author websiteJanette Rallison writes books because writing is much more fun than cleaning bathrooms. Her avoidance of housework has led her to writing 10 award winning young adult novels, which have sold over 900,000 copies. Most of her books are romantic comedies because hey, there is enough angst in real life, but there’s a drastic shortage on both humor and romance. She lives in Chandler, Arizona with her husband, five kids, and enough cats to classify her as eccentric. Her latest novel, My Double Life, comes out May 13, 2010.
Q. In your latest book, My Double Life, eighteen-year-old Alexia Garcia experiences every teen girl’s wish come true when she has the opportunity to work as a double for pop star Kari Kingsley. How do you think Alexia’s experience in the spotlight would have worked out if she weren’t so level headed?
A. Well, being level headed isn’t a quality that seems to be in high demand among the celebrities of the world, so maybe no one would have even noticed. Alexia would have probably ended up with her own reality show, a perfume line, and a book tour. But I think as readers, we think that we would remain level headed even if someone did hand us all the glitz and fame of a celebrity life. We would still be true to ourselves, our values, and our roots. So that’s how I wanted Alexia to be.
Q. It’s very satisfying when Alexia’s rival’s attempt to hurt her–by posting a picture of her online–backfires, and instead gets Alexia her gig as Kari’s double. Have you ever experienced such a perfectly karmic moment?
A. Being an author is the best karmic payback you could ask for because you get to put your bad experiences in your novels. It’s like getting paid to go to junior high. And the guys who dumped me in high school–sooner or later they’ll all find their way into my novels as the villains.
Q. Alexia starts out in a small town but ends up finding herself and her family in Los Angeles. On your website you say that you also grew up in a small town–did you end up finding yourself in the big city like Alexia?
A. I am definitely a small town girl at heart–and yes, I live in one of the suburb cities of megatropolis, Phoenix, Arizona. (Why so many people want to live in an area whose summertime temperatures rival Hades, I’ll never know.) I can drive for an hour in any direction (and sometimes I do, because I get lost easily) without leaving civilization. There is something wrong about that. (Both the sprawl and the fact that I get lost easily.)
Q. Family is an important subject in My Double Life. Do you think Alexia’s family life ultimately shapes who she is?
A. Families give us our first sense of identity. They tell us who we are, and (hopefully) love us better than anyone else. (They also borrow our stuff without asking and barge into our bedrooms without knocking, but that is a different subject.) Alexia has grown up without her father and desperately wants to get to know him and gain his love. At first glance, My Double Life seems to be a book about wish fulfillment. Alexia goes from pauper to rock star princess, and gets a teen idol boyfriend along the way. (This is how my life should have been, but sadly wasn’t.) However if you look at what Alexia wants and what she ultimately thinks is important–the book is all about the importance of family. That’s why I dedicated this novel to my parents. They were always there for me.
Q. What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?
A. I do a lot of research for every book I write. I can find out a ton of stuff on the internet, but not everything. I always end up calling places and asking whoever picks up the phone a bunch of odd questions. I tell people I’m an author doing research, but I worry they think I’m a crazy person making crank calls.
Here are some actual questions I had to ask random strangers while writing this book:
- What kind of tile is on the lobby floor of the Waterfront Place hotel?
- What does the housekeeping supervisor wear?
- Do people in West Virginia have sprinkler systems in their lawns or do they just rely on rain? (After living in the desert for 20 years, I tend to forget that some plants grow on their own.)
The strangers in West Virginia were very good about answering my questions, but trying to find out anything about celebrities, their schedules, and their fees–not so easy. Hollywood is much harder to talk to than West Virginia. Hollywood is like the homecoming queen of cities who turns away and walks faster when she sees you coming down the hallway. I had to sift through a lot of entertainment and reality shows about celebrities to get the few facts I needed.
Q. In A New Dawn, your essay, “To Bite or Not To Bite; That Is the Question,” is about internal struggles and the importance of choice. While Alexia doesn’t have to restrain herself from killing people and drinking their blood, do you think that she also has to struggle to do the right thing?
A. Hmmm, suddenly I wish I had turned Alexia into a vampire because that would have been an interesting twist, wouldn’t it? But yes, the reason why the issue works in so many books is that we all can relate to it. Everyone struggles at one time or another with doing the right thing.
With Alexia, it’s a more interesting struggle because her stakes are higher. It’s easy to justify deceiving people about her identity when she has such good reasons for doing it–and it brings her fame, adoration, wealth, and the ideal boyfriend. Who wouldn’t pretend to be someone else for that? And yet at the same time, how can you put a price tag on your identity? Are those things worth it if people don’t know who you really are and don’t value you for being you?
Q. The title of your essay, as every high school English student will know, references Hamlet. Are you a Shakespeare fan?
A. I guess it depends on what you consider a fan. Do I think he was a talented writer? Yes. Did I read and appreciate his plays when I went to school? Yes. Do I read him in my free time? No. I’m too busy reading all the great contemporary stuff that’s around. I’ll probably get back to him someday. That’s the great thing about Will. He’s very patient about my reading schedule.
Q. And of course, I have to ask the question we’ve asked all of our A New Dawn contributors: Edward or Jacob?
A. I was totally team Edward until I watched New Moon . . . and now I want to ride a motorcycle in the hope that if I crash, a Taylor Lautner look-alike will whip off his shirt and use it stop my bleeding. Sorry, Edward, maybe my allegiances will switch during the next movies.
Q. What are you working on right now?
A. I’m up to my eyebrows in revisions. I’m revising the sequel to My Fair Godmother and I also have a stack of revisions to do on a dragon book that I’m writing under a pen name. (Don’t worry, you’ll know what book it is when it comes out, because I’ll be constantly praising its brilliance.)
Q. If you could recommend one book to read this year, what would it be?
A. Mine, of course–My Double Life–it will make you instantly popular, wealthy, and thin. Oh, you meant besides mine? I always recommend Hunger Games. (Go team Peeta!)