Behind The Scenes

Jahan Akua

I always knew I wanted to write this book when I was drafting Jun Anzu. I am obsessed with Rumi and his quotes and based both books on his words. I also wanted to show that not only those that are small want to be big, but those that are big want to be small. It is all about fitting in, but fitting in is based on the character of our hearts rather than our outward appearance. I wrote this book with the deepest love for my heart-sons, Jeff and Andrew, whom I absolutely love and adore.

Pauly and Fluff's Day at the Beach

My granddaughter, Calie, and I were floating in the pool one afternoon when we came up with an idea for a book. We always knew we wanted a unicorn and a dragon with lots of yummy things to eat. When I said, "In a world divided by a Graham cracker wall, can two unknown heroes save the day and bring peace to the land?" in a deep, serious voice, Calie got a fit of giggles. That's when we knew we had to write something about two best friends who figure out how to come together to spend the day at the beach. Calie did most of the directing of the illustrations with her mom, Hayley, my daughter-in-law, while I wrote the book based on what Calie wanted the two friends to experience. It was the best time I ever had writing a book!

Too

I always knew I wanted to write a book about different LGBTQi families without showing conflict, discrimination, or harm. It was important that this book be simply about the love between family members and how love is what connects us all, regardless of what your family looks like. Our family is a fierce advocate, loyal ally, and loving family to any and all LGBTQi family, friends, and community, and we are constant and avid supporters of our own LGBTQi family members. It was important to me to show all kinds of love, all kinds of families, and how all of us are deserving of love and acceptance. My family launched "Too" at the Utah Pride festival in 2018. We had a great time supporting our family and making new connections with the LGBTQi community. We will be heading back to the festival in 2022, and hope to be there every year after that, bringing awareness, support, and love to the community.

The Elf Who Didn't Believe in Children

My Aunt Virginia was in college with my Grandma Esther, and they took a writing class together. One of the creative writing lessons was a short story. My Aunt Virginia wrote the short story, "The Elf Who Didn't Believe in Children." It was a two-page cute story. I was given this story and my Grandma's work when I was visiting with my Grandma to begin drafting a story about her Grandma Matilda (the outline is a work in progress at this time). Anyway, the short story written by my favorite auntie sparked an idea, and that idea turned into the book. I named the main boy after my nephew Cardon, who always has so many questions but always has faith and belief in beautiful thoughts and ideas.

Who We Are

In 2008, my family was getting together in the summer for a family reunion. At that reunion, we were also moving my grandpa into my dad's house to live. I wanted to give my grandpa a gift but didn't know what he needed or wanted. So, I thought I would write a short story showing what life would be like without him. Instead, I wrote for three straight months and wrote an entire story for him. I have outlines for five other books, telling all the stories from my childhood in this world of the Button Factory and a young girl trying to grow up without her grandpa around. I published it in 2021 for my family, but my friends that got a hold of it want me to complete the other books in the series. So, look out for those coming in the next few years.

Lucy's Umbrella

When my granddaughter was born, I wanted her to grow up in a world where she loved who she was, inside and out. I have patches of melasma on my face and body and have always been self-conscious about it. Having a little granddaughter around, I knew that I and all the other females in her life would need to show her how to self-love our bodies. I named the book's character after Lucy (she has since changed her name to Calie). I wrote this book to show that you can send a message about self-love without conflict, bullying, teasing, or self-shame. I do not believe children need to read books with conflict in order to learn a lesson. I have always wanted my books to be a safe place to read a story that helps them learn and grow.

The Prince's Dress Dilemma

My three-year-old grandson loves to wear dresses, and I love buying dresses for him. I wanted to write a book that normalizes boys wearing dresses without drama, bullying, or conflict. It was important that Eric read a book about a boy who could not decide which dress to wear and who solved the issue with the help of his loving family.

Beautiful Witch

I came up with the concept for this story when my daughter was five years old. She cut all her hair off one afternoon and to fix it, all of it had to come off, inches from her scalp. One day while we were at the library, a group of little girls asked if she was a boy or girl, or just an ugly girl. The concept of beautiful vs. ugly came to my mind and it’s taken this long to put it all down on paper. My daughter didn’t mind, nothing has ever bothered her, but it bothered me. What is beautiful to one person isn’t to another.

