Random Q&A: Janette Rallison

This week, the Randoms talk to young adult author Janette Rallison, who has a new book out (JUST ONE WISH, Putnam Juvenile). Read on to see when she starts to look for another job that isn’t writing, when an editor forgot to tell her she bought her book, and who she should get to promote her next book (hint: He has to be able to shoot a bow and arrow and look good in a corny green hat).

1) What is your typical writing day like?

I get up earlier than I’d like, swear I will start going to bed before midnight, and get several children off to school.  I tell myself I’ll spend half an hour going over email before I devote the rest of the school day to writing.  Three hours later I realize how late it’s gotten, wonder where the time went and why I still have 127 unread emails in my mailbox.  I turn on my laptop and reread what I wrote yesterday.  Then I go get something to eat.  I type a page then go get something else to eat. Repeat until the children get home from school.  I then try to complete all the house-keeping chores, parenting duties, laundry, etc, and fall into bed at midnight.

2) Why did you decide to write YA?

Oh, probably for the money and recognition.  Ha–not really.  (Those of you who write YA are laughing with me, I know.)  I think the reason I write YA is because I have five kids and I want them, and all the kids out there like them, to have fun books to read.  My kids are not into the dark, edgy books.  Some kids are, and that’s fine too, but there needs to be a balance and a choice in YA literature.  I feel like I offer some comic relief to the market.

3) What is the biggest surprise you’ve experienced when it comes to  book publishing?

I call it the “Surprise, you’re supposed to market your book!” phenomena.  Really, I thought it was my job to sit in front of a computer and write stories.  But no, half my job it turns out, is trying to publicize and market my book.  I am not one of those natural salesmen, so this is a real challenge for me.

4) Do you ever have any “dark days,” when you wonder why you’re a  writer? What are those like, and how to you get through them?

Yes, I have those dark days every time I get a revision letter.  For a complete day or two I quit being a writer and surf the internet looking for other career options.  But that’s the thing about being a writer.  It’s not like you can storm into your boss’s office, hand in your resignation, and clear out your desk.  You quit and then two days later you get over it and decide you’ll keep writing.  No one even knows that for awhile you were unemployed.

There are also bad days when people tell you in subtle and not so subtle ways that you’re not really an important author.  Once when I was doing an IRA conference in Montana I asked the conference organizers if they wanted me to go to the author dinner.  They told me–and this is a quote, “No, that’s only for the big authors.”  How nice, and tactful too.

I just have to keep reminding myself that writing is my gift to myself, the world, and God.  You don’t expect compensation when you give a gift; that’s the whole point.  I also think about all the writers and artists before me who have blessed the world with their writing and art, the unknown workers who built cathedrals, pyramids, temples.  It puts things in perspective.

5) Authors talk about “the call.” Usually, it has to deal with  getting an agent or getting published or getting an accolade. What  was the best “call” you ever received in terms of your writing, and  how did it go down?

The first book I published was with a small niche publisher.  I didn’t have an agent, I just submitted directly to the publisher.  I knew they were considering the manuscript because after four months went by and I hadn’t heard from them I called to see what the manuscript’s status was. The receptionist actually knew who I was; she’d read the book and enjoyed it. She told me it was still in committee.

So I kept waiting.  (I was also busy doing other things, like carrying twins in a complicated pregnancy.)  After nine months I got a call from a woman at the publisher’s accounting office.  She told me they needed my social security number, mailing address, etc. etc.

I answered her questions, unsure whether giving out this sort of information was required of everyone who submitted manuscripts.  Finally, when the call was almost over I asked the important question.  “Does this mean I have a contract?”

The woman, needless to say, was surprised that I didn’t already know.  She said, “Well, I don’t usually get to break the news to authors, but yes, we’re sending you out a contract to review.  Congratulations.”

She called my editor after that, and my editor then tried to call me to apologize for overlooking this little detail in the publishing process.  She didn’t get through to me for awhile because I was busy calling everyone I knew.

BONUS QUESTION: This week, we talk about how we’re promoting our books. What is one or two things you’re doing for your newest book?

I wish I could say I’m doing something really exciting like hiring a hot guy to dress up like Robin Hood to hand out flyers at busy intersections.  But no, I’m just doing the usual sort of stuff.  Book signings, some school visits, a book give away on my blog.  Although hey, if you know of any hot guys who own Robin Hood costumes, send them my way.  I have a job for them.

Random Susan interjects: No hot guys with Robin Hood costumes, but will you take my old high school crush who used to dress up like the Red Robin mascot?

For more Janette, visit her here.

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