Tag: Interviews


Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on July 10th 2014
Pages: 288

Gladys Gatsby has dreamed of becoming a restaurant critic for New York's biggest newspaper--she just didn’t expect to be assigned her first review at age 11. Now, if she wants to meet her deadline and hang on to her dream job, she’ll have to defy her fast-food-loving parents, cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy, and battle Manhattan’s meanest maitre d’.

When I posted ALL FOUR STARS by TARA DAIRMAN as one of my top anticipated releases for 2014 at the beginning of the year, I had no idea the blog would be one of her interview stops, or that I would write a recipe-inspired post from the book. If you’ve read my review of this contemporary middle grade novel, out July 10th, you will know that it is one of my new favorites, and I absolutely fell in love with Gladys and her culinary antics!

I appreciate that Tara took the time to visit the blog and answer some questions I devised for her. I think you’ll enjoy reading her responses. And A SEQUEL!! She talked about a sequel!!


Tara Dairman headshot

1. I loved All Four Stars and think the plot is fantastic. Where and when did the idea for the story start to brew?

Thank you so much, Katie! I was living in New York when I first started to write ALL FOUR STARS, and working as an editor at a small magazine. In that job, I had freelance writers who wrote stories that I edited, but I never met most of them, or even talked to them on the phone. So it occurred to me that if a kid was a good writer, she might be able to hoodwink me into publishing her. And if she could trick me, why not the biggest newspaper in New York? 

I was interested in food and cooking, too, so it made sense for me to make my young writer a wannabe restaurant critic. And I moored her out in the suburbs, where I grew up, with parents who couldn’t have been less interested in gourmet food. The rest of the plot just kind of flowed from that!

I loved the contrast of a foodie protagonist with parents who cooked using the microwave–brilliant! 

2. What’s your writing process like? Is it very structured? Do you have to write in a specific location, have a certain noise level, etc.?

These days, I tend to be more structured about my writing process than I used to be. I prefer to work in the mornings, either at home or in public. I don’t mind a low level of background noise, but I can’t listen to music while I write. A hot beverage next to the computer is nice. But really, I can write anywhere if I have to. I drafted parts of ALL FOUR STARS on the New Jersey Transit Bus during my morning commute when I was living on the east coast, and in various spots (mostly cafes) around the world while I backpacked for two years with my husband.

I love to write while traveling, and I love the idea that some of your story was written in different cafes of the world!

3. What would you say to young readers who pick up ALL FOUR STARS and then want to learn to cook or bake, but have never made anything before? What would you encourage them to start with?

That’s a terrific question! Well, first of all, I’d make sure you have permission from an adult and supervision if necessary, especially if you are going to use knives or the stove or oven. Then I would pick a recipe that has a short list of ingredients. If you’re baking, something like muffins or a quick bread can be a good place to start; for dinner, maybe pasta with a very simple sauce, like garlic and oil. And a fancy salad is easy to make and can be surprisingly delicious—baby spinach with sliced pears and blue cheese was the first salad I ever made, and I love it to this day!

That is a lovely salad combination!

4. I love Gladys’s determination to get that restaurant review completed—are there any parallels between Gladys’s antics and her experiences in the book and your own childhood?

Haha—not that I can recall. Gladys is much bolder and more adventurous than I was at that age. The only real parallel I can think of is that I eventually developed a taste for surprising people—for instance, in high school, I did Mathletes and cheerleading at the same time. But that was about as bold as things got for me. 🙂

I enjoy hearing about unique high school experiences–they definitely make for interesting plot lines…

5. These are important questions I love to ask authors who visit the blog: Favorite kind of donut, Favorite kind of pie, Favorite kind of cake?

My favorite donut is the peanut butter and jelly donut from Square Donuts from Terre Haute, Indiana! My favorite kind of pie is cherry (closely followed by rhubarb), and my favorite kind of cake is carrot. Mmm, now I’m hungry for all of these things.

Excellent choices! Cherry pie is such a perfect choice for this time of year–I have to say I wouldn’t mind a slice myself.

6. I read about your amazing two year journey around the world with your husband—could you name your top three favorite meals? (and places where you had those meals?)

Ooh, a trip down culinary memory lane! It’s almost impossible to narrow it down, but here are three amazing meals I had:

-Breakfast of pan de yuca (cheese bread) and yogurt smoothies in Quito, Ecuador (2009)

Breakfast of pan de yuca and yogurt

-Lunch of donkey meat in Beijing, China—surprisingly tasty! (2011)

Lunch of donkey meat in China

-Christmas dinner in Hyderabad, India—chicken saag, Hyderabadi biryani (a specially-prepared rice dish with beautiful, extremely long rice grains), and so many different kinds of bread that the waiter warned us that we were ordering too much (2010)

Christmas dinner in Hyderabad

These look like three amazing meals! My cousin is getting ready to visit China–I’ll have to ask her about trying donkey meat. That Indian meal is definitely making my mouth water….Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos! 

