Why do you write? Why specifically for young readers?
Tara: In my previous life, I owned a boutique store where I 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. When my family relocated to the Charlotte, NC 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: I kind of fell into writing for children by accident. This was Tara’s dream. 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.
Where did the idea for I Am Famouscome from?
Becky: Tara had been listening to 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. 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.
Tara: The original submission included a baby sibling. 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. As for the look and feel of the artwork and glittery cover of I Am Famous, it came out better than I could have ever imagined.
Becky: Our publisher really understood our vision for this story from the beginning, but Joanne’s artwork is more amazing than I ever dreamed. She really brought out the humor and nailed the main character’s personality.
Do you think the “famous” aspect of children’s lives is more so now as compared to when you were growing up?
Tara: Oh yes, it’s a different world. We grew up with parents who had one of the first camcorders and did record everything, BUT there was no YouTube or Facebook or any way to share it with relatives unless they were visiting. Then my parents would force them to sit down and watch family videos (probably boring them to death). The yearly family Christmas card picture was embarrassing enough! But for today’s kids, it is par for the course that their adorable childhood antics will be shared widely. They are famous in their own circles.
Becky: I dreamed of being Madonna as a child. 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!
Take me through your creative process? Does one of you do the first draft and the other follow up or is it more collaborative from the start?
Becky: Tara usually starts with a draft and sends it to me (with or without an ending). Next, we go back and forth with edits, or set up calls to fully develop the story. Then we each have separate critique groups who help us with their opinions and we compare notes on what each group said.
Now that you’ve been working as a team for a number of years, would you ever consider writing solo again?
Tara: I have no idea what the future brings, of course, but we entered into this together so I don’t see us going solo.
Becky: I never wrote alone, and Tara has so many good ideas and is so knowledgeable about the business, I would not be here without her.
How would you say your work has evolved from your first book until now?
Tara: We have learned quite a lot about the craft of writing since we first started. Our initial stories contained many of the typical rookie mistakes. They were too long, too descriptive, too didactic or not novel enough. I think the biggest change is that we now understand “voice” and have found our own.
What are you working on now?
Becky: Marketing our first two books is taking a lot of our time right now, but we are always working on new stories. In addition, we are currently editing the four books we have coming out over the next two years.
Is there a book from your own childhood that still resonates with you today?
Becky: Pickle Chiffon Pie by Jolly Roger Bradfield. The message of putting others before yourself, along with the magical setting and characters, still makes me smile.
Tara: I completely agree; Pickle Chiffon Pie!