An Interview with Janette Rallison

Alysa here! I got an advance copy of Just One Wish in the mail not too long ago, and was very excited to read it. You see, I quite enjoy the work of one Janette Rallison. I met her at a Shannon Hale signing (see photo on the left for proof) and have been picking up her books ever since (Exhibit B: mini-review of her Revenge of the Cheerleaders here).

Ashley just discovered her books and has already read four of them and reviewed Fame, Glory, and Other Things on My To-Do List. So since Just One Wish is coming out in March, I thought we ought to interview Janette. Review of Just One Wish coming soon!

1. You're not in high school anymore, though your novels are often set there. Where do you (dun dun dun) get your ideas?
I took copious notes in high school so I'd never run out of material. Okay, not really. But I do have five children and it's amazing how they provide you with plot ideas. I got the idea for having a drama class put on a doomed, but politically correct version of West Side Story in Fame, Glory, and Other Things on My To Do List because my daughter's drama club did just that.

Wow. That was Ashley's favorite scene. Okay,
2. You've written about characters in sports groups, cheerleaders, drama club, and student government -- what was your own high school niche?
I was a cheerleader for my freshman year, but alas, my hyper-extended elbows did not mix well with that sport. Plus the other girls in the squad insisted that since I was the skinniest I had to be the top of the pyramid. It can be a little scary to be on the top of a breathing, moving structure.
I was also in drama, which I loved. In a lot of ways drama did a great job of preparing me to be a writer because you had to become another character. As a writer, I have to become all the characters.

Ooh, I like that. I've had some experience with acting myself.
3. What is your theme song? You know that song that plays when you walk in the room?
Hmm. I have never been asked that question, so I went to my ipod and flipped through my play lists trying to find something appropriate. It turns out I have a lot of drinking songs on my ipod, which is a little odd since I don't drink. I notice I don't have any songs about eating chocolate, which is obviously an oversight in the music industry since I'm sure a lot of people would choose that one as their theme song.
I guess that as a writer--as someone who has triumphed over the slush pile and continues to write books while the stock market plunges and libraries and individuals cut back on buying books--I'm going to go with ELO's Hold On Tight To Your Dreams. It works.

Yes! I love asking a question that you haven't answered time and again!
4. What is your favorite part of the writing process? (*I've asked this question of several other authors. For their answers, click here.)
My favorite part is getting the book sent to me in the mail, but I also love the moments where you have a creative rush and things come together while you write. In those moments the characters say and do things that were even better than you had planned. It's like being part of a magic that is bigger than you.

5. If you had to pick any other job in the publishing industry (besides author), which would you pick and why?
I'd like to be an editor. I'm not a hypercritical person about anything in the world except for books, and I admit--with a little embarrassment--that when I read books I analyze their faults and even have the desire to email other authors and say things like, "Your tag lines would read a lot better if you didn't use so many adverbs in them." I don't actually do that, by the way, as I doubt other authors would take kindly to that sort of advice, but when you're an editor it's your job to say those sorts of things to authors.

Me too! Editing would be tons of fun. Though the other day I was thinking being a publicist would be cool. Ashley, my fellow blogger, actually is an editor.
6. I remember hearing you say that you lifted actual text messages that your daughter had received (with her permission) for use in one of your books -- which book was that again?
It's a Mall World After All. In the scene where Brianna confronts Bryant--those were the actual things my daughter and her ex-boyfriend said to each other. See, it so pays to have a teenager when you're a writer.

Awesome. That'll be the next one of yours that I read, definitely. Unless I find My Fair Godmother first because that one sounds really fun too.
7. What question have you not been asked in an interview, but think you should be asked (both question and answer, if you like)?

No one has ever asked me if all the hassle you go through to write, get an agent, get an editor, and go through the publishing process is worth it. Which I guess just goes to show you that aspiring authors are an optimistic bunch. Everyone is sure it will be worth it. Sometimes I wonder if the conference attendees at the writing workshops really knew what they were trying to get themselves into, if they wouldn't all throw down their manuscripts and seek another profession.
But for me, it has been worth it. It hasn't been as glamorous, lucrative, supportive, or as gratifying as I thought it would be back when I was a conference attendee, but it's been worth it.

