This month we welcome Austin SCBWI member Tara Dairman to our interview series.
Tara is the author of the ALL FOUR STARS middle-grade foodie series—the first of which was an Amazon Best Book of the Month and SCBWI Crystal Kite Award winner—and THE GREAT HIBERNATION (out now!). She has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and—thanks to an epic round-the-world honeymoon—has visited more than 90 countries.
Thanks for joining us, Tara!
Where did you grow up, and how did that place shape your work?
I grew up in a suburb of New York City, on Long Island. It’s a town that’s really similar to the setting for my first three books, the All Four Stars series. The protagonist of those books, GladysGatsby, is sort of tortured because she’s so close to the big city (and all of its delicious restaurants!) and yet, as a 12-year-old who can’t drive and whose parents aren’t interested in chaperoning her there, she’s so far, too. Which is sort of reflective of my experience growing up there.
Did you always want to be a writer, or did that come later?
I did always want to be a writer! I tried to write my first novel the summer after fourth grade (made it a few chapters in before I got distracted by the next bright shiny idea–story of a writer’s life!). I majored in creative writing in college and found a job as a magazine editor after that, so I’ve been working with words one way or another for most of my life.
If someone were to follow you around for 24 hours, what would they see?
I have a two-year-old and a two-month-old, so they’d see a lot of board books and burp cloths! But they’d probably also find me cooking or baking something with my toddler at some point; she’s starting to get interested in the food-making process, so that’s a lot of fun. I’m definitely in “squeeze writing in whenever you can” mode right now instead of having a formal schedule, but I’m actually doing a decent job of squeezing it in most days, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
How does your everyday life feed your work?
With my young kids, I’m reading more picture books, so I’m learning a lot about that form. I recently sold my first picture book, which will be out in 2020–exciting! But in general, the busy-ness of life right now is actually making me be kind of ruthlessly efficient; sometimes I get more writing done during naptime than I used to accomplish in an workday. (But other times I definitely choose to nap during my kids’ naptimes instead–no shame!)
Tell us about some accomplishments that make you proud.
I’ve traveled to more than 90 countries–including a 2-year, 74-country backpacking honeymoon–and that experience continues to feed me as a human and as an even artist years later. The proudest moment of my life, though, was when I wrote “The End” on the first draft of my first novel, ALL FOUR STARS. I’d been wanting to write a novel my whole life, and I’d been working on it for six years, and whoa, I actually finished it. (Of course, I had no idea how much revision lay ahead.)
What surprises you about the creative life?
How much of creativity is just butt-in-chair time. I’ve written enough books at this point that that really shouldn’t surprise me, but it seems that this is a lesson I must constantly relearn.
When a reader discovers your work, what do you hope they find?
I hope they find laughter and joy, and I hope that their curiosity is sparked as well about some of the ideas and subjects my books cover. I’ve had emails from kids who’ve cooked or eaten a new food because they read about it in my STARS books, and I’m just tickled that something I wrote is getting readers to be more curious and adventurous in their own lives!
Quick Fire Questions:
You’d rather be a bear or a mouse? Mouse – easier to sneak into interesting places and observe!
You’d rather be a character in The Hunger Games or in A Game of Thrones? GOT – better chance of staying alive, I think, though barely…
You’d rather be stranded on an island with an endless supply of cheese OR broccoli?Cheese, though I like broccoli a lot, too!
You can find Tara at taradairman.com and on on Twitter @TaraDairman.