye and make them take a closer look. With the cover of The Key to Circus-Mom Highway what I wanted to create was a cover that was bright and cheerful and looked like a travel postcard, but that had elements that were slightly “off” like the bunch of street signs clumped together that were all warning signs, and an alligator blocking the road. I wanted disparate elements of the story incorporated so that as you read the book, the reason each element was included makes sense (not unlike the 4-quadrant sign at the beginning of each episode of Ozark that gives you a clue about what’s coming). So I hope my design does the trick in catching your eye and making you take a closer look. Then that’s when the advance reviews come into play. The marketing duo I worked with told me that reviews sell more books than ads do, and they had recommendations about 3 respected sources that offer paid options. You can submit your book for review consideration for free, but independent authors are not often chosen. The paid option doesn’t guarantee you a good review, just that you’re guaranteed to be reviewed. They told me that you’re rolling the dice, spending the money without knowing if you’ll be able to use the review, but that a good review excerpt from a source like Kirkus Reviews or BookLife/Publisher’s Weekly, one that you can put on your book cover, is invaluable. So… I first want to catch your attention with the cover design, then I want you to see the excellent review excerpts that are going to pique your interest and make you want to purchase it. 😊

How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

I have to say, the writing itself wasn’t hard. I love research and problem-solving, so it was fun to write. The hard part was all the technical rigmarole after the writing was done. Finding a program that would help format the book and then learning how to use it (I chose Atticus, and I’ve been very pleased with it–and they have great customer support when you run into something you can’t figure out). Then the deep dive into the marketing of a finished book. 

What I would suggest to other writers is to write the book that you yourself would love to read. Write characters and plot points that surprise and delight you when you read them. And hire an experienced pro to help you with the things you know nothing about. It will be worth the money spent.

What other books are you working on and when will they be published?

I’m back at work on that first novel I was working on when I set it aside to work on The Key to Circus-Mom Highway. (I know what the title is, but I’ll announce it once I’m finished writing it.) I’m also about halfway finished with my 4th women’s coloring book. No timeframe yet on when those will be published. Keep checking my website www.allysonrice.com – or better yet, sign up for my periodic newsletter when you visit (scroll down to the bottom of the landing page). Not only will it give you updates about other projects and events, but all subscribers will have the chance to win a free copy of the book with each newsletter (who doesn’t like freebies and subscriber-only discounts??) AND you’ll be entered in a drawing to have a fun supporting character in my next novel named after you! 


What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?

I think it would surprise people to know that part of my writing process with this book was backward from the usual order of things. Most of the time you write a book and then it’s adapted into a screenplay for the movie version. Not mine. Although the goal was always to write the fleshed-out novel, I wrote the screenplay version first. Because I went into it not knowing how the story ends, I first wrote it in a much more constrained medium, one where the format is more structured. It made me come up with a story arc that had a clear beginning/middle/end that happened in a certain timeframe (90-120 minutes). I felt like I needed to know how it ended before I dove into the novel version, expanding everything and adding more supporting characters, and side tangents, etc. 

Finally, what message are you trying to get across with your book?

First and foremost, my goal is entertainment. Personally, I’m always on the lookout for a good book that makes me laugh out loud throughout the entire book, so I wanted to write a book that did that. But I also wanted moments of poignancy that go a little deeper. When you’re laughing your heart is open. That’s an opportunity for the more moving emotional story points to land more deeply. Some of the messages in the book include: 1)  how our first impression about a person is not always accurate–it’s only once we know what someone is going through that we understand the bigger picture, 2) that even people who seem very different from one another can find common ground, especially through shared experiences, 3) the past doesn’t have to define your future–there is always the opportunity to have a second chance, 4) we’re never really alone, even if we’re feeling temporarily disconnected, 5) there are many perspectives about every situation, and 6) run in a zig-zag pattern if an alligator is chasing you.

Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Just for fun, check out my comedic rap music video message to my rapper son “Fine, I’ll Write My Own Damn Song”. It won a bunch of awards in the film festival circuit. https://youtu.be/7Xe3nuVDkC4  I’m definitely going to make another one at some point.

And follow me on social media! They're almost all new accounts, so don’t worry that there’s not much on there yet, there will be…










Finally, I hope you enjoy The Key to Circus-Mom Highway as much as I enjoyed writing it. I think you will. It’s been getting great advance reviews. 😊


In an attempt to secure an unexpected inheritance—and hopefully find a few answers—two estranged sisters and their newly discovered brother embark on a comically surreal trip through the Deep South to retrace the life of the mother who abandoned them as infants.

On a Tuesday afternoon, sisters Jesse Chasen and Jennifer McMahon receive a phone call notifying them that their birth mother has died, leaving behind a significant inheritance. But in order to obtain it, they must follow a detailed road trip she designed for them to get to know her—and that includes finding a brother they never knew existed.

For the next week, this ill-assorted trio treks across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia to meet their mother’s old friends, from circus performers to a juke joint owner, each of whom delivers a shocking vignette into the life of a young mother traumatized by loss and abuse. Along the way, these three siblings—Jesse, whose fiery exterior disguises a wounded, drifting musician stuck in a rut; Jennifer, whose carefully curated family life is threatened by her husband’s infidelity; and Jack, whose enigmatic Jackie, Oh! persona in the New Orleans drag queen scene helps him escape the nightmares of Afghanistan that haunt him at night—must confront their own demons (and at least one alligator). But in chasing the truth about their real mother, they may all just find their second chance.

This uproarious debut novel is a reminder that sometimes, the family you’d never have chosen may turn out to be exactly what you need.

“This breezy, charming tale incisively shows a family’s bittersweet facets.” –Kirkus Reviews

A “feverish, entertaining novel” –Foreward Clarion Reviews

“In this rollicking family dramedy, debut author Rice sends three lovable siblings on a zany yet touching road trip… Rice’s sharp observations of society’s absurdity verge on the satirical… Fans of family drama, road trips, and non-stop laughs will love this cross-country adventure.” –BookLife

Release Date: Paperback: November 27, 2022; Kindle: January 3, 2023

Publisher: The Total Human Press

Soft Cover: 978-0982185544; 270 pages


B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-key-to-circus-mom-highway-allyson-rice/1142037363?ean=9780982185544

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-key-to-circus-mom-highway 

Target: https://www.target.com/p/the-key-to-circus-mom-highway-by-allyson-rice-paperback/-/A-87939489

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/62003645-the-key-to-circus-mom-highway

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