Last but not least, let's have a mad-lib of the biography you can find on Janette's blog:

Janette is purple. Don't ask how purple, because it isn't polite. Let’s just say she's purpler than she’d like to be and leave it at that. Janette gives in Chandler, Arizona with her husband, 17 children and enough cows to classify her as "an eccentric cat lady." She did not do this on purpose. (The cows, that is; she had the children on purpose.) Every single one of the felines showed up on its shoe and refuses to leave. Not even the family's cold little Westie dog can drive them off. Since Janette has 17 children and deadlines to write books, she doesn't have much bread left over for donuts. But since this is the internet and you can’t actually check up to see if anything on this site is true, let's just say she enjoys staring, scuba diving, horse back running and long talks with Stephen King. (Well, I never said he answers back.)

Well, that should do it! We here at Everead love your books (well, all those that we've read so far -- you've got 14 and one on the way for Pete's Sake) and are excited for Just One Wish!

Meme & list (Most Realistic Characters)

We've had some tags. They were starting to pile up.

One from Melissa:
"Six things that make me unquestionably, blissfully happy":
1. mail
2. good ice cream
3. kisses from an 8 month old
4. kisses from that baby's dad
5. Wodehouse
6. great books!
* please note the raindrops on this rose.

One from Heather:
"Think of and post a comprehensive list of who are some of the most real characters you’ve ever encountered and why."

Sorry, no dice. I just can't promise a comprehensive list. But I will name some of the characters that I wouldn't be surprised to find walking around. Heck, these are the one's I'm surprised I haven't met yet. Realistic fiction at its most real:

  • Rose Casson (author Hilary McKay)
  • Indigo Casson (same)
  • Oh heck let's just say all the Cassons (see above, obv.)
  • Uncle Jack (Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath)
  • Reuven Malter (The Chosen by Chaim Potok)
  • Frankie Landau-Banks (E. Lockhart)
  • Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
  • The March Girls (Louisa May Alcott)
  • Levin (Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy)
  • Severus Snape (J. K. Rowling)
  • Everyone in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer)

Okay that's all I have the stamina for. Anyone want to add to our (not comprehensive) list?

Little Panda

This book is a gem. It's by Renata Liwska (who has never actually met a panda bear). I found out about it through what is possibly the best book blog in existence: Bookie Woogie.

Bao Bao is a little panda. He likes doing the things little pandas do: playing, wrestling, falling, sleeping. But he is in for an adventure.

This book has it all -- gorgeous art, great text. And next time I'm tempted to say "Tigers can't fly!" I'll have to pick it up again.

Recommended for absolutely everyone.

The Singing

Post by Ashley
It probably isn't fair for me to write about this book, considering it has yet to be released in the United States, but here we go anyway. I just finished devouring the fourth and final book in Alison Croggon's awesome series, the Books of Pellinor, which runs The Naming, The Riddle, The Crow, and The Singing. I was tired of waiting (U.S. release date is March of this year, even though the book was published in Australia in June of last year), and since I own the first three books, I knew I'd want to own the fourth anyway, so I've been checking Amazon for a U.S. source to start carrying it. I found success on my last check, so I bought it and read it within two days of its arrival.

The books, if you haven't read one, are very Lord of the Rings-esque. The author is also a poet, and she interweaves some very beautiful legends and histories in verse amongst the prose, which is itself quite poetic. Instead of wizards and wands, the power figures in these books are bards who weild the power of music and an understanding of the earth to conquer their enemies---the soulless ones who have given up their True names to serve the darker side of the Balance.

I loved the beauty of the writing and the adventurous action and the power of love blossoming in the darkest of times.

For me, the fourth book felt a tiny bit scattered, and the whole thing was over far too quickly (though that feeling could stem from the speed with which I read it). But even with that said, I still loved it. It's a really great series. Nice and thick fantasy if you've finished those JRR and JK books and are looking for another good series to dive into.

Grievous Oversight

I neglected to mention that the work of P.G. Wodehouse figures in to the awesome book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. I was reminded tonight when we watched a bit of A&E's zenithal series "Jeeves & Wooster."

Now you know.

Ooh, Aah!

The cover for Rick Riordan's The Last Olympian a.k.a. Percy Jackson & the Olympians Book 5, has been released. Head to Riordan's blog to check it out. May 5th!

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

I just jumped on the Frankie lovin' bandwagon! The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart has been getting lots of love. It just won a Cybils award in the YA fiction category, it was a Printz Honor book, and has many more accolades. Also John Green has said it was good for a long time.

