(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see all the prizes and details and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you another entry!)
I first got to know Janette when she was the keynote speaker at the 2010 ANWA Northwest Writer’s Retreat. Two years ago, she seemed a bit concerned that she might never break out of the mid list as an author. Since then, she has taken on a second identity (C.J. Hill) and seems to be really expanding her reach among YA readers. Not only that, but she is the current president of ANWA (American Night Writers Association). Through it all, she retains that sense of humor we all love about her–author and reader, alike.
Me: Are you writing these days more as C.J. Hill or as Janette Rallison, and how do you keep it all straight? Do you wear two different, actual hats . . . or play different kinds of music for each kind of writing? In other words, what is the great secret to multi-task writing? (If you haven’t heard that term before, then I made it up.)
Janette: I never play any sorts of music, as I would concentrate on that instead of writing. The secret to my multi-task writing is that I eat lots of chocolate while I try to get things done. At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
(Ah, but then how does she stay so thin? I should have had a follow-up question. Darn it!)
I’ve been writing more as CJ Hill lately (action-adventure with some romance, of course) because I sold two of those books and this year I’ve been writing sequels to both. It’s harder for me to write action than romantic comedies so this has been a challenge for me. I prefer witty banter. In action books, you’ve got to think of creative ways to do fight scenes. It’s hard to come up with a shootout that hasn’t already been done a jillion times. (And yes, there actually have been a jillion shootouts.)
Me: As a fellow cat person, I’d like to know how you cats influence your writing (beyond blocking the screen, which my cat, Peach, is a pro at? Or does the dog steal the show there?
Janette: The dog is good (unless I’m driving somewhere in the car, and then she wants to be my co-pilot). I have a cat, though, who thinks her place in life is to sit on my lap. It’s hard to write one-handed while petting a cat, but it can be done.
I have a scene in ALL’S FAIR IN LOVE, WAR, AND HIGH SCHOOL where my main character is in a car with a freaked-out cat. That scene was inspired by a trip to the vet with one of my cats. For some reason, she thought she should spend the ride sitting atop my head. So yeah, I guess you can say my cats have influenced my writing.
Me: I know you think you are old, but I have it on good authority (your own website and Wikipedia) that I’m a good bit older than you. (And I’m not the one who’s on Wikipedia, by the way.) That being the case, you are obviously young, at least in my eyes. Still, do you foresee writing YA fiction for the rest of your life? Or do you itch to write for a different audience?
Janette: I actually have no idea. I still have a lot of book ideas that are young adult, but I also have ideas for romances and fantasies. So who knows? That’s one of the nice things about writing. You can reinvent yourself. I never thought I would write four action books in a row (five, if you count the one that’s still with my agent) and that’s what I’ve spent the last couple of years doing.
Me: Do any of your children aspire to write, and if so, do you encourage it or not?
Janette: My oldest two daughters both love to read and tinker with the idea of writing a novel someday. I encourage them–but I also tell them they need another career skill. Very few writers can support themselves right off, if ever. One of my sons wants to do a comic strip. He’s the most serious about it. He has a drawer full of comic strips he’s done (while he’s supposed to be paying attention in church) and just started putting some of them up on a blog. You can see them here.
Me: Which, of all the characters you’ve ever written, was most reflective of you? And which was most reflective of your husband?
Janette: Hmmm. There’s a little bit of me in all of my characters. Ellie from WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED is pretty much me (well, you know, me if I was younger, thinner, and prettier) and Jessica from FAME, GLORY, AND OTHER THINGS ON MY TO DO LIST was a lot like me as a teen.
I tried to make my husband the male lead in WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED since I’d put myself in as the heroine. It was supposed to be this really sweet gesture on my part. Unfortunately, I had to fire him after about two pages. My husband is really laid back and he would never argue with the heroine.
Ironically, in my paranormal romance HUNTERS AND HUNTED (this is the book that’s still with my agent, because publishers think paranormal romance is dead) the heroine has two love interests. One of them, Jack, is probably the most like my husband of any male lead I’ve ever written. After my husband read the manuscript, I asked him what he thought of Jack.
“He’s a jerk,” my husband said. “He kills people.”
Well, yeah, there is that. Jack isn’t at all like my husband in that way.
Me: What are you working on right now?
Janette: Revisions for the ERASING TIME sequel (ECHO IN TIME) and then I’ll be working on revising the SLAYERS sequel. But never worry, Janette Rallison fans. I’ll be starting a new fairy godmother book in a couple of months.
(Talk about multi-tasking!!! But while we’re on the subject of ERASING TIME, check out her terrific trailer here.)
Me: With all the writing you do, I am most curious about your workspace or office. Please describe it in a YA voice.
Janette: Imagine a teen girl blinking up at you from an office chair. “What do you mean my feet aren’t supposed to go on the desk? Where else am I supposed to put them?” She sighs in exasperation and grabs a half-eaten brownie. “Never mind, I’ll just take my laptop to my bed.” Another dramatic sigh, because that’s what teens are good at. “Now, like, everybody leave me alone. I’ve got stuff to do.”
(I think we get the picture…no space on the floor…half-eaten brownie. Sound familiar, anyone?)
Me: And finally, could you please describe (in your mother’s voice) your bedroom as a teenager.
Janette: Imagine an older woman shaking her head with something akin to despair. “Have you ever thought about hanging up your clothes instead of leaving them in piles everywhere? You’re going to step on those books and those records, and whatever else is under that pile of clothes. And will you please take down those posters of Richard Hatch? It’s creepy the way his eyes always watch me when I walk in here.”
A lack of floor space. Some things apparently never change.