Tuesday, December 14, 2010
We met at a cafe in Bondi, she all Bambi limbs and giraffe eye-lashes. Me, hiding behind my stenographer's notepad, wishing myself elsewhere. But she confounded my expectations. First up, she was just really nice. Professional nice, but also personal nice (yes, Virginia, there is a difference). Down to earth, obsessed with blood and gore, and Smart. Really smart. A quote from my ensuing story is on her website:
"Forget all the cliches about international models... Tara Moss has literally rewritten them."
Since Fetish (which was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel), there have been four other books in Tara's phenomenally successful series about Makedde Vanderwall, a tall, blonde, gorgeous model who solves crimes. Add to that, this year, a new character in a new series as The Blood Countess introduces Pandora English.
And now, though seven months pregnant with her first child, Tara has graciously agreed to spend some time in the Fibro for my monthly writer's Q&A. Bless!
Does crime writing require a particular set of writing skills?
Tara Moss: "There is a lot of focus of concise plotting in suspense writing, but I think all good novel writing requires a disciplined plot and much, much more. I begin with character. For me, plot is extremely important, but still secondary to character development and motivation.
"I also value research quite highly. My crime novels take me to dark places and my research can be intense and, at times, disturbing. I believe that authenticity is important in all writing, and hands-on forensic and investigative research is a must for me. Not all writers are interested in hands-on research, of course - like getting their PI credentials or being choked unconscious for a scene - but I do find that my favourite crime writers have a similar dedication to research and experience. I believe it shows in the writing."
Was it the popularity of vampires that led you to The Blood Countess? Do you see vampires staying with us for a while?
TM: "The Blood Countess is the first in a series of novels where the real world and the spirit world or supernatural connect - a paranormal series, if you will, but not really a series about vampires. The title refers to the real life figure of Elizabeth Bathory, a noblewoman from the 1600s. The next novel in the series, The Spider Goddess, comes out next year and draws on Greek mythology. In the world of Pandora English, my new heroine, there are mediums, psychical scientists, vampires, ghosts and mythological monsters of all kinds. And even a touch of satire on precisely the current fads you're talking about...
"I think that somewhere in the human subconscious we crave stories that explore the dark side of the psyche - stories about vampires and villains, monsters and cold-blooded killers. We need to explore our most primal fears in our storytelling. It's what compels me to write about crime, mystery and things that go bump in the night."
You've said you take your research seriously. Does that get easier once you've established a character and a series? How did it feel to start all over again with Pandora?
TM: "It was wonderfully liberating to create new characters and an alternate New York for this series. My novels for the past 12 years have centred on Mak Vanderwall and I felt it was time to branch out and literally create a new world in my writing. I will continue to write crime and to write Mak, but also this new series. Creatively, I think variety and fresh challenge is very important. Research for this new series is totally different, but challenging and fascinating for me."
Writers are constantly told they must blog/tweet/get themselves out there... How do you balance the writing time with all the other things that make up a modern writer's life?
TM: "Novel writing takes priority, along with my TV commitments on CI Network and 13th Street, some of which involves delving into the criminal mind, reading books and interviewing fabulous authors - it's a tough life! I don't spend a lot of time blogging or tweeting, but it's something I enjoy in my downtime. I find that Twitter and Facebook are wonderful mediums to communicate directly with readers and fans. It doesn't take long, and the contact is rewarding."
How different do you think your writing life will be with the new baby?
TM: "Writing is my fulltime job and I will continue working to support my family. It's a bit early to predict how motherhood will change my writing, if it does at all - don't expect new stories about kittens and cupcakes! It might just be time for that spooky children's book I've been dreaming up for years..."
Do you love reading crime fiction? Ever tried writing it?