I’ve only recently discovered the happiness that is Janette Rallison’s books, and only because her editor, aka Tim the Bow Tied one, has up and sent them to me out of the blue (most recently, My Double Life), each time with a lovely little letter. I’m telling myself that I need to go read the ones I haven’t read, and I will. As soon as I get a spare moment… In the meantime, enjoy the interview.
MF: I’ve heard this story, but I’m not sure how widely it’s known: how did you come up with the idea for My Double Life? JR: My editor asked me to send him a dozen plot ideas so he could choose the storyline of my next book. The reason Putnam does this is that they don’t want their authors to inadvertently write the same kind of book.
I sent Tim (AKA The Bow Tied One) many well thought out and complete plot ideas. I also sent him a one line premise that I honestly don’t even remember writing: A girl who doubles for someone famous. That was the one he chose. So then I had to go about figuring out who this girl was and why she would want to double for someone famous.
MF: Your book has been accused by some people of being another book that “[seems to encapsulate a formula of romance novel plus high-concept commercial hook plus glamorama cover art.” What do you think makes your book stand out from the others?
JR: This book is definitely teen girl wish fulfillment. Who wouldn’t want to experience the celebrity life of fame, fortune, and a hot rock star boyfriend? But this book is also more than just that. If Alexia had only wanted to be Kari’s double so she could be rich and famous, it would have been a very shallow book. She wants the job because it will allow her to do the one thing she’s always wanted, and that is to find and meet her father. When you come right down to it, this book is really about family and how the choices we make affect others. Alexia isn’t searching for fame and money, she’s trying to figure out who she is.
MF: Very true. And because of that, I found that I adored Alexia throughout the book; she was just such a grounded, yet interesting, character. Do you have a favorite scene or character in the book? JR: I love a lot of scenes in this book. When you have two people who look alike in a story, it’s almost a mandate that you’ve got to have a funny scene where they’re in the same place with people who can’t know there are two of them. But my favorite scene is the one where Alexia finally meets her father. I nearly cried when I wrote it.
MF: How long did this book take from conception to publication?
JR: It took a year for me to write the manuscript and go through three drafts of revisions. Then it was about a year more until it came out in stores. It’s always a long process, but that’s for the best—it gives you more time to catch your mistakes. I’m working on the sequel to My Fair Godmother right now and the publisher is rushing to get it out next winter so it’s only going through one set of revisions—which scares me to death. I know I won’t catch all the problems.
MF: What kind of research did you do for this book (assuming, of course, that you’re not a rock star’s body double)? JR: I’m always amazed at the amount of research it takes to write contemporary novels. For this one I was constantly calling West Virginia (where the novel starts off and finishes) to find out details like: What floor is the housekeeping office located in the Waterfront Park Hotel? And do people in West Virginia have sprinklers in their lawns? But the hardest things to find out were the stuff about celebrities’ schedules, employees, and fees. You can’t call up Hollywood people to ask those kinds of questions. Hollywood is like the homecoming queen of cities and she avoids meeting your gaze in the hallway and ignores you when you say, “Hi.” I had to comb through a lot of reality and entertainment shows to find out the information I needed. Also, Taylor Swift had her schedule on her website. I lifted her schedule and used it for my character.
MF: So, since the book revolves around rock stars, have you put together any kind of playlist? Or picked a theme song for the book? JR: I don’t usually do playlists although there is always a song or two that remind me of the story for some reason. For this one I have two: Taylor Swift’s You Belong With Me—partially because I envisioned Kari as a cross between Taylor Swift and Jessica Simpson—but also because during the music video Taylor puts on a brown wig and it completely changes her looks. I had wondered if just changing Alexia’s hair from brown to blond would be a dramatic enough change—but after watching that music video I stopped worrying. I couldn’t tell she played both the nice girl and the mean cheerleader. I’m sure Taylor did that just to make me feel better about my book. Thanks Taylor!
The second song is Missing Me Crazy by Jonnie and Brookie. It’s a little known, but great song. As soon as I heard it, I knew I wanted it for my book trailer because the words are so perfect. The lyrics say: “You’d be missing me crazy if you only knew my name.” That’s Alexia’s problem. Her rock idol boyfriend doesn’t even know her real name. Can it be true love if your boyfriend thinks you’re someone else—someone rich and famous?
MF: You’re a mom of five kids, correct? How do you juggle writing with being a mom? How to you find time to write? JR: Now that my kids are all in school, it’s a lot easier, but it used to be that I would only write during nap time. I would only get a page or two written every day—but those pages add up and I could get a book published every year.
MF: Who, or what, inspires your writing?
JR: My kids inspire my writing. When I was writing the sequel to My Fair Godmother, every day my daughter came home from school she asked what I’d written on the story. Then she would go read it off the computer and tell me to write faster. I’ve also had moms tell me that their daughters will only read my books, and not too long ago at a signing a girl told me that it was my books that taught her to love reading. You can’t get a better compliment than that.
MF: Are there five books that you think everyone should read?
JR: No, there are ten—all of my books. Oh, you meant besides mine? Some of my all time favorites are: The Princess Bride; The Phantom Tollbooth; Pride and Prejudice; The Amulet of Samarkand; and Hunger Games.
MF: If you don’t mind me asking, what can we expect next from you?
JR: I’ve got a plethora of books I’m working on. (Which is why my house is a mess, weeds are taking over the backyard, and it’s been so long since I got my Westie’s hair cut that she looks like the abominable snow dog.) I’m finishing up the revisions for My Unfair Godmother, then I have to do revisions on a dragon book I’ll be doing under a pen name (Don’t worry, I’ll let everybody know about it when it comes out.) Then I have to finish a paranormal romance that I’m 200 pages into, and I have to write another book for Putnam. (I will not be sending one sentence premises this time!) And I have to get all that done this year. (Sigh, the poor house, yard and dog.)
MF: Thanks, Janette, for your time!