Jun Anzu

I wrote this book based on my step-daughter and her anxiety over the fact she was small at age twelve and wasn't growing in comparison to everyone else at her school. Seeing the universe inside her little body and large soul, I opened my Rumi book and found a quote that brought me to the story of Jun Anzu. “Don't feel lonely, the entire universe is inside of you.” - Rumi. There are three more stories in the series that will take us to Africa, Brazil and France.But, all with the same message - the universe is inside you.

Mishka's Bears

I wrote these books based on my step-daughter's love of bears and her nickname "Little Bear". I always knew little Mishka would be from Russia, and I had a great time creating 'Berries for Breakfast', but it didn't feel complete. 'Lentils for Lunch', and 'Salmon for Super', came naturally after my illustrator, Hayley Helsten created the character. 'Finnian's Hares', coming soon, will explore Australia, in the same format as Mishka's Bears, counting and being adventurous in his homeland.

Tallulah Froom

What can I say? My daughter was seven years old when her parents divorced. It wasn’t an easy year. But, she had two cousins, my sister's boys, that all went to the same school, that were a great support. One day, after the Halloween Parade at school, I walked out to greet them. My daughter was in a witch's hat covering herself and her two cousins in a polka dot umbrella. My nephews were dressed in radical - nonsensical costumes, but it reflected their quirkiness. 'The Unusual Mudpies’ was created from that scene.

Months later, I would write 'adventures' for my daughter as she went through struggles at school and at home. One chapter, “The Unexpected Hat,” was written after my daughter came home from school at age eight with the following limerick:

“There once was a curious cat, who wanted a beautiful hat. But nobody cared. So no one could spare, a beautiful hat for the cat.”

Her cousins were always there and sometimes with their own issues of not being heard or wanting to hide behind glasses. I wrote for them and about them, too, creating characters in the story that would always be there for my daughter’s character, Tallulah Froom.

Divorce isn’t easy. It isn’t easy to watch a child go through the process either. I relied on my quirky, wonderful, and weird family to get me through it. By immersing myself into Tallulah Froom's world, I could pull from the strengths of my family, my childhood experiences and incorporate my daughter's experiences as well. I realized I had an opportunity to rebuild my life, brick by brick through creativity.

When I was little, my aunts and uncle sang, a lot. One of my favorite songs was Beautiful City from my favorite musical, Godspell. I loved it when they would sing it. I remember when I wanted to bring the Tallulah Froom world to life, I lost confidence in myself. I couldn’t even try to create something so large - I didn’t know where to begin. But, remembering the lyrics to the song, especially “When your trust is all but shattered, when you faith is all but killed, you can give up, bitter and battered…. Or you can slowly start to build….” I knew I could do it - I just needed to take it slow and be patient with myself.

Nearly every member of my family is a character in my Tallulah Froom world.

I decided I would rebuild, but something entirely new, for my daughter, even if it took a long time to stack each brick. The first draft was written in October of 2010. I am finally launching Tallulah Froom the summer of 2016. I slowly built this world for my daughter. All the wonderful and unusual characters come from those in my life I want to celebrate. I am excited to share my family with readers.

I love my family.

Tallulah Froom’s characters are based on nearly all my aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings and cousins. Without a colorful childhood, the town of Dancey Chance wouldn’t be possible. I owe so much to my family.

My Grandma Keele is my character, Grandma Twiddle in my books. She is the most magical being I have ever known in my life. I owe my creativity to her and the experiences I had as her sidekick as a little girl. She and my Grandpa Keele ran a bakery called Tan Top Bakery for years in Santa Maria, CA. They both instilled in me an appreciation for quality food and just how far sprinkles can go to make someone’s day!

These are pictures of my Grandpa Zaugg and me. He is the inspiration for Grandpa Twiddle in the stories. He is the most beloved person I’ve ever had in my life. He passed away in 2013, but is still in my heart, every day. I have never been so lost and torn apart when he died. He was darling and loved me so much.

This is a picture of my older sister, Jessica, who was born with Down syndrome. I love her so much! She is my character, Liberty-Jessica Mary-Marie Nunn. Yes, I wore leg braces. Jessica is the sweetest human being I have ever had the privilege of knowing. She was - as still is - always clapping and holding her clasped hands to her heart. Born in 1972, she is still alive and living on the central coast in a group home where she is thriving. Once a year when I visit, her first words are “Sawa. Home. Sawa. Home.”

