Contest Author Interview – Janette Rallison

(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.

Notice yet another Nom de Plume?

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.

(Good thing!)

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.

Seriously, if you want to know more about Janette, you can try the Wikipedia article (which doesn’t have nearly enough, by the way) or, even better, her website . . . or her other website!

Originally posted 2012-08-31 04:00:34.

“Breaking Beautiful” by Jennifer Shaw Wolf Debuts on Tuesday!

Present word count of WIP:  52, 346

A good friend and fellow writer (and ANWA sister), Jennifer Shaw Wolf, has her first novel launching nationally next Tuesday, April 24th, and I believe I’ll make the drive over to the other side of  Washington for the event. Here’s the trailer for her book, just to whet your appetite:

Even though I haven’t yet read it, I won’t be surprised at all if this is a Whitney Finalist next year! In any case, I promise a review as soon as possible. Check out her website for more details on both the book and the author.

Originally posted 2012-04-18 09:17:47.

Responsibility #3: Supporting Writers

Present word count of WIP:  49,832

(Pitiful progress, I know. I’ll try and make up for it while traveling to Utah this weekend.)

In my earlier post about a writer’s responsibilities, I listed #3 as:

We have to support our fellow writers.

What goes around comes around. That’s probably the main reason most of us who struggle to get our writing out there put effort into supporting each other.

The writing community is pretty tightly knit, in and of itself. After all, writers always seem to be on the bottom of the totem pole–whether we’re talking about movies, plays, or books. The biggest Oscars (for Best Picture) or Tonys (Best Play or Musical) go to moneymen–producers–while the creative individual(s) behind the whole story are generally ignored once the picture goes into production. At least, when it comes to awards, the publishing industry has it right. The writers are the ones recognized, not their publishers. However, too many times writers feel like they get little to no respect even in the publishing industry. So, we have to watch out for each other.

That’s why we’ve got groups like PEN American Center, which is only “one of 144 PEN centers in 101 countries that together compose International PEN.” That’s why we’ve got Romance Writers of America and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. That’s why we’ve got a group for nearly every genre, not to mention all the online groups that help us navigate the complicated waters of getting published.

Then there are other, more specialized groups like American Night Writers Association and LDStorymakers, which are specialized to fit the needs of LDS writers and/or authors.

Yes, one of the ways we can help support each other is by joining one or more of these groups and being involved to the extent that we gain writing friends who will, hopefully, support us as we support them. There is always power in numbers.

Dave Wolverton (aka Dave Farland)

But there’s an even stronger impetus, I feel, for supporting other writers. It’s not about getting anything back for yourself. It’s about helping to grow literacy in this world. Talents always come with responsibility. If we have a gift for the written word, it’s incumbent on us to not only share it, but to spread it among others. I remember being so impressed with Dave Wolverton and the way he freely provides so much help to other writers on their way up the ladder. He doesn’t seem to see them as his competition. I think he sees them more as his legacy.

Let’s help each other freely and build a legacy of literacy.

Originally posted 2012-03-30 13:49:59.

I Have a Book Deal!

Present word count of WIP:  47,161 (I know…no increase, but I did finish outlining the entire book!)

I am very excited to announce that Walnut Springs Press will be publishing my second novel, Laps (though the title will likely be different), later this year…probably late summer or early fall! I promise more details as they develop.

I believe I have the recent ANWA Conference to thank for helping to seal this deal. While there, I was able to meet with their editor, Linda Mulleneaux, and I’m sure that my winning a couple of awards in their BOB (Beginning of Book) Contest made a favorable impression, as well. Thanks so much, ANWA!

Here’s a taste of the book (taken from my first chapter) to whet your appetite:

Budding writers could be so defensive, Daphne thought, not for the first time. The women she taught in her graduate tutorial bruised like teenagers, pouting and suffering in silence. Most of the men argued with their jaws clenched—none more so than Reuben. She picked up his short story anyway, drew in a breath, and read aloud his opening sentence.

“Merrick languished in the lazy afternoon sun.” She paused and looked up at the clock on the back wall. Five minutes to go. “To be honest, this opening takes the reader nowhere. Yes, it may tell us Merrick is lazy . . . or it may not.”

