In which Horn Book disses commercial fiction and me by name

Okay, actually Horn Book only dissed the flap copy and premise of my book, which I don’t feel too badly about since Tim, the Bow-Tied One, came up with both. And I rewrote the flap copy for the book and was surprised that the older version was on the ARCs. (Note to self, make sure it’s not on the real books.)

But this is from the editor in chief at Horn Book’s blog:

Not as rhetorical a question as you might have wished

From the promo blurb for My Double Life, by Janette Rallison:

You know how they say everyone has a twin somewhere in the world, a person chance has formed to be their mirror image? Well, mine happens to be rock star Kari Kingsley. How crazy is that?

Not crazy at all, when you, like I, have just spent two days combing through dozens (and dozens) of new YA novels, every other one of which seeming to encapsulate a formula of romance novel plus high-concept commercial hook plus glamorama cover art. In my day we called these paperbacks.

One of the more interesting of post-Harry Potter developments has been the emergence of commercial fiction for young people; that is, books designed to be purchased by kids/teens themselves, written in an undemanding style and with an alluring, quickly graspable premise. Airport books. Except if they were airport books, I wouldn’t have to think twice about not reviewing them. And. There. Are. So. Many. And so many that seem to want desperately to be just like some other book that has already been a hit. Little Vampire Women, I’m looking at you.

Okay, now it’s Janette typing again.

My first reaction when I read this was to laugh and go write Little Vampire Women. (You know somebody is going to do it, and it will be a bestseller.) But it did get me thinking about the whole issue. Then today I went back to reread the blog and noticed that somebody had left a scathing anonymous comment so I figured I had better leave a comment because otherwise everyone would think I was the anonymous commenter. Here is my comment:

Hi Roger,
To tell you the truth, when my editor asked me to write this book, I had some similar thoughts to yours and joked with him more than once that we should call the book: Yes, Hannah Montana Fans, This Book is for You!

But really, there are no new plots, just new characters to live in them. I asked myself what elements I could add to this much used Prince and the Pauper plot to make it meaningful. Trust me, the issues in the book do run deeper than the flap copy suggests.

As far as the benefits of commercial fiction go, I’ll just say this: I’ve had teenagers tell me they didn’t like reading until they started reading my books. I had two reluctant reader sons who learned that reading could be fun by reading Captain Underpants. Whatever works! Now they’re reading the classics.

And thank you, Roger, for all you do to bring the wonderful world of reading to kids too!

Now I think I’ll sit down and start writing that Little Vampire Women book you mentioned. It’s going to be gold!


  1. Debbie Barr
    March 20, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Well, I’m glad you took it all in stride, and didn’t take it as a severe blow to your ego. Or, if you did, that you didn’t show it. You’ve got class, girl!

    And I’ll be eagerly awaiting Little Vampire Women.

  2. Felicia M.
    March 20, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    It’s such a good idea, someone has already done it. Little Vampire Women will be out in May. Lynn Messina is coauthor. I’m looking forward to it. I guess Tim isn’t.

  3. Felicia M.
    March 20, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Woops. I mean Roger. (Sorry. Just put daughter down for nap after very looooong morning.)

  4. Kathy H.
    March 20, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    I can’t believe someone beat you to it.
    I’m not sure Louisa May Alcott really wants her name on this book…

    The March sisters are back, sweeter and more loving than ever. But they’ve grown up since you last read their tale. That’s right—they live on as vampires. Readers will be agog and aghast at the hilarity of the sisters’ transformation—especially now that they have (much) longer lives and (much) more ravenous appetites.

    This uproarious retelling of a timeless American classic will leave teens craving the bloodthirsty drama on each and every page.

  5. Janette Rallison
    March 20, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Dang! Someone beat me to it. Now I must find a new classic to transform. Dorothy the Vampire Hunter? Where will her house drop next?

    Gone with the Wind and Zombies? Because tomorrow is another day . . .

  6. Kelly Harkner
    March 20, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Ha! I just poked around and found there are TWO Little Women books in the works. And get this–the winner of the Pulitizer Prize for his Alcott bio is chatting with them about their versions. Crazy but it actually sounds like fun.

    Lynn Messina, coauthor of Little Vampire Women and Porter Grand, coauthor of Little Women and Werewolves, sit down with John Matteson, author of Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Biography on May 6 at Symphony Space (2537 Broadway at 95th Street).

  7. Kath
    March 20, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Although I’m not a fan of changing classics into vampire/werewolf novels a few do pop into mind that would be fun as a paranormal story or just a fun re-write… In fact, I personally would love it if you re-wrote North and South in a more modern setting with a little more romance. =)

    North and South, Rebecca, Oliver Twist (maybe the twist could be that he is a vampire?) and maybe Northanger Abbey…

  8. azang
    March 20, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Nicely done! And your comment was well received and backed up, go you!

    Even thought I don’t like the title as well as the one I suggested *cough*cough* I’m still looking forward to reading it.


  9. Nikki Thornton
    March 21, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Liked your post. Someday I hope to write a book where the royalties will pay for the copies I give away.

  10. Karlene
    March 21, 2010 at 11:19 am

    I saw “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” at the bookstore the other day. 🙂

    Your comment to the post was wonderful.

  11. Sara
    March 21, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” is being made into a movie and directed by Tim Burton, or so I heard… 🙂

  12. Noble M Standing
    March 21, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Kath, actually Northanger Alibi, a remake of Abbey, is being released on June 1st. And yes there is at least a mention of a vampire in it. The author is Jenni James

  13. Janette Rallison
    March 21, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    How did I miss this classic remake train?

  14. Enchanted Etymologist
    March 28, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Ooh I think you should definitely do Dorothy the Vampire Hunter! SO HILARIOUS!

  15. Julie Wright
    April 5, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    I know I said it before, but I love you Janette. you are awesome and your response was good.

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