“Middleview” Interview with Debut Author Tara Dairman

Posted by Tamera Wissinger

Today, Tara Dairman is joining Smack Dab In The Middle Blog for a guest “middleview” interview. Tara’s debut middle grade novel ALL FOUR STARS, Putnam/Penguin, released on July 10, 2014. Congratulations, Tara!

Here is a bit about Tara:

Tiffany Crowder @ Crowded Studios.
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 debut 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.

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.

With the traveling bug appeased (for now), Tara has finally settled down in Colorado, where she lives with her husband and their trusty waffle iron.

Here’s a description of ALL FOUR STARS:

Meet 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?

Here are the links to Tara online: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Now it’s time to hear from our guest.

Smack Dab Middleview with ALL FOUR STARS author, Tara Dairman:

1. In a nutshell, what does your main character, Gladys, want?

All Gladys Gatsby truly wants is to get herself into New York City—specifically to 42nd Street and Ninth Avenue—and eat at Classy Cakes, Manhattan's hottest new dessert bistro. Because if she doesn't get her taste buds on some of their delectable desserts soon, she's going to lose her job as the New York Standard's newest freelance restaurant critic!

2. What is in her way?

Well, first of all, distance: Gladys lives an hour away from the city in suburban East Dumpsford, New York, a culinary wasteland full of fast-food restaurants. And she can't ask her parents for help getting to the city; in fact, Gladys's parents have no idea about her new job, and would probably hit the roof if they found out. Nor can she ask her editor for advice, since her editor thinks that Gladys is a grown-up, professional writer, rather than a sixth-grader. So she's going to have to figure things out on her own.

3. Did you know right away that this was your story, or did you discover it as you wrote? How did the story evolve?

While ALL FOUR STARS has gone through many, many rounds of edits (I first started working on the book in 2005!), the essential story has always remained the same: Girl accidentally gets hired as a restaurant critic for New York's biggest newspaper, and has to juggle her new secret career and her normal kid life. Most of the plot just followed naturally from that concept. Though I will say that, initially, I envisioned Gladys going on multiple restaurant-reviewing adventures in the book. But once I started writing, I realized that the story would work better if bagging one big review was her ultimate goal.

4. Was ALL FOUR STARS always for middle grade readers or not? If so, why did you choose middle grade? If not, what had to change for it to be considered a middle grade novel?

ALL FOUR STARS was always a middle-grade story (though I didn't know the industry term “middle grade” when I was writing it). I love how capable and creative kids in that age group can be. In fact, I remember feeling when I was that age that if the adults would only let me be in charge, I could run the show much better than they could. :) So, with the character of Gladys Gatsby, I wanted to give a middle-grader a chance to take on adult responsibilities and see how she fared with them.

5. What is the best part of writing for middle grade readers?

Two things jump to mind.

1) Middle-grade readers won't lie to you about what they think of your story. If they love it, they'll let you know, and if they hate it, they won't sugarcoat that, either.
2) Their creativity. I teach writing to middle-grade students, and I love to ask them how they would continue a story after the book is done. Their choices always surprise me.

6. Is there any downside?

Well, there's certain language that's hard to get away with in a middle-grade book—even if that's how (some) kids that age really do talk. So you have to be a bit creative with your expletives. (Gladys says “Fudge!” a lot.)

7. Is there one question you wish you could answer about writing, your book, or the author's life, but have never been asked? Here's your chance to Q &A yourself.

No one has ever asked me which character's eating habits in ALL FOUR STARS are the most like mine were as a kid. I think most readers assume that I had very gourmet tastes like Gladys does, but actually I was super-duper picky...just like Parm! In the book, she only likes to eat cold cereal with milk or plain spaghetti. My diet in sixth grade included a couple more items (salt bagels! Quaker chewy granola bars!), but I really was the most unadventurous eater back then. Sixth-grade Tara would be shocked (and, I hope, proud) of the variety of things I cook and eat now.

Thank you for joining us at Smack Dab in the Middle Blog today, Tara. Again, congratulations on the release of ALL FOUR STARS!


  1. Yay, Tara!! So excited for the book and for you :)

  2. This is a great interview. Congratulations on the book..it sure sounds like a winner!

  3. Sounds like an awesome book! Congratulations!

  4. Thanks for being part of the bog this month, Tara! I get hungry every time I think about this delicious book!


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