Reuben raised his hand, the muscles in his face already working, and began to squabble with her assertion. Guy, the only truly talented writer in the class, wasn’t there to take her side. So she chewed on the inside of her cheek as Reuben went on and on about the visual quality of “languished.”

When he finished, she said, “I suppose you don’t care about getting published then,” and dismissed the class. As he passed her desk, she heard him call her “narcissistic” under his breath along with another unflattering term. He was wrong. She hadn’t found the right word for herself yet, but she was definitely not narcissistic.

Still stressed when she pulled into her garage a half hour later, Daphne headed straight for her pool. She checked the desert sky. No moon. She’d swim without a suit, then, shielded by the wall of palms, hibiscus, and oleander surrounding her backyard. Since the death of her parents, she’d used moonless nights to such advantage.

As she started to unbutton her blouse, she noticed that one of the four dark shapes she knew to be her patio chairs had been moved back several inches from the circular glass table with the umbrella. A sense of foreboding crept up the back of her neck like a spindly-legged spider, and she shivered. She never left a chair out of place.

For a moment, Daphne considered changing her routine. But she couldn’t. The swim in total blackness wouldn’t soothe if she varied the pattern, and though she didn’t understand the reason, she knew that patterns smoothed out the wrinkles in her life like lotion applied to rough, cracked skin.

She pushed the chair back in and undressed quickly, leaving her folded slacks and blouse on the deck. After stretching out the kinks in her back and running her fingers through her cropped hair, Daphne took her usual starting place at the far side of the pool and sliced into the dark water. Six quick strokes, and she flipped to push off the wall for the return. Ninety-nine laps to go.

She pulled at the water, deconstructing Reuben’s opening line in her mind with each lap.

Merrick languished in the lazy afternoon sun. Flip turn.

Merrick languished in the lazy afternoon. Flip turn.

Merrick languished in the lazy. Flip turn.

By the tenth lap, the classroom began to recede from her mind. By the fifteenth, the last memory of the evening’s unpleasantness sank below her consciousness. Buoyed by the night-cooled water, Daphne relished the pungency of chlorine and the familiar numbness spreading through her arms and legs.

If Daphne bowed to any god, it was the god of water—the pool his holy sanctuary, the daily swim her prayer. Water freed her, saved her from a society in which she felt ill at ease. In its liquid cold and calm, her oddities were masked or erased.

At age three, when she’d first ballooned her cheeks to slip beneath its glimmering surface, Daphne had opened her eyes underwater and discovered a world of muted sounds, bluish vision and slower motion. Here, no fly could dart around. The yapping of the neighbor’s dog hushed. Her feet and hands, often so clumsy on land, worked together in water and found a rhythm previously unknown. Stroke after stroke. Lap after lap. A coordination so practiced over the decades that now, at forty-one, she slashed through the water without thinking.

Swimming saved her in the dry heat of Phoenix where pools freckled the landscape. No matter Daphne’s schedule at the university, her morning swim came first. It steeled her for a college classroom full of opinionated writing students. And if a day’s teaching drained her, as this had, she swam again in the afternoon or night.

Switching to the breaststroke for her twenty-sixth lap, her right hand brushed against something mid-stroke. She jerked upright, surprised. Had she imagined it? Daphne strained to see in the blackness of the pool, but she could make out nothing. She swept her arm across the dark water. Still not a thing. She inched further and propelled her arm underneath the liquid surface. Contact. Wet cloth over a hard object. When she poked it, it moved away, but only slightly. She reached again. Feathery strands tickled her fingers. She lurched back and gasped. 

 

Originally posted 2012-03-16 13:36:26.

The Buzz About Blurbs

Present word count of WIP:  39,288

Seth Godin’s Advice for Authors:

10. In case you skipped it, please check #2 again. That’s the most important one, by far.

Rather than point you back to my blog posting about that one, I’ll just reiterate it was about the necessity to build a reputation, a blog, a following and connections about three years BEFORE you come out with your masterpiece. Nice, if you have the gift of prophecy as to which of your manuscripts will be the true masterpiece…but, in any case, developing a following and connections is, indeed, a must.

