I thoroughly enjoyed Tami’s picture book, SOAR, ELINOR, and was charmed by her novel, THE MAP OF ME, a road trip, find-out-who-you-are kind of story. For writers, it’s a great example of effective use of flashbacks in a middle grade book. It’s also written very much from the kid perspective: ”There were three flavors of gas: blue, red and white. White was the cheapest.” :o) I asked her LOTS of questions so you could get to know her better … here she is, Tami Lewis Brown!
Tea or coffee? Flavor? Milk or sugar?
I like tea but I love coffee. BLACK!
I’ve always loved Fall. Maybe it’s all those brand new pencils and empty notebooks.
Can you deal better with wind or rain?
There’s nothing better than a rainy day- if I can curl up inside with a good book.
Deciduous or evergreen?
Deciduous! I’m all for rebirth and fresh starts. Dogwood and lilacs all the way!
What’s always in your fridge?
If I was honest I’d admit it’s probably mildew. If I’m being aspirational I’d say good cheese from a small Vermont cheese maker like Doe’s Leap or Blue Ledge. At least I wish that’s what was always in the fridge.
Favorite comfort food?
I’m sort of a nut for mashed potatoes- and really good cheese!
Chocolate or some lesser nectar of the gods?
I’m okay with chocolate but… give me crème brulee.
Food you’d rather starve than eat.
Hmmm I’m like Mikey. I’ll eat almost anything.
Cat or dog?
Do I have to choose? I have two crazy dogs and two grumpy cats. Three of them are rescues. Thank goodness for my husband or I’d become an animal hoarder.
Flats or heels?
I love heels… except I’m too uncoordinated to wear them.
Natural fibers or synthetics?
I love wool sweater days. Natural!
Jeans or fancier?
Most days I wear jeans but deep down I’m a rhinestone kind of girl.
Short hair or long?
Short… but if I could grow Kate Middleton hair I’d go for it.
Roasting marshmallows under the stars in my Vermont backyard.
I really like staying home… but Paris ahhhhhhhh!
Favorite board, card, or computer game?
Apples to Apples with really good friends!
Favorite sport or form of exercise?
I’m not the most dedicated exerciser but yoga is wonderful.
Language in which you’d most like to be fluent.
Every couple years I rededicate myself to learning more French. So far fluency eludes me.
Country you’d most like to visit.
I’d go just about anywhere but I’m really looking forward to visiting my daughter in Scotland in a couple weeks.
Skill you’d most like to acquire.
I’d love to be a fantastic tennis player but honestly I’d save myself a lot of misery if I could learn to be a faster writer.
Favorite musical instrument.
Probably piano. Or cello. Or French horn. Or guitar. Okay, it’s ukulele.
You’re going on a book tour: Plane, train or automobile?
Topic you’d most like to write about.
I love to write about kids discovering their power- not supernatural powers, the real power we all have inside.
Topic you think most needs writing about.
Smart kids who aren’t spunky nerds.
Author you’d like to meet.
Roald Dahl… except I wouldn’t want to die to meet him.
Question you’d ask that author.
What’s the secret to writing a book that stays fresh and relevant for decades?
What / who gives you spiritual guidance and inspiration?
I don’t have a formal spiritual practice but working with children gives me hope for the future.
What most surprises you about our current culture?
Our society pays a lot of lip service to being against bullying but popular culture, not just reality television but everything from business to politics to video games celebrate bullying and meanness. I don’t understand how someone can watch Snooki and say they’re against bullies.
Some favorite books?
Many of my favorite books have been favorites since I was nine or ten. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is a big one. And From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. But I love lots of grownup books, too. Recently I’ve been loving A.S. Byatt’s Possession a lot.
Some favorite movies?
Anything with Audrey Hepburn or Cary Grant gets me! I think I’ll go watch Charade right now!
Can you tell us how this book, or any of your books, came to be published?
I had a fantastic time working with editor Melanie Kroupa on my first book, SOAR, ELINOR! so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to move to fiction and work with her again on THE MAP OF ME. When Melanie first saw the manuscript it was still rough but she worked with me over several years to turn it into the book I wanted it to be. The collaboration between an author and a wonderful editor is magic.
Tell us why we should buy this book.
Almost every middle-grade reader asks him or herself “what’s special about me.” Margie Tempest’s momma has a world-class collection of chicken figurines. Her daddy is a prize winner super salesman, and her sister Peep is the smartest nine year old who ever walked through the doors of Jesse Stuart Elementary. But it seems there’s nothing special about Margie. THE MAP OF ME charts Margie’s course through her own heart as she discovers her own special talents. Plus it’s fun to ride along with a twelve year old driver- without risking your own neck.
Who or what has been the greatest inspiration for your stories?
I used to be an elementary school librarian and I still love doing school visits. Kids who love books and reading inspire me.
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to teen readers. What is that?
Keep it up! Being an expert on celebrity gossip or who’s dating who at your school may seem important now but being well read and smart will be important for the rest of your life.
What’s an important “nugget” that you’d like readers to take away from your book?
Be yourself and be proud.
Why did you write this book?
?? Writing is a mystery to me.
Why do you write for young people?
Middle grade readers are the ultimate book lovers. Nine to twelve year olds who love to read are completely immersed in the experience of a story. I can’t imagine a better audience.
When do you write?
Morning noon night I try to write every day but in the end I usually cram night and day to reach deadlines.
Where do you write?
I have a little office at my house but I love writing in bed. It’s the only seat big enough to hold all my dogs and cats (aka my first readers)
What helps you write?
I have lots of writer friends. I couldn’t get to the finish line without their encouragement.
How do your ideas come to you?
I start with a tiny seed- just a snatch of an idea. In the case of THE MAP OF ME I heard a news report about seven and nine year old sisters who took their aunt’s car. Over the course of several years that real news report turned into a Margie’s journey to find her mother.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing seriously about ten years ago. Before that I was a trial lawyer.
How much of your book is autobiographical?
Just the emotions. I’ve never stolen a car. Honest.
Do you have a favorite quote or bumper sticker?
While I wrote THE MAP OF ME I thought a lot about E. B. White’s quote “I don’t know which is more discouraging, literature or chickens.”
What’s an embarrassing story about yourself that you don’t mind telling?
??? I guess I’m in denial but I can’t think of anything.
Is there a sequel?
No. I’ve explored Peep and Margie’s world and I’m ready to move on.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished a middle-grade mystery. Great fun!
Why should kids read books when there are so many other things to do?
A great book can take you anywhere you want to go. For real book lovers there aren’t ANY other things to do.
THANKS, TAMI!! You can visit Tami at http://tamilewisbrown.livejournal.com/