Tara interviewed by Cels Jansink
Not only are you the author of two bestselling series and the host of both “Tough Nuts” and “Tara Moss in Conversation” you’re also a new mum. Do you have any particular techniques when it comes to time management you can share?
I’ve always been very self-motivated, and where there is motivation there is a way. As it happens, I’ve had a wonderfully busy time the past two years with the addition of my new fiction series and TV shows, and having Sapphira hasn’t slowed things down. Having my writer husband Berndt as such a hands-on father has made all the difference to making that possible. We have travelled together as a family for all the work I have done since Sapphira was born, and I’ve been able to continue feeding her, which has been wonderful. She already has a passport. The photo is pretty hilarious.
Crime is obviously one of your biggest passions. You even earned your Certificate III in Private Investigation at the Australian Security Academy; did you ever dream of entering a career in law enforcement as a child?
Interestingly, I did not give a lot of thought to law enforcement until I began researching my first novel, Fetish. To my memory, I had not even met a police officer before then. But the past 12 years have seen me spend a lot of time in squad cars and at police academies and crime scenes. It has been a fascinating journey.
You have spent time in courtrooms, morgues and toured with both the FBI and LAPD and have even been set on fire and choked unconscious all in the name of research. Are there any other adventures you have planned for future research?
I am always on the look out for new research ideas. Each book brings new research requirements, and now that I am writing Assassin, the sixth Mak Vanderwall novel, I wonder what the next adventure holds. What could top being choked out and set on fire?
You’ve created one formidable crime fighting heroine with Mak Vanderwall and even incorporated an insider view into the modelling industryalongside catching nefarious crims. Is there a little bit of “Tara” hiding in Mak?
It could be said that there is more than a little bit of me in Mak, but although I relate to her, I am careful not to write her as me. She is more like a fictional sister of sorts – someone I understand intimately, and who comes from a similar background. Over the 12 years I have written her, however, she has grown and changed with her circumstances, and in Assassin, which I am writing at the moment, she is a very different person than the one I began writing. The characters I write become their own people.
I must admit “Fetish” in particular had me checking under the bed at night. Have you ever put a character in a situation that has left you with your heart thumping long after the fact?
I always find myself sucked into the scenes I am writing, but some scenes have been much more disturbing in that respect than others. I found it very hard to write the opening sequence of Split, as it was written from the perspective of the victim, and the crimes were based loosely on those of American serial killer Robert Hansen. What he did was truly terrifying. I also found the ending of Siren quite moving to write. Those extreme events are both tragic and strangely liberating for Mak.
You were the first author inducted onto the Australian Walk of Fame for Services to Literature. When you receive an award like this do you get a sense of finally having “made it”?
Life to me is primarily about looking forward, so whilst I am honoured by awards like these, I don’t think there is any such thing as having ‘made it’. Not until I die, anyway. Every day brings new challenges, and that is exactly as it should be.
After bringing us Mak’s heart racing adventures for 12 years; you introduced us to Pandora English and her paranormal life in Spektor. Was this a genre you always wanted to add your voice to?
Absolutely. I first fell in love with the novels of Stephen King when I was just 10 and since then I have been fascinated by stories of horror and the paranormal. I love the writings of Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Charlaine Harris, Neil Gaiman, HP Lovecraft and Anne Rice, and I felt with Pandora that I could add something fresh and at times humorous to the genre.
Pandora not only finds herself finding her way in the big bad city and dealing with obsessive compulsive vamps, but solving a crime or two along the way as well. Could we see Pandora become the new go-to girl when it comes to stranger than normal happenings in Spektor?
Pandora’s unique family heritage has put her right in the thick of it. Whether she wants it or not, she has become a key player in paranormal world – ironic considering she is so hugely underestimated in the ‘normal’ world. I know that if I were faced with the happenings in Spektor I’d want Pandora on my side, and her wise Great Aunt Celia as well.
“Tough Nuts” brings us the true stories of some of our most hardened criminals, has there been one story that has stood out to you personally more than the rest?
I have been moved by many of the stories on Tough Nuts, perhaps none more than the story of John Regan, ‘The Magician’ – a truly reprehensible psychopath we profile in an upcoming episode. He was called ‘The Magician’ because he made people disappear, including a four year old child.
I find Tilly Devine fascinating. As a female crime boss, and our first female ‘Tough Nut’, she was a unique woman who was exploited as an underage prostitute in London and went on to exploit other women in precisely the same way in her brothels, hooking them on cocaine to keep them coming back. The real Tilly wasn’t as pretty and soft as she is often portrayed, and in our profile of her we show her mix of ground breaking business acumen and violent brutality as it was. You don’t get to be Sydney’s ‘queen of vice’ by being nice.
You have interviewed some of the best-known names in crime fiction (including our very own Marianne). Is there a particular author you’re dyingto interview?
It’s been an honour to interview Lynda La Plante, Val McDermid, Ken Follett and Michael Connelly in recent months, and my wish list for future interviews is long and diverse. Stephen King is the author who made me start writing as a child and I would love the opportunity to meet and interview him one day. I’m also keen to interview Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse True Blood novels, and Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter series, both of whom I was very close to interviewing this year but couldn’t because of last minute timing issues. Faye Kellerman and Kathy Reichs are also high on my (very long) list.
Which authors dominate your own bookshelves? Who has inspired you in your own career?
I appreciate a variety of authors and genres, and while my crime novels have been influenced by Patricia Cornwell and Thomas Harris, and my Pandora English series influenced by the classic horror novels of Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde and Mary Shelley, as well as the works of Anne Rice and Charlaine Harris, some of my other favourite authors include Ian McEwan, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Jeff Lindsay, Lynda La Plante, Roald Dahl, Anais Nin, and Margaret Atwood. I also enjoy Australian authors Leigh Redhead, Marianne Delacourt, and more. I could keep going, but I doubt you have the space.
And one just for fun. If you could spend the day with anyone fictional or otherwise; who would it be and why
I would like to spend a day with Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks, eating cherry pie and drinking ‘damn fine’ black coffee. I trust he would keep me safe from the nefarious forces of the Black Lodge. Then I’d like to take to the night sky with Silas from Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.
Thank you x Tara