That is one of the big reasons why I go to writers conferences like the one this weekend down in Mesa, AZ — the ANWA “TIME OUT FOR WRITERS” Conference. Many of these fellow authors I’ve only dealt with online and it is definitely time for some face to face interaction.

11. Blurbs are overrated, imho.

I’m not sure what to think about this. I can be swayed by a good blurb. What do you all think?

Originally posted 2012-02-20 22:05:18.

Think of your books as souvenirs

Present word count:  25,290 (I know, I know…not enough…I promise much more next time)

Seth Godin’s Advice for Authors:

4. Understand that a non-fiction book is a souvenir, just a vessel for the ideas themselves. You don’t want the ideas to get stuck in the book… you want them to spread. Which means that you shouldn’t hoard the idea! The more you give away, the better you will do.

I think this applies equally well to fiction. We definitely want the characters, issues, and themes in our stories to spread. More than that, we want our fan base to spread out and grow. Godin is all about giving ideas away for free because he knows that, in the end, you reap what you sow.

That’s what I love about author communities like LDStorymakers and ANWA. The more we give to our fellow writers (whether it’s the benefit of our experience, or helpful critiques, or simply our attention), the more we grow and are enriched as writers. I’ve felt badly that I haven’t given more lately in either group, but my time has been crunched by both the Storymaker website and reading for the Whitneys. Still, I know that once my schedule frees up, I can make up for lost time. I don’t know if it’s the fact that 99% of us are still struggling for the audience we want… or the fact that one hit today doesn’t guarantee a lifetime of success, but for some reason, our hearts can’t help but go out to each other. Writers, as a whole, are some of the most unselfish people I know in business.

And our books truly are souvenirs for both us and our readers. They help us remember what our own lives were like as we wrote them. Depending on the content, they can help us remember people, places, or events in our lives. And they speak to our readers in similar ways, though the reading experience is unique for each person who reads our words. They meld their own memories, experiences, and ideas with ours as they read.

Sometimes, book marketing is not about sales so much as spreading your words. Think of your books as souvenirs and give some away.

Originally posted 2012-01-27 13:19:24.

Back in the Saddle

Present Word Count of WIP: 13,901

After two days and more than 3,500 words written, I can officially announce that I’m back to my writing. What a relief! I was beginning to suspect that the holidays had completely upended my routine.

It’s always difficult for me to write when my daughter comes home for a visit because she’s about ready to graduate from college and her visits home come so seldom these days. As much as I see myself as a writer, I’m a wife and mother first, so I’m still having to fight off the guilt for carving out periods of the day to shut myself off from those responsibilities. It’s easier with my son (who’s about to graduate from high school) because he still lives here and, like me, he tends to shut himself into his cave every day, not craving company. But Allison is very social. Obviously, I wasn’t very successful from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

It’s a good thing we have New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, that’s probably the only thing I like about New Year’s Eve as a holiday. This time, I’ve set myself 5 “SMART” goals, 4 of which involve writing. That’s “SMART,” as in Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic/Relevant, and Time-Specific (something I picked up from a recent QueryTracker Newsletter).

I’ll post the writing goals here so that you can all hold me accountable:

1) Write every day for at least two hours.

2) Finish first draft of SOG by February 20, 2012 (so it’s somewhat ready to pitch at the ANWA Conference). Finish final draft by April 30, 2012 (for pitching at the LDStorymakers Conference).

3) Find 20 agents who rep my kind of YA Fantasy and organize them from most to least appealing. Query top 7 by May 15, 2012.

4) Blog twice a week (usually Mondays and Fridays), once on each blog.

So, yes, I decided not to wait until Friday this week because I couldn’t stand seeing my website go unchanged another day. Tomorrow, I’ll probably post on my other blog here. As for the daily writing goal, I’ve completed ten chapters now of my WIP. I’ll try and keep a running count of words written each week here, to keep myself on task.

So, what are your goals for the new year? I have a feeling that, despite the dire predictions of the Mayans, 2012 is going to be a terrific year!

Originally posted 2012-01-05 12:17:17.