7. Will there be any future books with Gladys or do you think you will write another foodie book?

Yes—there will be a sequel to ALL FOUR STARS in summer, 2015! It’s set during the summer after sixth grade, and Gladys faces a whole new world of professional and personal challenges. I’ll hopefully be able to share more information about it soon. I’m really excited about it.

(jumps up and down) I can’t wait!

8. Is there a dessert place in NYC like Classy Cakes that you would recommend to your readers?

Classy Cakes wasn’t based on any one place, but the restaurant Serendipity 3 on the Upper East Side is pretty well-known for its pricey desserts (and its long lines and snippy attitudes!), so I may have drawn a bit of inspiration from it. 

The Internet tells me that there is also an all-dessert restaurant in Manhattan called ChikaLicious, which sounds a lot like Classy Cakes, but I’ve never been! Maybe next time I’m in town…

Yes! I’ve been to Serendipity 3–we waited a long time to get in, but we wanted to try that frozen hot chocolate. 🙂 

Thank you so much for having me, Katie! These were terrific questions!

Thank you, Tara!!

Do look up this debut author–see links below! And you can get her book, out in just TWO DAYS!

Indie Bound
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

Social media links:

Website: www.taradairman.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TaraDairman

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaraDairmanAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13598351-all-four-stars

Also, be sure to check out The Midnight Garden ALL FOUR STARS blog tour, if you haven’t already!


What Katie Read

Author Interview: Jennifer Swann Downey, The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand (2014)

On April 15th, a new middle grade fantasy, The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand, will be shared with the world–the debut novel of author Jennifer Swann Downey. My review will be up on the blog later this week, but today, I am very happy she agreed to be interviewed on the blog! Welcome, Jennifer!


Prepare yourself—she shares some fantastic responses including where she would travel through time, her ideal library, and her love of apple cider donuts with vanilla ice cream!

Jen Swann Downey’s non-fiction pieces have appeared in New York Magazine, the Washington Post, Women’s Day, and other publjen downey pictureications. Her first middle-grade novel, THE NINJA LIBRARIANS, will be published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, April 1, 2014. Jen divides her time between libraries and other places, and will never stop looking for lickable wallpaper.


We had a question from the 3rd and 4th graders at Comenius School for Creative Leadership in Fort Mill, South Carolina! They asked: Where did you get the idea for the book?

How DID that idea sprout? I only have a GUESS! Which is kind of funny, right? I mean, if anyone should know, it should be me. Here is what I remember:

1. I decided I wanted to write a book. I remember clearly making the commitment before I even knew what story I wanted to tell!

2. Even though I didn’t yet know WHICH story I wanted to tell, I DID know that I wanted to tell a story to kids, and not just any kids! Not the youngest ones, and not the oldest ones, but those wonderful ones in the middle. The ones who could walk to a friend’s house alone but weren’t even thinking about a driver’s license yet.  I loved being that age. And I deeply loved the books I read at that age. And I deeply loved HOW I read books at that age. From cover to cover. Often at one sitting. Often by flashlight beneath the covers. Often when I was supposed to be doing something else. With gusto and appetite and relish. So I figured…it made sense to write a book for those aged kids.

3. Walking along one day, I imagined a cozy room with an enormous table with lots of very drippy candelabras sitting upon it that just about took up the whole room. Around the table sat people from all over the world. Real people who I had only read about it history books. People who lived all different kinds of time ago, and had written famous books, or invented toilets, or figured out why dogs barked. And these people were laughing and chatting each other up, and eating too many profiteroles, and burping, and excusing themselves, and I noticed that the walls of the room with the burping people and the enormous table were lined with doors of all shapes and sizes and designs, all jumbled up together, some literally on top of others. And I wanted to hang out with them.

So I suppose the story started with that imaginary picture. Though where that came from…..: )

If you received three opportunities to travel back in time, what three time periods would you visit?

I’m a little nervous about what I’d find, since tourist guidebooks and information about accommodations are in short supply, but I’d love to visit a neolithic village in say 7,000 BCE, and see how men and women related to each other and their children.  Renaissance Venice would call, because CANALS and ART and BRIDGES and THOSE HATS and rampant re-imaginings in progress, and I’d like to stop in on Ashoka the Great’s India  in the 3rd century BCE. (he was a fan of religious tolerance, equal treatment regardless of caste or creed, and non-violence, among other things!)

What are your top three favorite time travel books?

