Interview and giveaway with author Lisa Rajan
If you’re a regular reader here you may remember that a few months ago I featured the first Tara Binns book which I love because it encourages a dialogue about girls being able to do whatever they want to do with no gender stereotyping.
I suggested that it’s time for us as parents to plant the seed that ANYTHING is possible for our girls and boys. Whether they want to run the country, set up their own business or excel in a profession that breaks gender-boundaries, their lives are ahead of them and the page is blank until they write it.
It really resonated with a lot of you on Twitter as well as here so today I’m pleased to welcome the author of the Tara Binns series, Lisa Rajan, to tell us a bit more about the background to the books and her writing life.
Lisa, what led you to write the Tara Binns series?
When my elder son was three, he once said to me “But Mummy, ladies can’t be mechanics!” It was funny, but I was slightly horrified – I thought I’d brought him up in a non-sexist-equal-opportunities way, but apparently not. He went on to list a whole load of other jobs that “ladies can’t do”. I tried to work out why he would think this: by his age, the main ‘inputs’ into his thinking were things his parents and other adults had told him, and stories that had been read to him.
Children’s books and, indeed, children’s toys, do seem to have segregated along gender lines – some overtly but many do it in a subliminal way. Series with a lead male character, like Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam and Thomas the Tank Engine, usually have that character doing a job, solving problems or saving the day. Female leads, like Dora the Explorer or the Disney Princesses, tend to be more passive and less heroic and goal oriented. I wanted something a bit more balanced and aspirational for my daughter, but couldn’t find anything that would set her a really positive example.
The American author Beverly Cleary said “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it”. So I did. Determined to play my part in redressing the balance and widening the choice of reading matter for our daughters, I wrote a series of picture books with a strong female lead character, Tara Binns. When she runs round an old costume box in an attic she is transported into a costume she wouldn’t normally choose, and a challenging adventure to go with it. She solves problems, learns new skills, makes discoveries and invents things. In the first two books, she becomes a pilot and an engineer, and there are adventures as a doctor, a firefighter and an astronaut due for publication later in the year. I deliberately chose male-dominated jobs so that both girls and boys could see a female character capably doing them, and enjoying them too.
My son (now 10) will never again say that “girls can’t be mechanics”, but, more importantly, neither will my three-year-old daughter. And I hope, as the books become popular and plant big ideas in little minds, some of the subliminal barriers that gender stereotyping has unwittingly created will start to be lifted.
What’s a typical day for you?
Really busy! I get my three children to school and nursery, and then settle down to work from home in my day job for a financial research consultancy. The research is carried out online and it’s a dream job in many ways as it’s really flexible and fits in brilliantly with school hours and holidays. Then after school pick-up it’s helping with homework, playing with my children, making dinner and getting everyone ready for bed (and of course reading stories!). In the evenings I often have meetings – I’m an elected councillor for the London Borough of Southwark, and sit on several Council committees. On free evenings I like to go running – I just ran the London Marathon dressed as Wonder Woman, which was an amazing experience. And in the free time that’s left after all that I work on the Tara Binns books and somehow find the time to write too!
What apps can’t you live without?
I’m not big on apps – I use Runmeter to track my runs, but aside from that it’s only Facebook, Twitter and Timehop. And the really practical boring ones like thetrainline.
Who inspires you?
People who are proactive and positive and don’t let anything stand in their way. People who dream big and keep going when things get tough andhave energy about them. Many of the women I know – especially the mums – are strong and resilient and have a strength of spirit that is truly inspirational.
What advice do you have for budding authors?
Try to be objective about your own writing and work out where your strengths lie. Show as many people as you can (not easy I know!) and take on board when people say – you may have to read between the lines if they are friends and don’t want to hurt your feelings! But don’t let other people’s opinions put you off – if you know your work is good, persevere and don’t take no for an answer.
Finally, complete this sentence – joy for me is…
…unprompted hugs from my children, and hearing from other parents that their children love Tara Binns and her adventures.
I’m delighted to have one copy of Lisa’s brand new Tara Binns book – to give away. In her latest adventure Tara Binns becomes an engineer and a sudden accident gives her a brilliant idea that will make bumps, thumps and falls a lot more fun. Written in the same rhyming style and with beautiful illustrations throughout this is another great Tara Binns adventure.
To enter the giveaway just use the Rafflecopter widget below (don’t forget to read the terms and conditions) and good luck!