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An Interview with author Tara Dairman

1. What initially drew you to write for young readers?

Quite simply, it was a love for the books I grew up reading—the ones that turned me into a reader and a writer. When I studied creative writing in college, I moved more into the adult space, and tried for years to write a novel for an older audience. It became a slog. But when I was reminded of the joy books had brought me as a young reader, I was able to rediscover the joy of writing, too.

2. What message/s do you hope to share in your work?

With most of the books I’ve written, I haven’t had a theme or message in mind when I’ve started writing. I focus much more on the plot and setting and characters in the early drafts. Themes tend to emerge in later drafts, and then I think “huh, so that’s what I wanted to write about!” So it’s more of a discovery process for me, rather than starting out with a message to convey.

That said, most of my books end up being about finding friendship, often in unlikely places. My characters usually start out thinking they need to go it alone to solve whatever problems are looming in their lives—but once they find one or two others to trust, and let them in, things truly start to get better. That’s probably been the most important lesson I’ve learned in my own life, so it’s no surprise it keeps showing up in my books.

3. Please tell us about your latest book (and any future work you’d like to share about).

DESERT GIRL, MONSOON BOY, written by me and illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan, is my debut picture book and most recent publication. It tells the parallel stories of two families encountering extreme weather in India: a girl's nomadic family dealing with severe dryness in the desert, and a boy's village-dwelling family dealing with monsoon flooding. It has spare rhyming text and really beautiful, evocative illustrations by Archana, who spent time with the Rabari people whose lifestyles inspired this book.

My newest middle-grade novel is THE GIRL FROM EARTH’S END, coming from Candlewick in March 2023. I’m so excited about it. It’s about Henna Quinn-Correira, a 12-year-old master gardener who lives on a remote island with her two papas—an idyllic life, until one of them gets sick. Henna learns of a plant she can grow that she thinks will save her papa’s life. But the only remaining seeds are locked up tight at St. Basil’s Conservatory School, an exclusive gardening academy far away from the only home Henna has ever known. So a journey and a quest ensue—and as you might expect by now, some unexpected friendships, too.

I’m immensely proud of this book and can’t wait for readers to experience Henna’s world.

4. Any message for young writers and creators — and the teachers who work with them?

Read everything you can, in all the different genres you can. Travel, if you can—exposure to new landscapes, cultures, and foods will make your life and your writing so much richer. And don’t worry if your writing isn’t yet as good as you want it to be. Most of us professional authors write for years and years before we ever produce anything good enough to be published. Good luck—I’m rooting for you!

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