I’m going to count C.S. Lewis’ books as time travel books, and put them on my list. Also Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and Neil Gaiman’s “Fortunately, the Milk”.

Were there (or are there) any books you read as a young person or as an adult that you would describe as spiritual or that somehow affected your own spirituality?

Well this is awkward in a wonderful way. : ) The raw truth is, (I’m realizing right in this very moment!) that I rarely use the term “spirituality”.

I have a sister who does. We look very much alike (to the point where acquaintances often confuse us and strike up conversations with the wrong redhead) but this sister and I have very different attitudes towards the word. She fully embraces it as a useful positive term, while I tend to not employ it, and even regard it with some wariness. So to answer the question, I must, (oh how my sister would roll her eyes!) define the term for myself. Here’s how western culture seems to variously see it:

  • Oxford English Dictionary: spirituality

◦                     The quality or condition of being spiritual; attachment to or regard for things of the spirit as opposed to material or worldly interests.

  • Wiktionary – spirituality

◦                     Concern for that which is unseen and intangible, as opposed to physical or mundane.

◦                     Appreciation for religious values.

  • Medical – National Cancer Institute – spirituality

◦                     Having to do with deep, often religious, feelings and beliefs, including a person’s sense of peace, purpose, connection to others, and beliefs about the meaning of life

(Thank you for these definitions, Neil Greenburg (http://notes.utk.edu/bio/unistudy.nsf/935c0d855156f9e08525738a006f2417/bdc83cd10e58d14a852573b00072525d?OpenDocument))

Looking for my own life reflected in those definition, I have to sift carefully, rejecting some of it because at core I don’t tend to see the physical as mundane, and the intangible as a “more” real, separate, important or opposed sphere. I see the “physical” and the “intangible” as of a piece. Secondly, I’m neither an atheist nor a “believer” in any particular human-created conception of “God”  The existence or non-existence of a thing called “God” is simply not of burning importance to me. In point of fact, I’m suspicious about both the human desire to have gods and all the ways in which that can go so terribly wrong. I left my childhood and its semi-regular attendance at Catholic Churches with the distinct feeling that God might be a real jerk. A combination show-off, bully, and narcissist who forces less powerful beings to appease him in order to survive. I’m sure others drew very different conclusions from their childhood immersions in and brushes with religions, but that was mine.

So I suppose my “spirituality” sort of begins and ends with beliefs about how we humans should treat one another, other living things, and the natural world right here right now. Compassion, ethics, human rights. I figure if any Goddy being worthy of the name DOES exist, he/she/it would be fabulously compassionate, and wouldn’t give a rat’s heiny if I “believed” in him/her/it, or what I thought of him/her/it and be much more concerned about how I was treating those around me.

Phew okay, what was the question? ; )  Oh, yes!  Books that affected my own spirituality as defined:  As a child? A Wrinkle in Time, The Chronicles of Prydain, Huckleberry Finn, Animal Farm, The Diary of Anne Frank, and many books that had at their core a quest for justice, the weak standing up against the strong, often in the form of a child standing up to a domineering, spirit-crushing, self-serving adult (I should say at this juncture that I love my parents very much!). Perhaps it was my explicit awareness as a child of the Holocaust, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Viet Nam War that made these kinds of stories especially compelling to me. I think I felt bolstered and strengthened by these books.and able to cope with the a world in which so much suffering took place.  As an adult? The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodron, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, The Autobiography of Emma Goldman, The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler, The Education of Henry Adams, and so many more!

If you could design your own library what it would look like?

About like Petrarch’s Library ; )

We at the blog love donuts, and we notice that donuts are being served at one of your future events. What is your favorite kind of donut?

Well, there aren’t many donuts I’d kick out of bed for eating crackers. They all have their chewy gooey, crumbly, dusty, yeasty, glaz-ed charms. In fact, my husband and I like donuts so much, we uh….started a family donut-making business (Carpe Donut). We make apple-cider donuts, served hot, and sometimes sliced in half and stuffed with vanilla ice-cream.  THOSE are my true favorites!

I would love to try one of those apple cider donuts right about now…they sound fabulous!

What character from what book would you like to have tea/coffee with and why?

I’ll have a different answer tomorrow of course, but today I’d like to take a long walk in the 1930s English countryside road with Topaz from Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle with a picnic basket full of egg-salad sandwiches, strawberries and a thermos of coffee. I’d like to hear more about how she, the nature-loving sometime less than fully clothed nocturnal wanderer and very young step-mother, felt about the life she was leading, and the rest of her family.

Topaz would be so much fun to have a picnic with!

Thank you, Jennifer, for answering all our questions–we love The Ninja Librarians and can’t wait for its release day on April 15th!