Set in the present day (a wax sealed envelope might lead you to believe otherwise) this is the story of how Frankie proves that she (yes, she; the name Frankie might lead you to believe otherwise) is a very powerful woman. You see, Frankie's family underestimates her. Yes, she is gorgeous, yes she is young. But she is also smart and capable.

I related very well to Frankie (gorgeous, young, smart, capable -- what can I say?) the main difference between us being that my parents never called me Bunny Rabbit.

And don't let me forget to mention there is some delicious romance in this book. Because it would be dishonest of me to say that I didn't bite my lip wondering what would happen with that crush from afar.

But what makes the book so good is that goes further than all these little plot elements (romance, proving you're smart) and delves into the human psyche. Oh, also, the panopticon is awesome.

Okay, read it now so we can talk about it! First 17 pages here.

Cybils Winners!

The winners have been announced on the Cybils blog!

They are as follows:

The 2009 Cybils Winners

Easy Readers

I Love My New Toy
written by Mo Willems

I Love My New Toy is a perfect example of an early reader book. Using simple, repetitive text and charming illustrations, Mo Willems gives the youngest reader a title full of emotion, humor, and action. Children can easily relate to this wonderful story of friendship at its worst and its best.

Nominated by Nan Hoekstra.

Fantasy & Science Fiction

Middle Grade

The Graveyard Book
written by Neil Gaiman

Transcendent writing and wry bits of humor brought The Graveyard Book to the top of a strong field of contenders. Gaiman pulls off the trifecta of a ripping plot, nuanced characters and sublime prose. He submerges the reader into standard horror subject matter but freshens and modernizes it, never being predictable. The orphaned Nobody Owens, or Bod to his other-worldly friends, is being raised in a cemetery, where he masters a few tricks of the ghostly trade. His guardians have to hope it's enough to protect him from the assassin who killed Bod's family, and who lurks somewhere beyond the graveyard gates. This riff on the Jungle Book balances humor, heart and darkness, creating a winning read.

Young Adult

The Hunger Games
written by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games wins for its broad crossover appeal, complicated moral issues, and sociopolitical satire. In a richly imaginative twist on a familiar dystopian landscape, Suzanne Collins creates a deadly game using child combatants to explore the dehumanizing effects of war and violence. Katniss struggles against overwhelming odds while being groomed and polished for what could be her televised fight to the death. At each agonizing choice or fearful alliance, the reader is confronted with the same questions Katniss faces. How far would you go to save yourself? Can you meet violence with violence, yet preserve your humanity?

Nominated by Heather Doss.

Fiction Picture Books

How to Heal a Broken Wing
written and illustrated by Bob Graham
Candlewick Press

This deceptively simple book achieves so much more than telling the story of a boy who notices a wounded bird in a busy city. By alternating single and double-page spreads with clusters of small panels, Graham creates almost a film strip of time passing. The artistic technique lends both intimacy and urgency to the boy and his family’s precarious mission to save the injured pigeon. The text is commendably lean, supporting the strong visual narrative and keeping a lighter touch to the theme. The cartoon-style, watercolor illustrations provide the perfect tone, and the accessible story offers connections for picture book readers of all ages. For all of these reasons, How to Heal a Broken Wing distinguishes itself as the rare picture book that speaks quietly, yet has volumes to say about courage, kindness, and hope.

Graphic Novels

Elementary/Middle Grade

Rapunzel's Revenge
written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
illustrated by Nathan Hale
Bloomsbury USA

“What made this book stand out to the judges was that it takes a well-known story and does something recognizable, but unique, creating an adventure which readers of both sexes can enjoy. Those readers will get swept up in the rawness of the emotions presented. The art is bright and leaps from the pages, but the images don’t overshadow the story or mask weaknesses in the plot. The story and images carried the weight equally, were well-paced, engaging, and generally solid.”

Nominated by Elizabeth.

Young Adult

Emiko Superstar
written by Mariko Tamaki
illustrated by Steve Ralston

“This title rises above a traditional outsider/teen angst tale because of its protagonist's interest in her local performance artists, a subject that hasn't been done to death in YA. The story is also novel simply because it's about a teen exploring art and find how it can change you. Ralston’s art is an important aspect of the story, working in tandem with Tamaki’s unique story.”

Nominated by Cecil Castellucci.

