Ask Janet

Students write to me all the time for information for school reports. There’s some info in the about page, but here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions.

How do you pronounce your name?

Believe it or not, this is one of the most common questions I’m asked. Here’s an audio clip of the correct pronunciation.

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Are you like any of the characters in your novels?

While I’m working on a book, I never think the characters have anything to do with me. Then when I finish writing and read the manuscript, I am always shocked to discover they do. Trudy’s ambitions and enthusiasm are familiar qualities; so are Monica’s hyper-analyzing, Becky’s love of comedy, and Larry’s belief that ordinary people can change the world. Larry and I both do yoga; I do a better full of lotus, but his tree pose is a hundred times better than mine.

How long does it take you to write a novel?

It usually takes me three to five months to write a first draft then another several months to rewrite it. My final draft is a vast improvement over the first. I write in longhand as well as on the computer. I like the freedom of writing by hand in a notebook; you can do it anywhere. I edit and revise on the hard copy itself — I’ve never mastered editing onscreen, a leftover Journalism habit, I guess.

What kind of books do you like to read?

When I’m working on a novel, I read non-fiction. For me, it’s difficult to be inside to fictional worlds at the same time. But I read a lot, at least two books a week. Reading is one of my favorite activities, hands down.

After you write a book, are you done?

I wish! The process is similar to when your teacher gives you back the book report you slaved over and there’s so much red ink on it, it looks like a roadmap of downtown Manhattan. Same thing when my editor returns a manuscript to me. (Except she uses pencil.) I storm around the house for a day, then roll up my sleeves and start the rewrite.

Do you base your characters on people you know?

I’ve found you have much richer soil to mine from when you stay in the world of the imagination. That doesn’t’ mean, however, that I don’t steal my friends’ names and use them all the time; I do.

Did you have anything to do with the Disney TV movie True Confessions?

I didn’t write the screenplay but went to the set in Toronto for three days while they were filming. The movie was a bit different from the novel (the kids were older, they lived with both parents) but I thought Disney did a great job. I was concerned that Eddie be portrayed well, so Disney had a mental-healthy professional on the set. I was very happy when I watched the finished product. I am always breathlessly asked at school visits if I met Shia LeBouf and Clara Bryant. Yes, they are both adorable, talented, and take their jobs very seriously.