Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been. Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books featuring magical places that adults never find. Her debut ‘The Monstore’ released in June 2013, with many more books to follow in the next few years. She also hosts the annual picture book writing idea event, PiBoIdMo.
For what age audience do you write?
I write primarily for the picture book audience, children around 4 to 8 years of age.
Tell us about ‘The Monstore’.
The Monstore is a one-stop shop for all your monsterly needs in this enormously funny story that’s full of friendly, kooky creatures. The Monstore is the place to go for all of your monsterly needs. Which is perfect, since Zack definitely has a monsterly need. The problem? His pesky little sister, Gracie, who never pays attention to that “Keep Out” sign on Zack’s door—the one he has made especially for her. But when Zack’s monsters don’t exactly work as planned, he soon finds out that the Monstore has a few rules: No Refunds. No exchanges. No exceptions.
Henry: Clearly this is a caution to be careful what you wish for. Note to self: never release the Kraken and never get Gremlins wet.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
I hope readers will consider that there’s magical secrets around them, they just have to look more closely for them (like under trap doors). I hope they also realize that having a sibling is way more fun than they thought!
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
All of it is challenging–creating a great concept, crafting an intriguing beginning, and carving surprises into the tale. I think the most difficult part is revision, but it’s also the most fun. Revision is when the story really comes together and you feel the excitement brewing with each little fix.
Henry: Personally, I think getting that first draft is harder than revision. And I completely agree that the excitement builds as the story coalesces.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
I’ve learned that our work as writers can touch people’s lives in ways we never could have imagined.
Henry: Yes, even if in little ways. The Nibling characters in my story Nimpentoad like to eat mushrooms. I had a parent tell me that her child now eats mushrooms! One small step…
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
I would never have received fan mail. Knowing that your book has brought joy to a child’s life is a warm, fuzzy feeling.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read, read, read. Write, write, write. (But there’s so much more! For that, I refer folks to my website at taralazar.com)
Henry: Tara’s website is quite helpful in that regard.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ~ Roald Dahl
Henry: Speaking of Dahl, the movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” offers some good quotes too:
“Don’t talk to me about contracts, Wonka, I use them myself. They’re strictly for suckers.”
“And the poor little Oompa Loompas were so small and helpless, they would get gobbled up right and left. A Wangdoodle would eat ten of them for breakfast and think nothing of it.”
“So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
Not really. I’m not a real routine-driven kind of person. In fact, I shun routine as much as possible.
Henry: So, you’re routine is not to have a fixed routine. Wait, what?
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Everyone answers this one the same–to be able to fly, right? Well, I don’t like to do what everyone else does, so I’ll be different and say telekinesis, the ability to move things with my mind. That means I could make doughnuts come to me at any time.
Henry: Doughnuts, dollar bills, literary agents. Telekinesis is an excellent choice.
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
Roald Dahl, Charles Schulz and Dr. Seuss. I want to listen to them discuss children’s literature. I wouldn’t say a word. I’d let them talk and talk and talk.
Henry: And get them loaded. Excellent choices!
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
Monsters! Because the word “monster” can mean just about anything. Monsters can be huge or tiny, kooky or spooky, funny or serious, fuzzy or scaly. Monsters are limitless.
Henry: I see what you did there!
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love spending time with my family, getting outdoors and just having fun. I also like creating jewelry. I had an Etsy shop until very recently, when my writing took over and I didn’t have enough time to maintain the shop.
Henry: That’s a good kind of problem to have, being too busy writing.
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
Here lies Tara. She loved playing with words.
Where can readers find your work?
Any bookstore, offline or online! My website is www.taralazar.com, and my Twitter handle is @taralazar
This interview is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.