Sisters Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie never have imagined as children that they would end up as authors, but fate has a way of changing things.
Once upon a time, Tara owned a boutique store where she bought and sold toys and picture books all day long. “I especially loved the books and often had ideas for my own stories, but with three young kids, a store to run, and a husband traveling for work, I never found the time to write,” she said.
“When my family relocated to the Charlotte, N.C., area for my husband’s job, I finally had time to try my hand at writing. My retail experience was invaluable in helping me identify which ideas were kid-friendly and marketable, and I knew that if I did not take the leap I would always wonder ‘what if.’ I love a variety of genres, but picture books just come naturally to me.”
Becky, on the other hand, fell into writing by accident. “This was Tara’s dream,” Becky told Cracking the Cover. “When she asked me to read her first stories, I sent them back with so many suggestions and changes that she made me her co-author. Revisiting picture books as an adult brings up so many happy memories. It’s amazing how stories from your childhood can stay with you. It is so important to be exposed to books at a young age when your imagination is at its peak.”
I Am Famous tells the story of a little girls who knows she’s famous. The paparazzi, aka her parents, follow her every move. It’s exhausting work, but someone’s got to do it.
The idea for I Am Famous stemmed from Weird Al’s song TMZ, a parody of Taylor Swift’s You Belong to Me. “His song is about the paparazzi stalking celebrities and taking pictures of them doing mundane things,” Becky said. “We were talking on the phone and Tara mentioned how today’s parents are like the paparazzi with their phone cameras and social media. The idea flowed quickly from there.”
Children live in a different world than the one Tara and Becky grew up in. They grew up with parents who had one of the first camcorders and recorded everything, but there was no YouTube or Facebook to share those videos on. Those videos had to be shared in a room where everyone gathered together.
“For today’s kids, it is par for the course that their adorable childhood antics will be shared widely,” Tara said. “They are famous in their own circles.”
“I dreamed of being Madonna as a child,” Becky added. “With social media, however, the scope of people sharing and watching your content is at a whole new level. I am sure our mom would have been the over-sharing queen, and I am grateful my old family videos are not on the Internet!”
The final version of I Am Famous is far different from the way the sisters first envisioned it.
“The original submission included a baby sibling,” Tara said. “The publisher had the idea to split the story and make a prequel. The sibling was then moved to the second book, I Used to be Famous (to be published spring 2019). Initially we were thrilled, but then we freaked out, scrambling to write a new story line in a short amount of time. Fortunately, it all came together.”
“Our publisher really understood our vision for this story from the beginning,” Becky said. “But Joanne’s artwork is more amazing than I ever dreamed. She really brought out the humor and nailed the main character’s personality.”
Learn more about Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, including their writing process and how their work has evolved, by reading the complete transcript of their interview with Cracking the Cover.
Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie are sisters. Tara previously owned a kids’ toy and book store in Atlanta. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and three sons. Becky was a casting producer for reality TV shows, including NBC’s America’s Got Talent, ABC’s Extreme Makeover, and E!’s The Simple Life in Los Angeles. She now lives in Chicago.To learn more about Tara and Becky, and to download an activity kit, visit http://beckytarabooks.com/ or on Twitter: @t_luebbe and @b_cattie. Instagram: @taraluebbe.
Joanne Lew-Vriethoff is the acclaimed illustrator of A Day with Parkinson’s by A. Hultquist. She lives in Amsterdam with her family.