I’m excited to have Tara Lazar with us today to celebrate one of her books that came out this month.
Welcome, Tara! So glad to have you here. First of all, congratulations on your latest release, I Thought This Was a Bear Book. I see you have other books coming out around the same time. We’d love to hear a bit about those other books too.
Thanks, Laurie! Up next is LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, which is another fairytale mash-up. (I didn’t plan the releases that way, they just happened!)
I bring multiple fairytales and nursery rhymes into the fray. Everyone from The Three Blind Mice to Rapunzel makes a cameo. Illustrator Troy Cummings (NOTEBOOK OF DOOM series) created an icy-cool enchanted wonderland. Cleverly, LITTLE RED is the only red on each spread. (BTW, the book doesn’t rhyme. Just that sentence.)
After that, there’s NORMAL NORMAN in March and WAY PAST BEDTIME in the fall. 7 ATE 9 (based on the joke “Why was 6 afraid of 7?”) is slated for 2017.
How did you come up with the idea for the Bear book? And what revisions did it go through on its way to becoming published?
BEAR came about from wanting to insert a character where he didn’t belong. Prince Zilch and the gang went through at least a dozen revisions, including the resolution, which I changed AFTER Benji Davies had already made initial sketches. (Sorry, Benji!) I also changed the last line of the book in the final stages because I was never satisfied with it. Those who have the F&G will notice the difference!
As Rebecca Colby mentioned in her post, you do humor very well. What secrets can you share for writing “funny”?
Oh wow, what a question! I think humor is something innate and intangible. You know it when it’s funny, but it’s difficult to describe what makes you laugh.
Perhaps it’s a misunderstanding, an exaggeration, the unexpected and/or a clever association between two or more previously unrelated things.
But I don’t analyze my humor. It just spits itself out. Perhaps it has to do with my upbringing with my father, who coughed up brilliant one-line zingers. And my husband, he makes me laugh daily.
There’s a Seinfeld episode where Jerry’s father yells “My wallet’s gone!” at the doctor’s office—he’s certain the physician has stolen it. About 15 years ago, my husband and I were in a department store on a stormy summer day. Department stores in the mall don’t have windows. The power went out and it was pitch black. Within a few seconds my husband yelled, “My wallet’s gone!” I fell on the floor in a fit of laughter.
Can you give us an idea of your writing process?
The only constant in my process is letting an idea “marinate”. When I first began writing, I’d get a flash of an idea and sit down immediately. I never paused to think, “Is this a good idea? Is this a great idea?”
Now I do. I think about it. And then I don’t think about it. My subconscious does some work. I tend to get a tingle when it’s ready to come out. Kind of like a sneeze.
Any tips for new writers?
That’s my tip, examine your ideas before writing them. For every 20 or so ideas, you’ll arrive upon one great one. The rest might be mediocre and not worth your time.
Any tips for more experienced writers?
Experienced writers don’t need my tips. Everyone’s process is different, and they’ve probably recognized what theirs is and how they work best. Just keep doing what you’re doing!
Have you ever had writers block? If so, what did you do to overcome it?
I go for a walk or take a bath. (This depends upon how clean or dirty I am.)
Then I start a new project. That’s exactly how I began BEAR BOOK. Another story wasn’t going so well; I had been slaving over it and not getting anywhere. I switched gears to something fresh and exciting.
What are you working on now?
Ahhhh! The 20th revision of a “longish” picture book (800 words) that I’ve always loved but have never gotten quite right. I let it sit for over a year and picked it up again specifically to present to one of my existing editors.
I’m really excited because this time, it’s working. The logic is logical. The tension is there. I removed unnecessary “schtick”. The premise is golden and evergreen—two colors you want. I am hopeful!
It would be great to get to know a bit more about you, so I hope you won’t mind answering some personal questions…
Where are you from and how has that and/or where you have lived/visited influenced your work?
I was born and raised in New Jersey. I never left the state. Some people think it’s the “armpit of America” but that just goes to show what they don’t know. It’s not all Tony Soprano and The Sitch. We’re an hour to NYC, an hour to the beach, an hour to the mountains. What more does one want?
I don’t think geography has influenced my work, aside from my close proximity to NYC and the NJ-SCBWI. I would not be here without the organization and their exceptional events.
You’re lookin’ at it!
What super power do you wish you had?
To fly, of course! Although these days, I don’t wanna be up there with the drones.
In addition to your picture books, you’re known as the founder of PiBoIdMo. Can you tell us a bit about the group and how/why it started?
It began out of a desire to have an event specifically for PB writers. It has grown beyond my wildest imagination. The number of wonderful children’s books it has sparked is steadily growing and nothing makes me more proud. I love to share the success of PiBoIdMo participants.
Where can readers find out more about you?
One place, taralazar.com, has links to everything and everywhere you can find me.
Thanks so much for sharing with us, Tara. And I know everyone who hasn’t already snagged a copy of Bear will want to rush right out to get one. If you enjoy aliens, bears, fairytales, and metafiction, then this is the book for you.
About I Thought This Was a Bear Book (from Simon & Schuster website):
When an alien crashes into the story of “The Three Little Bears,” it’s a laugh-out-loud adventure and a classic storybook mash-up!
After an unfortunate bookcase collapse, Alien suddenly finds himself jolted out of his story and into a very strange world, complete with talking bears. Desperate to return to his book, Alien asks the Bear family for help so he can get back to his story and save his beloved Planet Zero from total destruction before it’s too late.
Mama Bear and Papa Bear try all kinds of zany contraptions (with some help from their nemesis, Goldilocks) without much luck. Baby Bear might have the perfect solution to get the Alien out of the woods and back to his planet…but will anyone listen to the littlest voice in the story?