Eliza: What made you interested in writing for young people?
Tamra: I have loved writing since I was a young child. I always found it the best way to express myself. I tended to be shy when I was young (not now!), and it gave me an outlet. I wrote stories, poems, and letters. As an adult, I still loved writing and wanted to make it my career, even though I was repeatedly told it wasn’t really possible. I began writing whatever I could, and eventually, my first book assignment came through. It was for young people—an audience I hadn’t really considered before. Since then it has only grown. Now I write for all ages, from preschool through adults.
Eliza: You've written a lot of career and collage guide books for young people. What sets your guide books apart from the competition?
Tamra: Well, I think that sets them aside, first, is that they are really focused on the audience. So much of the material out there is either dry, boring or both. I try to infuse my books with humor and create a rapport with the young people. Also, I have four children which has certainly given me insight into career and educational choices. Finally, I’m a strong advocate of alternative education options, and so I think my books reflect more thinking “outside the box” than some do.
Eliza: You have several books on jazz musicians; what is your own personal background in music?
Tamra: Ha, personal background . . . well, years and years in choirs of all kinds, and a passion for listening to music would be about it. To be honest, my skill is in writing WHATEVER I’m asked to write, whether or not I have personal experience in it or not. Just see how many books I’ve written about countries I’ve never been to!
Eliza: Which of your books required the most research?
That is a GREAT question that I have never been asked before, so thanks! I wrote a book about the country of Qatar and finding enough information for it was challenging. I also wrote a biography of a 10 year old celebrity—and it’s challenging to find enough material for someone so young. The hardest research I ever did was for a book on eating disorders. I interviewed some amazing people who broke my heart.
Eliza: What is the key to making history interesting for young people?
Tamra: Staying away from dates and numbers, and remembering your audience at all times. Too many times, textbooks focus so much on the facts that they lose the fascination. I try to put my readers in the “shoes” of someone during the time period. I recently wrote a book about the Spanish Inquisition and portrayed what it was like through the life of a young Jewish girl. History is about people and not dates, and it’s important to show that to young people.