My mom always had music in the house while we grew up. She is beautiful and my character, Wunna, is based on my mom, full of magic and beautiful wonder. The fifth Un-Book titled “The Unwritten Book,” will be dedicated to her, but you’ll just have to wait. For a sneak peak, you can listen to ‘Hang On Little Tomato’ by Pink Martini, which is referenced on the last page of the book - completing the Tallulah Froom Un-Book Series.

These are pictures of my younger sister, Danielle and me. She is my character Ohmy Box! She has a dynamic personality that is unmatched and unrivaled in the family. I basically thought she was my baby doll. I taught her how to walk and talk. But most importantly, I taught her how to make her first mudpie. She is the wonderful mother of my two nephews that are my Jespa and Giggy characters.

This is my younger brother Sam and me. He is my character, Mr. Coats. The first time I ever met him is the picture in the middle. I was introduced to him after he came home from the hospital and I reached for him. Then, as I proceeded to take him from my mom, I said, “Mine.” And I have wrapped my arms around him ever since claiming, “Mine,” after all these years. He is now a fabulous grown man with children of his own. I always knew I was safe when I was around him.

This is my baby brother, Clayton. He is my character Spoon in the books. We had a special language when he was growing up. He had a terrible lisp (that is gone now) and I was the only one who knew what he was saying. He was the ray of sunlight in our home, always. He is still the radiating light in our family and I am proud to say he is also a father of wonderful children.

My siblings and I grew up on the central coast, in Santa Maria. We spent nearly every weekend of our childhood between Avila Beach and Pismo Beach. We grew up ridiculously poor, but we didn’t know it until we were older and had a great appreciation of what our parents went through to keep a roof over our head. Halloween was always a great adventure, never knowing exactly what we were going to be, but the creative minds of our parents always made us feel magical. We lived in Orcutt, California for a time, when my brother Clayton was born. This is where I learned to play frisbee with a hubcap. I sliced my brother Sam’s nose right open. The picture on the far right is in the front lawn of our house on First Street. It was Clayton’s blessing day. My Grandparents were good sports. I wouldn’t smile. What a pill. The house was next to a Baptist church. I learned to get my groove on Sunday afternoons by rocking out to the band. It was in this yard that my imagination began to fly, seeing whimsy and beauty and magic in everything. Maybe it was the smell from Orcutt Ice Cream Parlor every afternoon when they made the waffle cones? Perhaps.

This is my dad, Curt. He and his wife are Mr. and Mrs. Bloom who run the store, Bobbles and Bubbles. He is the reason I had such a fun filled childhood. He was also the inspiration for Ben & Dunagen, the twin magicians, in the books. Magic is free. Magic is imperative for childhood. But when it comes from your daddy, magic is so profound, it leaves a wonderful mark on the soul. My daddy is a good man.

My cousins, Benny and Jason Keele in this picture are one and two years older than me. They were the family ‘rascals,’ and I believe - still are. Benny, Jason, myself and my sister Jessica, are the four oldest grandchildren of over 80 that my grandparents have. I spent a lot of time with these two cousins. They used to knot my hair when I was asleep while we drove home from the beach in my Grandma Keele’s big orange van. They are the characters, Wuncer & Twice in my books. When I wasn’t playing with them, I was sitting with my teddy bear, watching Electric Company. Or, I was reading books to my younger siblings.

I plan on having five Un-Books. My love of words and my love for my daughter created this wonderful character and exceptionally weird, but whimsical world. I hope I continue to receive inspiration to continue with the series long after the Un-Books are complete.

Here are my first concepts for covers for the chapters:

After writing these books for so many years, getting married, and moving houses, one afternoon, my newly married daughter-in-law showed me her graphics on her webpage. She wanted to build a portfolio. I suggested she illustrate a few covers to my stories to pad her portfolio. After a few months, we became addicted to the world of Tallulah Froom and one thing lead to another. I was prompted to publish my stories and expand Tallulah Froom. Hayley soon became my employee and personal Illustrator. Let’s just say, she fits right in! Jeff’s character is Mr. Chester Chester and Hayley’s character is Ms. Raspberry Drop. So fun!

My Illustrator, Hayley, and I went through several versions of the book covers, town maps, family tree, etc. Here are some fun drafts.

A new life, a new family - life is great.

So, as you can see, this is a project of love, of my childhood memories and my wonderful family that I would be absolutely lost without.

I hope you enjoy my family as much as I have and continued to do.

I love my family. My heart is full.

Copyright © Sara Madden Books LLC 2022