All Four Kids: An Interview with Tara Dairman, author of ALL FOUR STARS

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Hello! Fearless 15er Dan Gemeinhart here. I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Tara Dairman, author of the delectable debut ALL FOUR STARS. ALL FOUR STARS is the hilarious story of pint-sized foodie Gladys Gatsby, who dreams of rising above the predictable palates of her parents to become a big city restaurant reviewer. It was a scrumptious MG read that you absolutely will want to sink your teeth into. Here’s the official book blurb:

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman CoverMeet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.) Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world. But in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?”

ALL FOUR STARS is available today at:

Indiebound  /  Penguin  /  B & N  /  Amazon  /  Book Depository

DG:  Your main character, Gladys Gatsby, is quite a precocious adventurer. Looking at your website (http://andyandtarasworld.blogspot.com/), you seem like quite the precocious adventurer yourself. How much of you is there in Gladys?

Tara: Thanks, Dan. I’m not sure I’m young enough to be considered “precocious” anymore—but hey, I’ll take it! 🙂 I’ve definitely become more adventurous—in my eating, traveling, etc.—with age, but when I was Gladys’s age, I was pretty timid. There’s just no way I ever would have had the guts to secretly correspond with a top newspaper editor, or sneak around in New York City by myself trying to bag a restaurant review, or even throw a peanut butter sandwich against the cafeteria wall like Gladys does in the “Food Fight” chapter. So in creating Gladys, I’d say I sort of combined the shyness of my kid life with some of the adventurousness of my adult life, if that makes sense.

 

DG: Gladys struggles with hiding her all-consuming passion – for food and cooking – from her parents and peers. Where did this idea come from? Have you ever had to hide or deny a secret passion or dream of your own?

Tara: Luckily, I’ve never had to keep my passions a secret from my family and friends. But I do remember that when I first started to get interested in learning how to cook, my parents acted like I was a little nuts. To them, cooking was just another household chore, as humdrum as folding laundry or scrubbing the tub. If I could skip out on that chore by eating takeout and microwaved meals, why wouldn’t I? But once I started to get good at cooking and prepared some meals for them, they came around.

 

DG: Gladys dreams of becoming a food critic for a major newspaper. If Gladys reviewed the last meal you made, what would she say?

Tara: Haha, great question. The last new recipe I tried was “open kibbeh” from the cookbook JERUSALEM. I think that Gladys would have praised the bold mix of spices (cinnamon, allspice, coriander) and the variety of tastes and textures (crumbly bulgur; savory ground meat; smooth tahini paste; crunchy pine nuts) that are combined in the dish. She might have criticized it for being a little too greasy, and for the kibbeh not holding its shape as well as it could have (I probably didn’t drain the bulgur well enough). But I think overall she would have been pleased. A solid 3 stars out of 4. 🙂

 

DG: What was your writing process like for ALL FOUR STARS? Did it come out in a thrilling sprint or was there lots of false starts, drafting, revising and rewriting?

Tara: All of those things! I drafted the first two-thirds of the book very slowly, over the course of four years; there were definitely a couple of false starts in there. Then I took the manuscript on my two-year round-the-world honeymoon, and swore that I’d have a completed draft when I came back. I wrote most of the last third of the book in a 5-day sprint in Tanzania, while my husband was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. And then there was plenty more revising to do before I found an agent in 2012, and of course more edits once the book was acquired for publication.

 

DG: You’ve traveled the world, eating incredible food from all four corners of the globe. What were some of your very favorite meals?

Tara: It’s almost impossible to begin narrowing them down, but I”ll try. Here are a few meals that have stuck in my memory:

-Pupusas and casmiento at Abbi Pupuseria in the hills overlooking San Salvador (El Salvador) [http://andyandtarasworld.blogspot.com/2009/12/el-salvador-not-savior-of-our.html]

-Peanut-sauce-doused foods on sticks at a cook-your-own-sate restaurant in Melaka (Malaysia) http://andyandtarasworld.blogspot.com/2011/02/pass-peanut-sauce-foods-of-malaysia.html

-Stuffing ourselves with Ethiopian food at Addis Ababa Restaurant in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) http://andyandtarasworld.blogspot.com/2010/11/ethiopian-eats.html

-Spending a whole day just eating baklava in “the world capital of baklava”: Gazi Antep (Turkey) http://andyandtarasworld.blogspot.com/2010/12/bak-bak-baklava-or-turkey-with-cherry.html

 

DG: Let’s pretend Gladys’ next dream is to become a travel writer. Based on your own adventures, where would you send her first?

Tara: I’d probably send her to Bhutan, since I’ve never been there and really want to go. That would require a research trip, right? 🙂

 

DG: What’s coming up next for you? Any other great books on the horizon with your name on them?

Tara: There’s going to be a sequel to ALL FOUR STARS in 2015! I haven’t announced the title yet, but should be able to soon. I’m working on final edits on that book now, and I just saw a cover sketch—it’s fantastic. I hope that readers who get to know Gladys in ALL FOUR STARS will be excited to see her adventures continue.

 

DG: And now, our traditional final question: as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of, and something you are not afraid of.

Tara: I’m afraid of big insects and arachnids, always have been. And I can’t bring myself to eat bugs, either–that’s the limit of my culinary adventurousness.
I’m not afraid of deep-tissue massages. They’re the best! The occasional bruising is totally worth it.
DG: Thanks so much for your time, Tara. I can’t wait for the rest of the world to fall in love with ALL FOUR STARS as much as I did!

Tara Dairman headshotTara Dairman is the author of the middle-grade novel ALL FOUR STARS, which will be published by Putnam/Penguin in 2014. She is also a playwright and a recovering round-the-world honeymooner (2 years, 74 countries!). Tara holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. You can find her online in the following places: Blog: taradairman.com/blog Facebook: facebook.com/TaraDairmanAuthor Twitter: twitter.com/#!/TaraDairman Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5815760.Tara_Dairman

Dan Gemeinhart is an author and teacher-librarian who lives smack dab in the middle of Washington State with his wife and three daughters. What passes for his website can be found at www.dangemeinhart.com, and he can more frequently be found on Twitter. His contemporary adventure MG novel, THE HONEST TRUTH, will be out from Scholastic Press in January 2015.
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