Hey everyone! Today on the blog I have for you all an interview with Tara Dairman, author of All Four Stars, as part of the blog tour hosted by The Midnight Garden. You can check out their kick-off post for the blog tour here, and also the rest of the blog tour and its previous posts at the end! I read this one a few weeks ago, and you guys, it was so adorable and happy-making, and thankfully was totally worthy of all four stars. Seriously, if you're into MG or food, this is a book you should definitely pick up. It's well-written, diverse, and utterly charming, and you'll totally leave it feeling hungry. I had to take a stop at a nearby bakery to get some napoleons and whatnot to satiate my needs. With that having been said, I'm excited to share with you an interview featuring some of Tara's traveling and food-related adventures, of which there are plenty in All Four Stars, as well as a giveaway generously provided by The Midnight Garden below!
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?
On your website it says you had traveled much of the world on your honeymoon. Have your experiences while traveling influenced some of All Four Stars, like the recipes?
Certainly. For example, apam balik—the peanut pancake that Gladys makes for Charissa—is a dish that I tried for the first time in Malaysia, though I've also enjoyed it in Malaysian restaurants in the states. I was lucky enough to live in or near New York City for most of my 20's, and I can't think of a better place to live if you enjoy eating lots of different cuisines. When I lived there, I would regularly take trips to far-flung neighborhoods to sample food from countries I'd never been to.
(To read more about Tara's food experiences during her travels, check out this post in the blog tour at Xpresso Reads!)
Are there any certain stories or experiences from your world travels that are hinted at or make an appearance in All Four Stars?
I would say that All Four Stars draws more from my childhood and my years in New York than it does from my travels, since I'd already drafted about two-thirds of it before I set off on my round-the-world trip. But a few things definitely snuck in during revisions. For instance, some of the details of Ms. Quincy's background, growing up in Togo and studying in Hong Kong, were inspired by my time in those places. And my travels have definitely had a lot of influence on the sequel to All Four Stars, which will be out in 2015.
Would you say you're more like Gladys in your cooking ability (read: actually good), or her parents (read: not-so good). (I'd say I'm like Gladys in that I've been known to start a small fire or two on occasion.)
These days, I am more like Gladys (minus the fires, thank goodness), but it took me a long time to get to this point. As a kid, I was definitely more like her parents; in fact, I never even boiled a pot of water until I was 20 years old. It was all microwaving for me up until then.
What was the inspiration for All Four Stars?
When I lived in New York, I worked as a magazine and website editor, and I had freelance writers who sent me work every week. I never met most of them in person or even spoke to on the phone—we only communicated by e-mail. So I started to think that, if there was a kid who was a really good writer and wrote professional-sounding e-mails, she could probably trick me into publishing her. And since I was getting really into food and cooking, I thought that it would be fun to make her a restaurant critic.
Quick fire questions: What's your favorite food? Least favorite? Food you initially disliked but have warmed up to?
Favorite food is so tough! I do love a good pillowy gnocchi with pesto sauce...or some super-smooth Ethiopian shiro (a delicious bean puree)...or a sweet-sour rhubarb crumble... :)
I don't like melted cheese or eggs, so quiche is my nightmare food.
And as for a food I've warmed up to...lobster. The taste was too strong and strange for me as a kid, but as an adult, I love it.
How would you describe All Four Stars in 5 words or less?
A funny, tasty, twisty adventure!
What are some MG reads and/or authors that you recommend?
There are some really fantastic MG debuts that have been published this year. I adored WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE by Rebecca Behrens, which links a modern-day first daughter with the wild Alice Roosevelt from 100 years ago, via Alice's diary. Also, THE ACTUAL AND TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER, by my fellow Colorado-based author Jessica Lawson, is a brilliant re-imagining of the Tom Sawyer story from Becky's point of view.
I also love humorous books—Roald Dahl is pretty much the reason I wanted to become a children's author—and there are some fantastically funny MG books that I love to recommend. Tim Federle's BETTER NATE THAN EVER and FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATE! are two of my absolute favorites, and I love pretty much anything by Adam Rex—especially THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY.
Thank you for the interview, Tara!
Thank you so much for having me at Finding Bliss in Books!