Humor a common thread of her books—and her life

Oh, the angst of high school life--dates, proms, popularity, teachers, ex-boyfriends. The list can seem endless when viewed through the lens of a teen.

Kyrene Corridor author Janette Rallison captures the whole kaleidoscope of a cheerleader’s world in her humorous and witty book,“All’s Fair in Love, War, and High School.”

Rallison’s heroine, Samantha Taylor, is a bright and sassy character who battles the SAT, the prom and a bet by her ex-boyfriend that she can go two weeks without insulting anyone.

Out last fall, the book was publicized with a book signing in May at Chandler Fashion Center.

Her next book, due out in October, is titled “Life, Love and the Pursuit of Free Throws.”

“I thought it would be fun to write a story from the viewpoint of ‘the evil cheerleader’,” says Rallison.

“I wanted to have her change and grow and become a better person. I found I had to keep tinkering with her character to keep her likeable, even though she insults everyone.”

When writing, Rallison freely admits to using her own daughter as a sounding board.

“I am always picking her brain,” she says. “A lot of her life gets worked into my books--even her dating life. She teases me that all I want her for is ideas for my books.”

All’s Fair is Rallison’s second young-adult novel and the ninth in a string of books she has written, including several romance novels. Amazingly, the mother of five children keeps to her goal of writing two pages a day, even though she admits that some days it’s like drawing blood.
Her creative formula for balancing a whirlwind life and writing? “Playgroups, nap time and videos,” she laughs.

“For a long time,” she says, “I’d write stories and plays, but I would never get past the rough draft stage. Finally I decided I was really going to send something in. I was totally thrilled when I found out I would be published; it felt like I was a ‘real writer.’”

With success, her attitude has changed.

“Now I look at people with eight or nine books out, and I consider them ‘real’ writers. There’s always some other thing to achieve in writing; now I want someone to recognize who I am by my name.”

Humor seems to be a continual thread that runs through Rallison’s writing career, as in the case of “Playing the Field,” another one of her young adult books.

Set in the small town of Gilbert, Ariz., the book caused a few mixups regarding frames of reference.

“It was really funny when I was writing it,” she recalls, “because I kept forgetting that other places have seasons. I would have people mowing the lawn in the middle of the winter! I had to keep going back and making sure my characters had coats walking out the door.

“Plus, my editors in New York would keep asking me questions about things we take for granted here, such as lantanas and ramadas. Another time I had a character that couldn’t date because he didn’t have a car. My editor couldn’t understand why, since in New York it was easy to go on dates without a car.”

As for romance books, of which Rallison has written three, she quips that she had to create the romance genre in fiction because her husband is an engineer.

Plus, she adds, “Where else do you get to use the words “wry” and “brooding? Growing up I read so many romances, I thought that was the way men were supposed to be. When I grew up and realized that’s not the way it was, I knew why women wrote those stories.”

Rallison started out writing books for what she calls “the Church of Latter-day Saints market” (through Deseret Books in Salt Lake City) before breaking into the national market.

She was fortunate to find an agent through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a group that has an Arizona chapter as well as others throughout the United States. “Every year,” says Rallison, “they have a conference with agents, publishers, editors and potential writers. I would really recommend their conferences for anyone who wants to get into writing books for youth.

“After all, where else would you get editors from New York coming out to coach you on writing tips? They also critique your writing, which is an invaluable experience.”

For several years now, Rallison has been working on a romance book about the Middle Ages, which she says is very challenging.

“I’ve got tons of books on the subject all over my desk, plus I’m busy researching other books of that era. This book will have taken more time than all my other books. I still want to keep on writing young adult books though, because I think it’s important for teens to have books to read that don’t require taking Prozac after!

“A lot of the books my daughter reads are very serious.”