Kiely has always been famous. The paparazzi (her family) snapped pictures of her before she could even talk! She’s used to the pressures of fame. Still, when a performance at her grandfather’s birthday party goes wrong, she’s sure she’s lost her audience for good. But, of course, her loyal fans will always love her.
We were lucky enough to chat with the authors behind this book, sisters Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie about their collaboration process, humor, and I Am Famous.
Q: Why write children’s books?
Tara: I really got into children’s books when I had my own kids. I have three voracious readers, and I was constantly seeking out new picture books to keep them satisfied. When I opened my toy and book store, I specialized in ages 0–6, so picture books were the only type of books I sold. So, that is the format I know and love best. I used to get ideas for books while running the store, but there was never enough time to learn how to write children’s books. When my family relocated to the Charlotte area, I finally had time to try my hand at it. Picture books are what came naturally to me.
Becky: If you would’ve told me a few years ago that I would be a published children’s book author, I never would have believed you. Children’s books were the farthest thing from my mind. Honestly, I didn’t know much about them until Tara asked me to start reading her work. I found myself changing things and offering suggestions, so I became the co-author. I majored in drama in college and worked in TV production and entertainment. Writing for children fits with all those interests. Still, I am not sure that I would have found this industry without my sister.
Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?
Tara: I usually begin by writing a draft and getting it into decent shape. Then, I send it to Becky to see what she thinks, and she adds her two cents. Then, we each take it to our respective critique groups until it is good enough to send to our agent. I don’t have a day job, so I work as much as I can while my kids are at school. I try not to bother Becky too much while she is at work.
Becky: If we’re in the same place, then we’ll sit down and work on something together, but that doesn’t happen too often. Usually, we just email back and forth, but we do jump on the phone sometimes.
Q: What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?
Tara: The easiest thing for us is usually the initial idea and title. The hardest part is coming up with a plot that works and hasn’t been done before, along with infusing enough humor to sustain an entire picture book.
Becky: We love humor, so trying to find the appropriate amount of kid-friendly humor that will also appeal to the adults reading the books is hard.
Q: What makes your book stand out?
Tara: The illustrations in this book are amazing. I don’t know how Joanne Lew-Vriethoff did it, but she perfectly captured Kiely’s, unflappable personality, while also making her absolutely adorable.
Becky: Our goal for every book we write is to include humor for both children and parents. We think we pulled it off in I Am Famous.
Q: What was your inspiration for your title?
Tara: The inspiration for I AM FAMOUS came from the Weird Al Yankovic song, TMZ —a parody of Taylor Swift’s You Belong to Me. His song is about how the paparazzi stalk celebrities and begins with:
You’re sort of famous
A minor celebrity
And so it only makes sense
The world would be
Obsessed with every
Single thing you do
I was listening to it and laughing about how it reminded me of today’s parents and social media. I told Becky, and she loved the idea.
Becky: As someone who used to work in Hollywood, this was a perfect book for me to write. A lot of the main character’s traits are very similar to mine as a child—I was a little performer.
Q: What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?
Tara: As soon as I became an independent reader, I would go to the library and check out at least 12 books, which would last about two weeks. I am a speed reader and would go through the whole stack quickly! I vividly remember loving the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, the Lois Duncan books, Roald Dahl, everything from V.C. Andrews, the Sweet Valley High series, and all the Hardy Boys books. For some reason I didn’t like Nancy Drew, but I did like the Hardy Boys. My absolute favorite book from childhood was The Lost Queen of Egypt by Lucille Morrison, which was the catalyst for my interest in all things ancient Egypt. It was written in 1937 and is out of print now. Someday, I am going to splurge and buy a copy.
Now I read at least a dozen new-release picture books every week for work. For pleasure I read a lot of historical fiction, some thrillers like Gone Girl and The Woman in the Window, chick lit, and a bit of YA. Some authors I particularly like are Maeve Binchy, Tana French, Megan Miranda, Liane Moriarity, Kate Morton and Tracy Garvis-Graves. And when I am having a hard time with my writing, I re-read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert—it always helps.
Becky: As a kid my favorite picture books were Morris’s Disappearing Bag by Rosemary Wells, The Very Bad Bunny by Marilyn Sadler and Pickle Chiffon Pie by Jolly Roger Bradford. Then I went through all the Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High books.
Some recent books I’ve read for pleasure and loved are I’ll Give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson, The Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton, The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer, and The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton.
Q: What was the process of working with your editor like?
Tara and Becky: Working with Eliza Swift was great! This was a rare book, in that it didn’t have a lot of edits. Eliza and the art director kept us in the loop with all the sketches and artwork and the book came out so much better than we could have imagined. Everybody at Albert Whitman understood our vision for this book from day one.
Q: Are you working on any other projects?
Tara and Becky: We’re always working on new books and have many in various stages of development. We have two books due out in 2019 and at least one more for 2020 at this point.
Thanks so much, Tara and Becky! To find out more about I Am Famous, check out our website here.