Book Nerd Interview
Interview with Stephanie Lisa Tara
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Story is a part of culture, people would look up to the sun and ask why it shined, they would look at nature and wonder how trees, flowers, creatures, came to be. They would wonder why death and disease existed. Children would ask their elders these questions and thus, “telling tales” at the end of the day, over a hearth – became a part of daily life, family life. Different cultures answered these questions differently. Children were raised with these stories that “explained”, often called “folktales”, and thus they learned lessons that helped them understand life and who they were in it. So to sum up: storytelling is a way to both entertain and explain. Fairy tales, folk tales, and today’s great works of children’s literature – The Secret Garden, The Tale of Despereaux, Peter Rabbit, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Lorax…any great work , at its core, attempts much the same thing that “storytelling” always aimed to do: enrich our lives and provide answers to the question of, “why?”
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
Readers might be surprised to know that I am very shy. I actually turned to “writing” as a child as a way of avoiding “speaking aloud”. In fact, one summer in camp…in the early 1970s, I remember we were to perform a play. Charlie Brown was the theme. I was immediately picked to be, “the shy little redheaded girl” who rarely spoke. Even today – when I do a Barnes & Noble event, if I see a long stroller line of fans….I get butterflies in my tummy J
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Let’s see…my very first book, was early on…I must have been in 3rd grade or so, about age 8; I wrote a story about my little pet turtle, amazingly enough! His name was Jerryakedes – he was a POND turtle tho, he was a sweet little guy, but….as fate would have it, I put him to “bed” one night, on my pillow…in the morning…well…I guess he got trapped underneath my pillow. You get the picture. Very upsetting for me. But I did write about it…
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
For some reason my English professor in high school flashed through my mind: Professor Mason, who taught me to LOVE what I do for a living. I learned this lesson from him because of the passion he had for English literature. He came to class – the very first day of the semester, dressed as Beowulf. He thus then spoke aloud the great tale in OLD ENGLISH. Of course none of us understood a word of this ancestor of our own present-day language, but oh-how-impressed I was with Professor Mason’s love for his craft. As I now today, love my craft J
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Silly, effervescent, loyal.
In your new book; Eliza's Forever Trees, can you tell my Book Nerd Kids Community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
So many books today use fantastical illusion to ‘wow’. This is perfectly fine! But: consider for a moment, Mother Nature. She has some pretty fantastic magic already doesn’t she? And, furthermore; she needs our help – she needs kids: little planet-citizens to preserve her, to conserve her resources, to inspire others and teach them. I founded a company that believes this: Preserve, Conserve, Inspire, Teach, Stephanie Lisa Tara Children’s Books. And thus Eliza’s Forever Trees tries to do just that. Mother Nature’s redwood trees are thousands of years old and hundreds of feet high, what could be more magical than that? How did they grow to be so high? How could they survive for 1000s of years? Eliza wants to know as well. She may have a wrong-beating heart, she may even have just lost her mother – but she knows the anaswers to her questions – lies in the great forest just outside her home. The one her own mother spoke of so often. In fact, it may EVEN be possible for Eliza to find Great Mother Redwood—she who started the forest long ago, the very first redwood tree….
For those who are unfamiliar with Eliza, how would you introduce her?
Eliza is a ten year old girl like many other ten year old girls; she’s curious, she’s witty, she believes in stories and she loves her mother. Eliza, however, is different from other little girls, in that she has a wrong-beating heart that she was born with, and she has just lost her mother. But she knows that the only way to discover the truth is to take a chance. And so she does…and she invites you all along with her. To witness her triumphs, her failings, her discoveries and her catharsis.
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
It would be the Monarch butterfly. The one loves to sit inside window sills (preferably the old fashioned kind that open outward, not the metallic screened-in kind); I would LOVE to introduce him to baby sea turtle in, I’ll Folow the Moon. The Monarch butterfly would be able to share his adventures of flying south for the winter, and inspire the baby sea turtle to go – and return to the sea in full conficen, for “home” is always worth the courage and risk and pain it may require, to get there.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Beatrix Potter. Hands-down. My absolute favorite author, always and forever. In fact, I collect her first edition books. I’m obsessed a little, I think.
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Follow your dreams, do what your HEART tells you will make you happy. Never falter from that. Turn away from naysayers. For if you LOVE what you do – you will do it regardless of any other factors.
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
I was a candy striper at a hospital in high school; I took care of the elderly there. My mother signed me up for this job, it was volunteer. I learned so much about life there. It was like having 50 grandparents. Wonderful!
What scares you the most and why?
What will happen to the planet – if people don’t wake up and start caring about preserving it. I worry about my child, and all the children of the world for this very reason. That is why I try to spread awareness. I have 100,000+ members on facebook, on three “cause” pages. I’ll include them here; it is a small way to do something to try and effect change…
What is your greatest adventure?
Living in France with my then-infant Madeline for a year…in St Germain des Pres, left bank…it was amazing!
When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
This morning: I tell Maddie I love her every day :)
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
When was the last time you cried?
Two nights ago: I watched “Life of Pi” nad wept! What a beautiful film!
Where can readers stalk you?
Where has mother gone? Mothers don’t leave. Mothers stay, forever. Mothers are like redwood trees, those special forever trees that grow hundreds of feet high and live for thousands of years. Mothers read storybooks aloud. They know the power of a story. Power that can even make the wrong-beats of a child’s heart go away.
Maybe the monarch butterfly was right? Perhaps they should make the journey. The one that was too long, and too far, for a girl with a wrong-beating heart. Yet there was someone in the redwood forest that Eliza just knew could help. Not just any someone. Another mother. The first mother. The one, Eliza’s own mother had spoken of. Great Mother Redwood. The very first, the oldest and wisest redwood tree of them all. She, who started the forest thousands of years ago, might know where mother had gone. It seemed impossible. To find one who had never been seen, one who had only been spoken of? Yet. Mothers dont leave. They are like redwood trees. They stay, forever.
Eliza decided she must try. She would put one foot in front of the other, slowly. She would take small steps. She knew the butterfly would be patient alongside her. Down the path. To the forever trees.
To find Great Mother Redwood.
My ten year old daughter and I often hike through the redwood forest which is just outside our home, here in Northern California. One of our favorite spots in the forest is a magical occurrence called a redwood fairy ring. Mother redwood reproduces by throwing off roots, sprouts, burls from her body. Child-redwoods form a circle around her, they are her, created from her very body. The children are as ancient as the original mother. This ring of trees is said to have a very powerful energy and magic. And I can certainly declare that when Maddie and I sit inside a fairy ring…we definitely can feel it.
Stephanie Lisa Tara