Middle-Grade Fiction

The London Eye Mystery
written by Siobhan Dowd
David Fickling Books

Brother and sister, Ted and Kat, take their cousin Salim to see the London Eye, the city's gigantic Ferris wheel. While Ted and Kat watch, Salim gets into one of the glass pods, but thirty minutes later he doesn't get off. So the siblings set out to find their cousin. Complicating the situation, Ted's brain "runs on a different operating system" from other people's, which makes him a lot better at facts and figures than he is at reading people. Narrated in Ted's voice, this is a page-turner that brings London to life and takes readers inside a powerfully rational mind. The London Eye Mystery shows off kids' natural ingenuity and proves that difference can be a strength, as Ted and Kat work to solve the irresistible riddle of their cousin's disappearance.

Non-Fiction MG/YA

Non-Fiction Picture Books

Nic Bishop Frogs
written and illustrated by Nic Bishop
Scholastic Nonfiction

Nic Bishop is known for his jaw-dropping nature photography. Open a book cover with his name on it and you'll be greeted with stunning action shots, exquisite attention to detail, and sharp, sharp close-ups that inspire awe. Couple that with Bishop's equally crisp, up-close and personal writing in Nic Bishop Frogs, and you've got an award-winning combination of text and illustration that captures a child-like wonder about a topic that is anything but new. That's quite a feat. Bishop's language is interesting and playful, and his analogies and references are right on, squarely aimed at where kids' heads are at. Simple word choices never talk down, but will allow newish readers to find success easily. The book flows logically, covering life cycle, defense, diet, habitat, and other essentials you'd expect to find in an animal book, but the organization is refreshingly kid-friendly, meandering through the topics as though Bishop and the reader were having a conversation while sitting in a marsh waiting for a frog. It's intimate and personal and accessible---frogs as you've never seen them before. Fascinating process notes are sure to inspire young photographers.

Nominated by Sonja.


written by Naomi Shihab Nye

Honeybee is a hybrid of delicious poetry and lyrical prose poems on wide-ranging themes blending science and observation alongside personal memoir and political challenge. There are ideas buzzing here that young people have probably felt in their gut, but may not have verbalized. Isn't this what poetry is supposed to do?

Nominated by Kelly Fineman

Young Adult Fiction

Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, The
written by E Lockhart

It's a setting we know. It's a theme we're familiar with. But with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart takes common features of teen fiction and turns them into a smart, fun, multi-layered, action-filled, coming-of-age story with a unique treatment and fresh voice. Frankie's feminist-fueled and P.G. Wodehouse-inspired antics at boarding school are hilarious, but also tinged with the sometimes-harsh truths of growing up. A book complex and clever enough that wildly diverse readers will each take, and love, something different out of the narrative.

Nominated by Stacy Dillon

Quick Takes

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith -- Ah. Now I see why the Marquis made our Princes in Print list. He's like a combination of Legolas (read: Orlando Bloom as Legolas) and Mr. Darcy. But different. That said I did find Meliara a tad bit uptight.

Coraline by Niel Gaiman -- I'm glad the cat was in this one. He was the closest thing to comic relief in a pretty tense little tale. Thumbs up for this one, though I liked Graveyard Book better.

Indigo's Star by Hilary McKay -- 10 for 10 as usual. Writing, character development, plot... I just can't say enough good about these books. Start with Saffy's Angel of course. Also I'm kicking myself for not buying Caddy Ever After when I saw it on sale back before I had read any of them, cuz now I want to read it.

Jellaby by Kean Soo -- I love the review haiku of this one over at emilyreads. A Cybils finalist in the younger graphic novel set, this one has potential, and a very open ending. It's definitely not as complete as a single volume of Babymouse or Rapunzel's Revenge, which kinda bugs me since the sequel(s?) aren't out yet.

Kin (The Good Neighbors Book 1) by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh -- Definitely squarely in the YA category of graphic novels. I'll be interested to see where the series goes. I didn't finish Tithe by her, but I have high hopes for this one. I like murder mysteries.

Fame, Glory, and Other Things on My To-Do List

Post by Ashley
A one-word summary of this book by author Janette Rallison: Fabulous!

Sixteen-year-old Jessica is a Hollywood star wannabe. When a real-live Hollywood star's son, Jordan, moves into her town, she can't help but seize the opportunity to use his connections to keep her almost-cut school play in production. The problem: she promised him she wouldn't tell anyone who his father was. Jordan is the new kid in school, and he's only told Jessica his real identity. Now all the school knows, and any hopes Jordan had of laying low and making real friends are dashed, along with his blossoming relationship with Jessica. Jessica is desperate for forgiveness, but as the school play rolls on, forgiveness seems less and less likely to come.

