Guest: Allison Winn Scotch

Southwestern Turkey Burgers

These are easy crowd-pleasers that everyone in my family enjoys: they’re a great way to add in some lean protein to my kids’ diets, and they’re sophisticated enough for my gourmet-palate husband too. My 5-yo is tasked with (supervised, of course), chopping, and my 3-year old pours in the spices and the rest of the ingredients once ready. (Which sometimes means the spice quotient is a little off!) 🙂 All in all, a really simple but tasty and quick dinner. I often make additional servings and throw them in the freezer, then pull them out for a last-minute dinner when you don’t have time to cook anything else (and don’t want to order!).

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 ¼ pounds lean turkey
1 cup mild salsa, divided
½ cup finely chopped shallots
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
1 teaspoon hot sauce, or more, if desired
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more, if desired (can always salt them after cooking)
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Mix turkey, ½ cup salsa, shallots, cilantro, 1T oil (more if using extra lean ground turkey), hot sauce, cumin, salt and pepper. Shape into 4 patties. Spray cooking spray into pan and add small amount of oil. Cook patties 5-7 minutes each side until done (no longer pink). Use rest of salsa for sauce. Serve plain or on rolls with lettuce. If desired, melt Monterey Jack cheese on top.

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Here’s a short question and answer session with Allison…

Q: You used to work in PR and marketing before becoming a freelance writer for many years. How did you get into fiction writing and what was your big break?
A: I got into fiction simply because I had an itch that I wanted to scratch, to be honest. As you said, I was working as a freelance magazine writer at the time – probably for about five years or so – when I wanted to try to flex a different muscle. I adored what I did, but I’d really reached the apex of what I’d wanted to get out of it, so…I tried something different. I thought I wrote what was a brilliant manuscript, and shopped it to agents. I landed one, but she couldn’t sell it, and in hindsight, thank goodness. It was terrible! Just wretched! My big break probably came when she and I parted ways, which I know seems like a weird thing to say about your big break. But I’d written a second manuscript and having something to compare it to (my horrible first one), I actually knew that this one was good. She didn’t want to shop it to publishers, which kind of lit a fire in me. I got back on the agent search with a real fire in my belly, got a few offers of representation, and, to be honest, chose wisely. I nabbed a kick-ass agent who remains my agent to this day, and about ten days after she shopped that manuscript around, we received four offers from publishers. My break-out book was really my second one, Time of My Life, but as far as going big or going home, that was probably my moment.

Q: What types of books do you like to read? What are you currently reading?
A: I gravitate toward books that are similar to what I write: engaging, fun, fast but still not too flighty – something with a bit of meat behind it but that doesn’t take me more than a week or so to read. Right now, I have so many books in my TBR pile! I’m halfway through Leah Stewart’s Husband and Wife, which I’m really enjoying. I have Holly LeCraw, Saving CeeCee Honeycut by Beth Hoffman, and The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris on my nightstand, along with about 10 ARCs for potential blurbs! I’m looking forward to my long plane rides out to Seattle and California for my book tour, when I can hopefully catch up!

Q: On your blog, Ask Allison, you offer advice and resources to aspiring writers. How do you get so much done?
A: Ha! Okay, another tip for productivity is that I do things in chunks. So, this morning, for example, I did some book promo stuff and got all of that off my plate. Then I take a break and workout and run errands. Then I devote the afternoon to another chunk of stuff – in this case, I’m interviewing Ian Somerhalder from The Vampire Diaries, so I’ll do my prep work and then chat with him. The same is true for my blog: I write three or four entries at a time, get it off my to-do list, and that’s that. I really think if you’re organized – and get into a pattern – it’s not so hard.

Q: Your last two books have titles based on music. How much of a role does music play in your life and in your writing process?
A: Music plays a huge, huge role in my life, and thus my writing. Other than when I am actually working on a manuscript, I have music playing, and I literally cannot leave the house without my iPod. When I was younger, I aspired to be a singer-actress type, so I’ve always just gravitated toward songs, melodies and lyrics. For this book specifically, I sincerely don’t think I could have written it without the influence of The Killers, who were kind enough (and this blows my mind!) to also let me use their lyrics for my epigraph. As I said, The One That I Want was a tough book to write, and I listened to a few of their songs – Read My Mind, Human and Dustland Fairytale, among others – to dive into my characters’ heads when I was stuck. Let’s put it this way: I listened to them so often that my kids – who are 5 and 3 – know all of their lyrics.

Q: What was your inspiration for The One That I Want?
A: I wanted to take the themes I explored in my last book, Time of My Life, and flip everything on its head, while still delving into the concept of how we – and my characters – can create more fulfilling, fleshed-out lives. So it was this whole concept of, “What happens when you think you have a perfect life, and it totally gets shattered to pieces?” In this day and age, not an entirely uncommon – unfortunately – scenario.

Q: What are you currently working on? Can you give us any hints?
A: I’m almost done with the initial draft of my fourth book, The Memory of Us, which focuses on a woman who survives a plane crash but loses her memory in the process, and is forced to tape together the pieces of her life by the stories that other people relay back to her. I think it’s a nice companion to Time of My Life and The One That I Want—somewhere in between the two of them in terms of voice and gravity, and hope that readers agree when it comes out in June 2011!
For more, visit http://www.allisonwinn.com/ and follow Allison on Twitter. Allison is also holding a contest. More details can be found here.