Interview With Tami Hoag

Tami Hoag's novels have appeared regularly on national bestseller lists since the publication of her first book in 1988. She lives in Virginia with a menagerie of pets. Tami Hoag's latest novel is Dark Horse, a suspense novel which takes place in the professional horse world. Tami Hoag, a skilled equestrian, culls from her own experience and knowledge about horses and dressage in the novel.

Your novels are so detailed and so precise about procedure. How do you undertake research?

Like most crime writers I have a library full of reference books on law enforcement, crime scene procedures, the minds of serial killers, and so forth. And with great networks like A&E and Discovery, I've also amassed a considerable video library. But by far my favorite method of research is hands on. I try to interview people who actually do the jobs I write about, which is always fun and interesting. I've met so many terrific people in law enforcement who were very generous with their time and expertise. I've been able to ride along with a sex crime detective, sit down with an FBI profiler and review old cases-crime scene video and all! I've toured the FBI Academy and was given the opportunity to try my hand at their firearms training interactive video test. For me the most valuable part of this kind of research, however, is just hanging out with the men and women on the job, listening to them, absorbing the atmosphere and attitudes of their world.

Spill the beans: which of your novels is your favorite?

Dark Horse by Tami Hoag
Click here
for ordering information.

No one ever believes me when I say this, but I really don't have a favorite. Each book is a journey from its inception to publication. Some came more easily than others. More than one bore the charming nickname The Book From Hell when I was struggling through the process.

I've heard it said that producing a book is a lot like having a baby. Conception is the fun part. In the beginning there is idealism, and perfection seems possible. Then the book starts to grow and change and take on a personality of its own, and suddenly I realize the enormity of what I've taken on. By the time I deliver the thing, I—and all around me—have begun to question my sanity. I want to strangle my muse and scream: Why did I ever let you talk me into this?! Then one day there it is in my hands: A real, "honest-to-goodness" book, with a striking cover with my name in big letters. At that point, that book becomes the most wonderful brilliant thing I've ever done. Characters I may have cursed every day for nine months are my old dear friends, and I'm sad to think I have to leave them behind and move on. But that new idea, THAT'S the best idea I've ever had, and it has the potential to be perfect. . . And the process starts again.

Dark Horse takes place in Florida—a new locale for your thrillers. It also involves championship horse shows—very unusual. Tell us about the genesis of this: how did it begin for you?

In my life away from my desk. I am a competitive equestrian. In fact, I've been a rider far longer than I've been a writer. I grew up riding western, then jumpers, then settled on dressage—the perfectionists dream sport. Dressage—one of three equestrian disciplines contested at the Olympics—is all about control and precision and the mastery of imperceptible cues between rider and horse. When I began seriously competing in dressage in 1999, my coach, Betsy Steiner, encouraged me to take my horse, along with others from her stable, to Florida for the winter show season that would begin in January 2000.

Every year, equestrians migrate down the east coast to Wellington in Palm Beach County to spend three months in constant training and competition. At the Palm Beach Polo and Equestrian Center alone more than 4,000 horses are stabled for the winter. For three months the top horses and riders from the eastern and mid-western United States, Canada, and Europe call south Florida home, creating a fascinating microcosm. It's an incredible world driven by the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat—and, oh yes, lots and lots of money. A world populated with every kind of human being from the ultra rich, to the very poor, celebrities, royalty, ordinary people who've scrimped and saved to do "the season"; philanthropists, dilettantes, professionals, con men, and criminals; people who love horses, and people who love to exploit the people who love horses.

The winter of 2001 I was in full-on deadline mode, writing Dust to Dust, while at the same time competing with the top amateur dressage riders in the country. Everyday I would train in the morning and write all afternoon and evening. Under that kind of pressure, my senses were hypersensitive to everything around me, and it didn't take long at all before l was seeing story ideas everywhere. By the end of that first season, I had the seeds of Dark Horse. A blending of my two worlds: a classic private eye/police procedural novel set in the world of international horse shows.

If you could be something other than an author, what would you be?

Dust to Dust by Tami Hoag
Click here
for ordering information.

That's a really hard question. First, I can't imagine not being a writer, because that's as much who I am as what I do. Before I became published, of course, I had a long list of odd jobs. Everything from working for a newspaper to being a photographer's assistant to selling posh bathroom accoutrements. Safe to say, none could be considered a dream job for me.

I have a lot of wildly varying interests, from psychology to the law to music to interior design—which makes being a writer the perfect job because I get to take a turn being anything I want via a character. And I don't have worry about office politics or boring paperwork. But regardless, of the job, I would also have to do something creative because that's the way I am. I need to create things and change things, to have a vision of something and make it happen.

What's your favorite book or author? Who influenced you as you were growing up, and who made an impression on you as you embarked on your bestselling career?

I read all kinds of books growing up. I can't say that any one author influenced me more than another. I tried to learn from all of them. As far as learning the business, I gained a good idea of what it means to be a working writer by reading columns and articles by Lawrence Block.

These days when I get a chance to read for pleasure, I love Raymond Chandler for classic crime fiction. Among my contemporaries, my favorites include Robert Crais, Michael Connolly, Steve Thayer, and Eileen Dreyer.

Eileen writes thrillers now, but began her career as did I—writing romance. She and I and two other romance writers—Elizabeth Grayson and Kimberly Cates—form The Divas. I often thank the Divas in my book acknowledgments, and readers often ask me who the Divas are. Now you know. The four of us came into the business at about the same time and bonded. No matter what may change in our careers or in our personal lives, the Divas remain a constant source of support for each other.

What's next? Is there a project in the works?

There is. I'm already putting together the preliminary work for a book about obsessive love and stalking. A story about the lives of four people intertwining, the way each of them is effected, and at what point love becomes obsession becomes hate. It's an idea with some very innovative twists, and I'm very excited about it. The working title is Mad Love, but of course that could change 82 times before the book comes out.

I also have plans to revisit the characters from Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust, and for a legal thriller set in my new home, Los Angeles. Now, if only I could clone myself and write them all at once ....

Posted with permission of the publisher.