This book was a load of laughs from beginning to end. The opening night of the play, Westside Story, which the kids are forced to water down to gang-free political correctness, is I think the funniest scene I may have ever read in a book. I laughed so hard, there were tears in my eyes. Seriously. This is a fun, fast-paced, totally hilarious read. Two thumbs way up.

Available from Barnes & Noble

Available from Amazon
Note from Alysa 11/6/2014:
If you'd like to buy this book, it's available via my affiliate links. If you make a purchase though these links, I get a a small commission, which helps keep Everead running. Yay! Worthy cause.

I bet you'll like some of the other books under our "How Romantic" tag here at Everead. We love romantic books that we wouldn't mind reading with our mothers! ;)

The Graveyard Book

Post by Alysa
This year's Newbery winner. Also a Cybils finalist.

It's called The Graveyard Book to echo The Jungle Book, because the stories follow a similar pattern. I had forgotten that and was reading along when for some odd reason I decided to read the acknowledgments. In them Neil Gaiman recommends reading Kipling's The Jungle Book especially if you're only familiar with the classic Disney adaptation. So that makes me curious, and now I want to read it.
Most favorite: I liked Silas a lot. He's the guardian of our graveyard boy, Nobody Owens, and Baguira's counterpart if you will. He is mysterious and reserved and wise. Little hints throughout the book let you know how he knows so much about both the living and the dead. Actually, most of the characters were awesome. Miss Lupescu and Mr. Frost stick out in my mind.

Least favorite: Well, Dave McKean's illustrations are wierd, but I mostly just ignored them. Any fans out there? I'd love to hear why you like him.

Overall, a good book. It would be fun to read aloud with kids. There are some very memorable scenes -- that's how Jungle Book is for me too -- I remember certain bits better than others. That's probably a product of the way the story is written. Smaller vignettes make up the larger story arc.

Well done, Gaiman.


Post by Alysa
So I just finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Loved it. Loved. Ashley already reviewed it for us here. In fact, she has expanded her review for publication in a newspaper. You done us proud, girl! Now we just need Laura's thoughts.

Aislin and other fans of The Picture of Dorian Grey or Oscar Wilde (but especially Dorian fans) should definitely read this one. Also my mom. Oh, and Hilary of course.

This book is happy. It is uplifting, that is to say. There are some unhappy parts of course, but a story needs conflict. It's uplifting and engrossing but not gripping. That means you WILL be able to put it down to make dinner, shower, etc., but also that you will be happy to have a minute to pick it up again. Also be sure to read the acknowledgments after. Or before. This book made me wish I had a real-for-reals pen pal.

Happy, happy! Yay! Loved.

Valentinesy Lovey Reads

In honor of February and St. Valentine, let's talk love stories! So here we have it, folks. The great YA-ish love stories of our time. The requirements for this list: the book has a hero and a heroine who, after a series of challenges, end up loving each other. That's it. Oh yeah, and happy endings are important. This is Valentine's Month, after all.

Have any to add? Let us know!

  • Pride and Prejudice (and all other Austen novels), by Jane Austen. Not strictly YA, but who's counting?
  • Twilight series, by Stephenie Meyer
  • The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale
  • East, by Edith Pattou
  • Constance, by Patricia Clapp
  • Daddy Long-Legs, by Jean Webster
  • An Old-Fashioned Girl, by Louisa May Alcott
  • Wildwood Dancing, by Juliet Marillier
  • The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman, by Louise Plummer
  • Crown Duel, by Sherwood Smith
  • A Countess Below Stairs, by Eva Ibbotson
  • Bewitching Season, by Marissa Doyle
  • A Posse of Princesses, by Sherwood Smith
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
  • Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
  • Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature, by Robin Brande
  • Lorna Doone, by Richard Doddridge Blackmore
  • Cybele's Secret, by Juliet Marillier
  • Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale
  • The Princess and the Hound, by Mette Ivie Harrison
  • Austenland, by Shannon Hale
  • Anne of Green Gables series, by L. M. Montgomery
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy
  • Pollyanna Grows Up (sequel to Pollyanna), by Eleanor H. Porter
  • Dear Enemy, by Jean Webster
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