Welcome, Tamara! First of all, tell me a bit about yourself, and your writing background.
Hi Regan! Thank you so much for this opportunity; I really appreciate it. :)
I wanted to be an author since I was around nine or ten years old. For many years, when my parents asked my brothers and I to write our Christmas wish lists, I would include ‘book deal’ on mine, so being able to call myself an author really is a childhood dream come true.
My first book (Unfrogged) came out in 2017; at that point, I had already been writing professionally as a journalist for about a decade.
Now tell me a little something about your picture books: Pants! and Big Bother Brother.
Pants! is all about the different kinds of pants that a person might wear in a day – fancy pants, cranky pants, etc.
Big Bother Brother is about how big brothers can be such a big bother. But you know, maybe brothers aren’t so bad sometimes …
What inspired each of these picture books?
The inspiration for Pants! came from one my nieces and two of my nephews. For a while when I was babysitting them, the phrase ‘banana pants’ was the funniest thing to them, so I started using the idea of different pants to communicate more effectively with them. The idea for the book came out of that.
As for Big Bother Brother, I have five brothers in total; four older and one younger. I’ve often said that I threw them under the bus to write this book (sorry, guys – love you!).
What are your favourite scenes and illustrations from each book?
I love the concept for the illustrations with Pants!; it was actually publisher Lacey Bakker’s idea that the characters should all be invisible, and it’s just the clothing and accessories that are moving. I think that’s such a cool concept, and illustrator Erin Cutler absolutely knocked it out of the park. I also love how this book has some colouring pages in the back, which allows readers to be creative in their own way.
For Big Bother Brother, one of my own big brothers, Christopher Botting, did the line work on the illustrations. He’s super talented, and I’m so glad he was able to take this project on – he also did a phenomenal job! One of the coolest things about having my own brother do the line work is that he put in a bunch of different little Easter eggs – some that Pandamonium Publishing House fans will spot, and some that are more for close friends and family, including a few little touches from our childhood.
What are the takeaways for both kids and parents for your picture books?
Pants! is a great book to open a dialogue about emotions and actions, time and place. For instance, you might be ‘wearing’ your cranky pants or liar, liar pants on fire at the moment, but that doesn’t mean it’s permanent. Similarly, there’s a time and place for fancy pants or sports shorts.
As for Big Bother Brother, like I said, I’m the second to youngest in my family. I wanted to acknowledge and affirm for kids that it’s pretty normal for siblings to get on each other’s nerves from time to time. But I also wanted to point out that even though it’s not always easy to get along, when we do, it can be really great.
Now tell me about Unfrogged, your middle-grade novel.
Unfrogged is a retelling of the Frog Prince fairy tale, with a couple of twists – including the fact that Princess Meredith starts out the book as a total klutz, and Frog is really sarcastic.
What was the inspiration for Unfrogged, and what’s one of your favourite moments from the book?
One of my favourite books as a kid was Beauty by Robin McKinley; it’s a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. When I was in university, I wanted a fun writing project to do on the side, in between my school assignments, so I decided to do my own novelization of a fairy tale.
It’s not a moment, per se, but one of my favourite things in the book is the friendship between Merry and Frog. They encourage each other, hold each other accountable, and inspire each other to be the best versions of themselves that they can be.
What is it you want readers to get out of Unfrogged?
I hope readers find this book uplifting and encouraging. I especially wanted to highlight the importance of having good friends and being a good friend; that can have such a huge impact on your life.
Why do you write for children?
In a lot of ways, I’m still a kid at heart. The world can be a big and scary place sometimes, but I still believe that good will triumph over evil, that kindness and integrity will win the day, that a happy ending is possible. Kids still have faith in all of those things, and this lets me nurture that belief – for them, and in myself.
What do you like most about writing picture books, and what do you prefer about middle-grade writing?
Picture books are great because they are a marriage between the words and images. Since I’m not an illustrator, I get to see how another person sees my words, how they interpret my stories, and that’s a very cool process.
With novels, I like being able to dig into the characters more, and explore why they’re doing what they’re doing, how their choices will impact what happens next, etc. There’s a whole lot more space to explore.
Do you write for adult readers?
I mean, at the moment, all of the writing I do at my regular job is for adults. ;)
I’ve got a few ideas for novels for adults, but I don’t know if they’ll ever come to fruition; adult stories have adult conflicts and adult problems, after all, and I’m not sure I want to spend my time thinking about all of that in my fun writing time.
What have you got in the works as far as future projects? I believe you have a new release coming very soon?
I do – and it’s available for purchase now. The book is called Spoiled Rotten. It’s about a boy named Jack who decides to run away from home when he’s frustrated by all the changes that come after the birth of his baby sister, Emma. Jack ends up in a different world and in the company of an ogress, unsure if he’ll ever be able to see his family again.
I’ve always loved fairy tales, and while this book isn’t a retelling of one like Unfrogged, it definitely drew some inspiration from those old stories – though I should note, it’s more like the Grimm versions of those stories than the cutesy ones people are more familiar with today.
What sort of advice do you have for aspiring children’s authors (or authors in general)?
My advice is pretty standard, because it’s what works: read in the genre you want to write in; make actual writing a priority (reading over what you’ve already written to ‘edit’ it doesn’t count); write for yourself first – if you like it and are proud to have done it, that’s all that matters in the end.
Also, be prepared for rejection – a LOT of rejection. Even if your book gets published, you still have to go out and sell it to people. One of my standard jokes is that I have the superpower of invisibility when I’m trying to sell my books at a booth. Plenty of people are going to ignore you and walk right by when you try to talk to them, and you can’t let that bother you.
Tell me something about yourself that perhaps not a lot of people know about you.
My favourite dinosaur is an ankylosaurus.
Thanks so much, Tamara. Looking forward to reading more from you!
My review of Tamara Botting's Big Bother Brother, as well as more picture books from Pandamonium Publishing House is