The Great Northwest (Writers Retreat)

I’m still re-acclimating to regular life five days after returning home from a terrific, writerly get-away up near Deception Pass in the northwest corner of our beautiful state. I wish I had taken more pictures but, truthfully, I was too uptight to take in the scenery much until the last day when I no longer had to worry about presentations. Still, here’s a view from the main lodge’s balcony:

I was the first to arrive out of 32 women–all LDS writers who belong (or may soon belong) to ANWA (American Night Writers Association). We feasted on two days worth of classes, workshops, and presentations–particularly those of visiting YA author, Janette Rallison–arranged by Liz Adair and her local Round Tuit ANWA chapter…and some terrific food arranged by Ann Acton.

A big thanks goes out to Terry Deighton for the location (Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory). It seemed more like a first-class lodging facility than a science lab. I believe everyone was in agreement–we want to come back next year! Everything–the accommodations, the food, the presentations, even the spirit of the event–was like Girl’s Camp for Writers…only with nice comfortable beds and showers! And the facility can accommodate many more. So if you’re an LDS woman who writes, mark your calendars now for the weekend after General Conference in October, 2011.

As for my presentations, I plan on sharing bits and pieces of “Publishing’s Paradigm Shift” here on my website over the next several days. I’m going to post my other presentation (“See It/Hear It: Writing Believable Dialogue”) in several parts over on my blog.

Originally posted 2010-10-14 12:57:46.

I’ve Emerged From the Fog of Querying

No, I haven’t taken a Digital Sabbatical, but I should. In fact, I’m going to blog about that tomorrow over at ANWA Founder & Friends.

My exciting news is that I’ve begun my third novel and it’s set in Beirut, Lebanon. It’s the story of an American teenager trying to hold her family together as the capital collapses into civil war. Since I graduated from high school there (ACS – the American Community School) at about that time and was, indeed, on hand in 1975 when things began to get dicey, I can draw on my own memories as well as my imagination (because, yes, this is fiction…not my family).

As you know, however, from an earlier posting…my memory is rather unreliable. Thank goodness my mom kept a family log all those years we lived overseas. So what did I just do last week? I took advantage of Allegiant Air’s new direct cheap flight between here and LAX and flew down there for 10 days of fun and research. The day before I left, I gathered my parents, my younger brother, and one of my younger sisters and started shooting questions at them. Every now and then I’d have to interrupt all their cross talk (after all, my dad’s got a hearing problem and he’d usually start telling me something in the middle of one of my brother’s responses). My sister found the whole process hilarious. But at least I came away with some great notes…AND the family logs for 1974-77.

It may have cost me $20 to check an extra suitcase on the return flight (these journals are big, thick, and heavy), but it will prove invaluable in the end. And the time with family? Priceless!

Originally posted 2010-08-05 17:13:52.

A Nugget and My Other Blogs

I did blog yesterday. But I didn’t do it here. You see, I’m on two other blogs, as well, and I realized I’d better let you know about them, because I’m sharing some of my golden nuggets from Thursday’s “webinar” on those sites.

My other personal blog, Seized by Words, is reserved for thoughts on the power of words, as well as book reviews and author interviews. I shared my thoughts there the other day on a phrase used by Rachelle Gardner during her presentation and you might want to check it out.

This past week, I was invited to become a contributing blogger to ANWA Founder & Friends, the official blog of a terrific national group of ladies–American Night Writers Association (ANWA). I blog there every other Friday, so yesterday was my first opportunity and I decided to share a bit more of what I’d learned on Thursday about crucial elements in the crafting of the first few pages of your manuscript. Please give the whole blog a look, not just my posting, and consider becoming a follower. Cindy Williams has a terrific post there today about author branding.

My nugget for today: If you’re having a hard time determining the genre of your story, then try to visualize your audience…the readers who will love your kind of story. Consider the other books they read and that’s your genre.

BIG TIP: Better to come up with a more specific genre than “Mainstream.” Rachelle said, for example, that “Women’s Fiction” would be better than “Mainstream” because it defines the audience better and helps the agent categorize your book more easily.

Originally posted 2010-05-29 09:42:17.