Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Content Rating: PG-13 + M because one of the characters swears a lot, and she drops some f-bombs. Also, there are short flashback scenes that reveal the mom’s history and it includes rape (not graphically depicted in the novel)
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.
Allyson Rice is a writer, 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 on her own creative work. In addition to her writing and art, she’s also a photographer.
Some random bits of Allyson trivia:
- She’s been skydiving, paragliding, bungee jumping, ziplining through a rainforest, and scuba diving with stingrays;
- she has an extensive PEZ dispenser collection;
- she played Connor Walsh on As the World Turns for seven years;
- she’s been in the Oval Office at the White House after hours;
- she’s related to the Hatfields of the infamous Hatfield/McCoy feud; and
- her comedic rap music video “Fine, I’ll Write My Own Damn Song” won numerous awards in the film festival circuit.
Also available from Allyson 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. They’re available on www.Allyson-Wonderland.com.
She’s currently at work on her second novel and her fourth women’s coloring book.
Also, anyone who signs up for Allyson’s periodic author newsletter on her website will be entered in a drawing to have a character in her next novel named after them, and a free book will be given away in each newsletter to a subscriber!
Is there anything fun/quirky you incorporate in your writing, and if so, did you do it when writing your recent novel The Key to Circus-Mom Highway?
I’ve been collecting funny words for a while, so I’ll try to work one in here and there. Actually, when I was creating my new author website, I created a page listing “My Favorite 202 Funny words” with the challenge to anyone reading it to work one into their daily conversation. (http://allysonrice.com/nonsense/) I believe I used a couple of words from the list in the novel (offhand, I know I definitely used the word canoodling).
I also try to work in a mention of Northwestern University if possible. That’s where I went to college, and after I graduated, I started noticing Northwestern mentioned in SO MANY films and TV shows. It’s because there’s an army of NU graduates in the entertainment industry. So I’ve continued that fun little game in my work as well! It’s funny because after I told this to a friend who didn’t go to Northwestern, she started noticing every time Northwestern was mentioned in something she was watching. She couldn’t believe how often it happened. (Seriously, it’s a lot!). And, yes, I did get Northwestern into The Key to Circus-Mom Highway!
Is there anything fun/quirky you do in real life when you’re not writing? Or do you have any fun/unusual hobbies?
Yes, I do! And you might appreciate this since part of your site is about toys. I collect PEZ dispensers. I’ve collected them for years. I’ve always found them to be hilarious. I tend to gravitate to all-things-whimsical. I’ve loved them since I was little, but didn’t really start collecting them until after college. It started with just one row of them on one window sill. And then they seemed to breed like rabbits! Lol. I don’t have anywhere to display them right now as my whole life is in one bedroom at the moment (not my place). So I’ve got boxes and boxes and boxes of them in my storage unit back in L.A. I have over a thousand of them. Honestly, it could be two thousand at this point. I have no idea. One of these days I’m going to have a wall where I can display all of them. (A girl can dream.)
PEZ! I love them! Do they appear in your book anywhere?
They don’t. I don’t think I’ve put them into anything I’ve written so far. I actually can’t believe that I haven’t yet. I’m definitely going to have to fit them into the novel I’m working on right now. Thanks for the idea of doing that! Ha!
I saw that you’ve also created some women’s coloring books. That’s fun! How did those come about?
Years ago I had a friend who shared some drawings to color as a stress-reducing thing, and I fell in love with it all over again. I hadn’t colored since I was a kid. Then I started running women’s retreats in Sedona once a year, and as part of the prep before the retreat I had participants send me the three things they loved most about being a woman and the three things they found most challenging about being a woman. So the first few drawings I did incorporated some of the themes that were repeated by many of the women who came to the retreats. That’s when I realized I could do entire coloring books that would appeal to women. And while the coloring books mostly contain drawings, there is also writing that accompanies some of the drawings around the theme of that particular picture. Mind you, this was all way before adult coloring got so popular a few years back and all these studies started coming out showing how they affected stress levels, blood pressure, etc. Now there are hundreds of pages of coloring books on Amazon. (But I still think mine take you deeper into the coloring experience because of the themes and the writing.)
So I guess we should get to your debut novel. What would you like the readers here to know about The Key to Circus-Mom Highway?
I’m always looking for a book that’ll keep me laughing throughout the entire read. And I also like happy endings. So that’s the book I wanted to create. It’s a string of misadventures that’ll keep you laughing, but within the humor, I also layered it with poignant moments between the siblings and thought-provoking themes that I hope will stay with you long after you’ve finished the book. And ending on a hopeful note about second chances in life.
If you pick up a copy (and I hope you will), drop me a line through my website after you’ve read it, and let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you! http://allysonrice.com
Praise for The Key to Circus-Mom Highway!
A “feverish, entertaining novel.” –Foreword Clarion Reviews
“Fans of family drama, road trips, and non-stop laughs will love this cross-country adventure.”–BookLife/Publisher’s Weekly
“This breezy, charming tale incisively shows a family’s bittersweet facets.”–Kirkus Reviews
“This book will pierce your soul and stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it.”–The Bookish Elf
“5 stars… Must read 🏆 The Key to Circus-Mom Highway was an extraordinary story, exciting and enjoyable, from cover to cover”–Reedsy Discovery