What Katie Read

Author Interview: Rebecca Behrens (When Audrey Met Alice, Sourcebooks, 2014)

I am so excited to have Rebecca Behrens interviewed on Spirit of Children’s Literature! Her middle grade novel, When Audrey Met Alice, just released on February 4th, 2014, and is published by Sourcebooks. Her debut novel, Behrens has written a gem of a book that highlights the adventures and challenges of thirteen year old First Daughter, Audrey Rhodes. When she discovers the old diary of Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice, from the 1901 and 1902, she begins to follow Alice’s advice, “To Thine Own Self Be True.” What follows is a fabulous story shifting between two distinct voices. (My full review to follow).

Please enjoy this fun interview with Rebecca! rebecca

Bio: Rebecca Behrens grew up in Wisconsin, studied in Chicago, and now lives with her husband in New York City, where she works as a production editor for children’s books. Rebecca loves writing and reading about girls full of moxie and places full of history. When she’s not writing, you can find her running in the park, reading on a beach, or eating a donut. Visit her online at www.rebeccabehrens.com.

Where did you get inspiration for writing When Audrey Met Alice?

I’ve always been fascinated by children living in the White House, and when President Obama was elected in 2008, I thought a lot about how the lives of his daughters would change as they headed to Washington. I wondered if being a First Daughter, as exciting as that is, might also be lonely. The idea of a First Daughter feeling a little isolated developed into Audrey’s character. At the same time, I was very interested Alice Roosevelt’s wild life at the turn of the century. I wanted to write about a First Daughter, but I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to write about Alice or a contemporary girl. Then when I was out for a brainstorming walk in New York, it hit me: I could combine Alice’s story with that of a contemporary First Daughter, via a long-lost diary. This is where my inspiration story gets strange: I found out later on that Alice’s aunt had lived at the very intersection where the idea hit me, and Alice spent plenty of time there as a young person. Weird!

That is an amazing story! I would say there is definitely a cool element of coincidence in how you arrived at the idea for the story when you were on your brainstorming walk. I can imagine other authors have stories like this.

What do you like most about writing for young people?

As a kid, I was always a reader, but it was when I read middle grade that I truly fell in love with books. Those years are the age of discovery, and the stories I read then stick with me. The older I get, the more I realize that the way I observed the world as a kid—with wonder, optimism, and curiosity—is the way I’d like to look at it now. But most of all, children’s books are incredibly fun, both to write and to read.

I couldn’t agree with you more! I think reading children’s books is one of the best activities out there!! Of course, writing them would be too.

What are your top two tips for anyone who wants to write a children’s book?

The first one is to read lots and lots of books for children—across genres and across categories. My second tip is to find a great critique group. Not only will you get feedback on your writing, but being part of a group of writers keeps you both accountable and inspired.

Really fantastic advice! Getting feedback for writing seems to be something that many authors I have talked to say is so important.

What are some of your favorite books?

I’ll stick with books for young readers, because otherwise this list will go on for pages. I love THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, WALK TWO MOONS, ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, NUMBER THE STARS, BETTER NATE THAN EVER, SPEAK, THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, ASK THE PASSENGERS, and FEED.

Such great choices! Feed is so good–a book I recommend to people all the time. Another favorite of mine: Number the Stars!

Who is your favorite hero/heroine in children’s or young adult literature?

I really love Turtle Wexler from THE WESTING GAME. She’s not a perfect heroine—she can be a little arrogant and aloof, and she does have that habit of kicking people in the shins. But she is clever, determined, resourceful, and good-hearted.

I may need to plan a re-read of The Westing Game!

Are you planning to write another children’s book? What’s it about (if we may be so bold to ask!)  

I’m working on another book that blends contemporary and historical fiction—this time, the setting involves the lost colony of Roanoke.

Love, love, love this idea!! As a young person I was always fascinated by the lost colony of Roanoke. We at the blog are cheering you on to write this book!

We on this blog really love donuts and pie. What’s your favorite kind of donut and your favorite kind of pie?

I adore this question! Although I love trying adventurous donut varieties, my ultimate favorite donut is surprisingly simple: a glazed chocolate cake donut with sprinkles (or toasted coconut). And for pie, I really love a good tart cherry pie. Oddly enough, that’s one pie I’ve never baked myself—my specialties are pecan and blackberry cream. 

So glad you enjoyed the question! I am thinking we will ask this of every author from now on! Your choice of donut sounds divine, and a few of our favorites are glazed and also cinnamon crumb. Cherry pie: fabulous. If our paths ever cross, perhaps you could bring a blackberry cream pie? And we’ll make pumpkin donuts! 🙂

Thanks so much, Rebecca, for answering these questions and visiting the blog! We loved your book and look forward to your future works!

What Katie Read
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