Janette Rallison has written about best friends and boyfriends, basketball courts and baseball diamonds, studying and shopping, drama onstage and off. I recommend her books often to teens and pre-teens looking for fun stories set in school that they can relate to and that make them laugh.
Put it this way: Had these books been published fifteen years ago, I would have read them while watching episodes of Saved by the Bell.
Janette's newest book, IT'S A MALL WORLD AFTER ALL, was just released. She was kind enough to take some time out of her crazy schedule (five kids, many cats, and looming deadlines, oh my!) to do this interview.
Who do you think is the target audience for your stories? How would you define your writing style or genre?
My target audience is a mixed group. When I first started I thought I was writing for teenagers, but I have so many readers who are either a lot older (really old -- like my age) or as young as fourth grade. With my books I don't think age matters so much as sense of humor. People who like my books are people who enjoy laughing -- and of course there is always a little romance thrown in because I'm a hopeless romantic.
A lot of people (and apparently the editors of The Wall Street Journal) consider romantic comedy as "fluff writing". These people are obviously humorless curmudgeons who you would not want to get stuck sitting next to at a party.
Tell us about your new book, It's a Mall World After All.
In It's a Mall World After All, Charlotte thinks her best friend's boyfriend is cheating on her. But when she tells her best friend, Brianna, about her suspicions, Brianna believes the boyfriend instead of Charlotte. Charlotte suddenly finds herself trying to trap the guy to prove her point and save her friend, but the guy's best friend, Colton, is trying just as hard to stop Charlotte. They find themselves in a contest of wills that leads Charlotte to many places, including a stint as a mall elf. It's comedy, mixed in with many things you should never try at home.
The titles of your previous teen novels employed a plethora of commas. Did you purposely want to break the trend with the new book?
Feel sorry for me. When people ask me the titles of my books I have to say: All's Fair in Love, War, and High School, Life Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws, and Fame, Glory, and Other Things On My To Do List. A person can run out of oxygen before they make it through my book list. Also, the people in the marketing department were getting worried about fitting all of the words in my titles onto the books. I needed to go with shorter titles just to maintain my sanity. However, I just talked with my editor at Putnam about a book I've yet to write.
"What's the title," Tim asked me.
"Two Wishes," I told him proudly, because this actually sounds like a title as opposed to my other book titles which sound like thesis statements.
"Nope," he told me. "We want something like your other titles. Something catchy." Just great.
Fame, Glory, and Other Things on My To Do List involves a high school production of West Side Story that goes horribly wrong during rehearsals. Have you ever been in WSS? (I have, and though the show went well, the drama backstage was far more intense.)
I was in drama in high school, and you could say that many of them went horribly wrong. There were the times I had to ad-lib because someone wandered away from the stage when they were supposed to come on, the time I went onstage with my slip hanging down out of my dress--which wouldn't have been so bad except the line of conversation on the stage was, "Oh look Alice, you have another new dress." There was the time when I was cutting another character's chicken patty and knocked it off his plate . It rolled around the stage like a loose hubcap, making every smaller circles until it finally fell down. The audience didn't hear a word we said because they were too riveted by the chicken patty. And then there was the time when I meant to tell a character he was overreacting and actually told him he was overacting. This is something which you shouldn't say while onstage.
I was never in West Side Story, but I did have to endure my daughter's politically correct version of the play, which was disastrous enough.
Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws has the perfect title, because it tells the readers exactly what they are in for: a story of a friendship that is tested by competition on and off the court. What is your basketball history?
I had a very short basketball career in junior high. I knew it was not meant to be when I kept forgetting that the teams switched baskets at half time. Yeah, ask me how many times I ran down the court thinking, "Hey, I'm completely open . . . and why is the other team cheering?"
To date, Playing the Field is your only middle-grade novel. Are you planning on writing more stories for these age range? What are the biggest differences between writing for the under-12 crowd and teenagers?
I love the book Playing the Field. It was fun to write from a boy's point of view and nice to write about younger characters who still feel new and awkward about so many things. I'm not ruling out writing another book like Playing the Field, it's just that I didn't get a lot of feedback from this age group. (Maybe that shouldn't be such a surprise.) Whereas I get tons of emails from teenage girls saying, "Write us more books." Plus, I admit it, I like putting in the kissing scenes.
What are you working on now?
I have two books that are in the writing/editing stages. There is How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend due out in May 2007 -- see the cover on my website at http://www.JanetteRallison.com -- and Revenge of the Cheerleaders -- Yes, my teenage fans, I heard you and wrote a sequel to All's Fair in Love, War, and High School-- which is due out Fall of 2007. Samantha is indeed featured in Revenge of the Cheerleaders, but the main character in this one is Chelsea.
Do your children help proof-read your books?
I have a teenage daughter who helps me out, although usually in the idea stage of the books. She often lives some of the plot, but as she is quick to point out, she never gets a hot guy in the end of the book.
What are your top ten favorite books of all time?
It's so hard to choose. Hmmm.
Pride and Prejudice
The Princess Bride
Lord of the Rings
Winnie the Pooh
All of Patrick McManus books (I can't choose just one)
Many of Ellen Conford's books
The first three Harry Potter books (before J.K. Rowling decided to end each book with a funeral)
Check out Janette's official website for a funny FAQ, help with book reports, and more.