FORMER TEACHER LEARNING TO LIVE WITH FAN-MAIL
The Evening Telegraph - Derby, UK 09:30 - 27 December 2001 - A former Derby teacher has swapped signing the register for autograph books after becoming a best-selling children's author in America.
H.J. Ralles (43) has taken the teenage book market by storm with her first adventure novel, Keeper of the Kingdom.
The first print of the book, which tells the tale of a computer game-mad youngster who is sucked into the fantasy world he plays, sold out in just eight months.
Mrs Ralles, ... will release her second book, a sci-fi adventure called Darok 9, next month and a sequel to her first is planned for the beginning of 2003.
It is all a far cry from when the mother-of-two was teaching youngsters at Alvaston Infant School from 1992 to 1994 before she moved to Plano, Texas.
Three years and four books later she finally plucked up the courage to try to get Keeper of the Kingdom published.
Mrs Ralles said: "I'm amazed at the success I've enjoyed with the book.
"Writing children's science fiction has become a passion and I always dreamed of having one of my books published but I never expected that the fan mail would pour in and that schools would put my book on their language curriculum.
"Books have to compete with computer and video games and action-packed movies for children's attention these days and many children prefer to sit in front of the television than curl up with a good book.
"I hope my futuristic adventures will encourage them to read more."
In between writing, she spends time with her sons, 15-year-old Richard and 14-year-old Edward, as well as touring the country for book signings.
She has even had fans turn up on her doorstep asking for an autograph.
Despite embracing the American way of life after moving to Texas when her husband, Malcolm, took a job there in the aero-engine industry, she still misses some things about her homeland - in particular the green countryside and traditional English sausages.
She said: "I will always be very fond of Britain but Texas is a wonderful place to live and the weather is something that I don't miss in Derby."
Mrs Ralles said that many of her former colleagues and friends from the area were probably unaware of her success across the Atlantic.
At the moment, Keeper of the Kingdom is only available to UK readers through a number of internet sites but there is the possibility that it will be turned into a film, and scriptwriters are currently working on it.
Doreen Whelbourn, Mrs Ralles's former head teacher at Alvaston Infant School, Alvaston, said: "It's fabulous news.
"She's a very bubbly person and she made a very positive contribution during her time here.
"We're all very thrilled for her."