Tara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and survivor of the world’s longest honeymoon (2 years, 74 countries!). Thanks to her travels, parts of her first middle-grade novel, All Four Stars, were written in a mall in Brazil, a guesthouse in Morocco, and coffeehouses in Argentina, Cameroon, Gabon, and Tanzania. Revisions took place in the slightly less exotic locale of her parents’ basement in New York.
The book, which tells the story of an 11-year-old restaurant critic moonlighting for New York’s biggest newspaper, was published in 2014 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin. It won a Crystal Kite Award from SCBWI, and was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month, A Mighty Girl Top Book of the Year, and a Cybils finalist. Two sequels, The Stars of Summer and Stars So Sweet followed, as did a standalone middle-grade novel called The Great Hibernation (published by Wendy Lamb Books/Random House). Next up, Tara has two picture books in the pipeline: Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy, illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan (Putnam/Penguin, May 2020) and Go, Baby, Go! (Peachtree, 2021 or ’22).
Tara’s plays have been produced professionally in New York and Dublin, Ireland, as well as at various universities, and have been shortlisted for prizes such as the Heideman Award (Actors Theater of Louisville), the Jerome Fellowship (The Playwrights’ Center, Minneapolis), and the Princess Grace Award. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.
After stints living in Colorado and Texas, Tara and her family moved into an RV in 2019 and now travel full-time around the United States and Canada. Check Tara’s Instagram to see where she’s been lately and where she’s heading soon.
Video & FAQs
Are you writing a school report about one of my books? If so, please check out the following frequently asked questions. For privacy reasons, I am unable to share information such as my birthday or the names of family members–thank you for understanding.
I’ve also recorded a short video about my books that you are welcome to download and use if your report needs an audiovisual element.
Video on YouTube:
Video on Google (if you need to download):
Q: Where were you born/where did you grow up?
A: I was born in New York City, and I grew up outside of the city in a suburb not unlike Gladys Gatsby’s hometown of East Dumpsford.
Q: How long have you been a writer?
A: I started writing pretty much as soon as I could read. I attempted my first novel in fourth grade, but only made it a few chapters in before I got tempted away by a new, better novel idea. This pattern repeated itself for about 20 years before I finally managed to finish an entire book without getting distracted. That book that became All Four Stars!
Q: Have you always wanted to be an author?
A: I did always want to be an author, but I’ve had other jobs along the way, such as magazine editor and writing teacher for homeschooled kids. I also wrote plays for several years before I returned to my original dream of writing a novel.
Q: Are any of your characters based on you or based on real people?
A: Many people assume that Gladys Gatsby is based on me as a kid. In some ways they’re right, but in other ways they’re wrong. Let’s do wrong first–I was not a young chef or foodie like Gladys is. I was actually a very picky eater, much more like her friend Parm Singh! I based the two dishes Parm eats (cereal with milk and plain spaghetti) on the two dishes I ate all the time from around age 4 to age 16. (I did become interested in eating new foods and cooking when I was a little older–you can read some of that story here.) However, Gladys’s shyness, her interest in writing, her strong passions, and her belief that there are many things she can do as well as or better than an adult are definitely all inspired by my experiences at her age.
And while certain aspects of my characters may have been inspired by real people, they are all mostly fictional…except for one. Gladys’s Aunt Lydia is very closely based upon my own Aunt Judy, who loves scarves and flowing clothes, made up complicated nicknames for me when I was a kid, and still is a huge foodie.
Q: You visited a lot of countries on your two-year honeymoon. Which one is your favorite?
A: That’s true–my husband and I backpacked through 74 countries, and picking one favorite is pretty much impossible. But we finally agreed on a top 7, which is, in no particular order: Argentina, India, China, Ethiopia, South Africa, Madagascar, and Egypt. Most of those countries had excellent food in addition to having many interesting sights to see, and good food always gives a country a few extra points in our book.
Q: What’s your favorite book (other than the ones you’ve written)?
A: I still read all the time, and I’m always adding to my list of favorites! But here are a few concrete answers:
-When I was a kid my favorite books were like Matilda by Roald Dahl and Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume. I loved books that made me laugh (and I still do).
-Later, in 10th grade, I read Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen for English class, and was shocked that so-called “classic” literature could be so hilariously funny. It’s still one of my absolute favorites.
-Finally, I need to give a shout-out to the Harry Potter series, which I started reading the year I graduated college. Only four books were out at that point (this will give you some idea of how old I am!), but I became a mega-fan instantly. I was struggling at the time to write a novel for adults, but Harry Potter reminded me of how much I loved books when I was younger, and inspired me to try writing for a younger readership. Publishing my own series that you can now find on the shelves alongside Harry has been an absolute dream come true.
Q: What was your inspiration for writing the All Four Stars series?
A: In short, my day job. I was working as a magazine editor, and had lots of freelance writers write articles for me. But I would never meet them in person, and most of the time never even spoke to them on the phone. We would only communicate over e-mail. So it struck me one day that if there was a kid out there who was a really good writer and sent professional-sounding e-mails, she might be able to trick me into publishing an article she’d written. And if she could trick me, why not New York’s biggest newspaper?
Q: Will there be more Gladys Gatsby books?
A: Alas, the series is finished at three books. But I do have a new middle-grade book out called The Great Hibernation!