Monday, February 21, 2011

R - Interview with Author Janette Rallison

Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Janette: I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a little girl. Of course, I also wanted to be a ballerina and an astronaut but neither of those things panned out. I’m fine with that though. I’d rather work in my pajamas than in a tutu or an astronaut suit.

Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?

Janette: I was an English major in college, but those classes only helped my writing a little because publishers wouldn’t buy novels now that were written like Dickens or Shakespeare. To be a successful author you have to read the things that are selling today. It also helps if you read books on writing and go to conferences. I also took drama in school and surprisingly those classes helped quite a bit with my writing. Drama teaches you to think about characterization and motivation.

Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Janette: There’s something almost magical about creating characters and developing story ideas. And when you type them out and make a book, the world gets to share in your story. It’s an amazing process.

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Janette: I thought it would be easier to get published in the LDS market so I first wrote an LDS young adult book and submitted it to Deseret Book. I’m not sure it is easier to get published in the LDS market, by the way—so I guess you could say that I started like most authors: misinformed and optimistic.

Deseret Book took nine months and a lot of meetings to decide that they would indeed publish my book. It became Deep Blue Eyes and Other Lies. I published six books in the LDS market, but in the end realized that if I wanted to actually make any money as a writer, I would need to start writing for the national market. Not long after that decision, Deseret Book rejected my manuscript: All’s Fair in Love, War, and High School. I took it to the national market and it’s since sold over 400,000 copies. Which just goes to show you that rejections isn’t always a bad thing.

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

Janette: I don’t think you can be an author and not have times when you’re discouraged. Authors get rejected, criticized, revised, and reviewed. And of course there’s the fact that not a lot of people buy books. I think the best way to deal with discouragement is to stay centered about what is truly important in life. My family is important, my beliefs are important, serving people is important, growing as a person is important—writing is a part of me, but it isn’t my identity.

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

Janette: I usually get up, tell myself that I’ll spend a half an hour answering email so that I’ll have lots of time to write. Two hours later,I make myself get off the computer, and start writing. I try to get five pages a day done. That doesn’t always happen though. This year I’ve spent the majority of my time revising things I’d already written.

Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
Janette: Ideas come from everywhere. I can hardly go a day without getting an idea for a story. The trick is to find ones that will not only sustain a full story but ideas that I actually want to spend six months writing about. I make sure that my main character not only has a compelling problem, but that she also has a compelling reason to solve her problem. If there isn’t a consequence of failure, it won’t be an interesting story.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your book My Fair Godmother.

Janette: My Fair Godmother actually started out as a road show. The topic was fractured fairy tales and I wrote a play called Beauty and the Priest. The girl needed a prom date and wanted someone who was princely. Her fairy godmother—who was only a fair godmother because she hadn’t done well in fairy godmother school—sent her back in time to be Cinderella and then Snow White. The heroine wasn’t very happy about either of those scenarios because they mostly just involved lots of housework.

It turned out to be such a cute story that I decided to expand it and make it into a novel. I had a ton of fun writing it.

Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?

Janette: When I was a teen, most of the books in the library were G-rated. That’s not the case anymore and I worry that there aren’t enough books for kids who want some good, light-hearted entertainment. I try to provide that sort of book for kids. There are deeper themes if you look for them—a lot of my books are about forgiveness at their core—but I think kids just see them as fun, and that’s fine too.

Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
Janette: I need to know what my character’s problem is, her goal to solve her problem, some of her obstacles, and how the climax will turn out. Of course, those things often change as you write, but I always need a direction to go.

Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Janette: If I get stuck, I brainstorm with my family or friends. For My Unfair Godmother (Chrysanthemum Everstar’s second assignment—due out April 12, 2011) I met with author friends: Donna Hatch and Sarah Eden to help me with parts of the plot that were murky in my mind. It’s nice to have author friends.

Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?

Janette: When my kids were little I was able to write anywhere: Soccer practice, down time at gymnastic meets, and while nursing twins. Now that my kids are older, I’ve gotten used to quiet writing time and it’s hard for me to write with any sort of noise.

Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Janette: Chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Janette: My husband because he’s always been really supportive. He never acted like writing was just some pointless hobby that was taking away from the family. Back when we were first married and struggling financially, he bought me books on writing and sent me to a writing conference in Hawaii. That’s why he shows up in so many of my dedications.

Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?

Janette: I really try to think about what that character would be thinking, feeling, and saying at every moment of the book. If the story is real for them, it will be real for the reader too.

Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?
Janette: I admire Ellen Conford because I loved her books as a teen, and she made me want to write like she did. I admire Shannon Hale for the poetic quality of her books, but also her dedication to her family. I admire Ally Condie for the same reason. These women are not only great authors, but they’re good at keeping writing in perspective. I also admire Brandon Mull for the non-stop work he’s done to promote his series, and David Wolverton for the way he willingly helps other writers. There are a lot more names I could mention, but I’ll stop the list before it grows too long—really, most writers are awesome people.

Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?

Janette: Almond Joys. Mmmmm.

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Janette: Learn the craft and don’t stop learning the craft. There’s always something else to study. There are so many things we can’t control in this business, but we can control the quality of our writing.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Janette: I’m still doing revisisions for My Unfair Godmother and Slayers. But inbetween revising those books, I’ve been working on a paranormal romance. It’s really different than anything else I’ve written, and for that reason alone has been lots of fun.

Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Janette: You should be able to find my books at your local book store, (and if you don’t, mention it to the book store staff, because very often they’ll order an authors books if they know people are looking for them) but if you can’t find one of my books in a store, there’s always Amazon.

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Janette: Becoming a writer is something you can do, but it isn’t quick or easy and it certainly isn’t painless. Write because you love writing. If you’re writing for any other reason it won’t be enough to sustain you through the hard times.

Picture of Deirdra, her husband and Janette


  1. Great interview! I love the concept behind The Fair Godmother. And the reaction to being Cinderella and Snow White is spot on for a teenager. I have a hard enough time getting mine to just clean their room!

  2. Thanks for the interview. It's always good to hear how the authors we love do what they do.

  3. Janette is so awesome! This was a fun interview to read with such great insight. Thanks!

  4. Great interview. Janette is a such a great personality!

  5. Another great interview. I learned some interesting things!


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