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Tami Hoag

interviewed by Hilary Williamson, January 2012

Tami Hoag, an avid competitive equestrian, had her first novel published in 1988. With fifteen consecutive New York Times bestsellers to her credit, she has more than 35 million books in print, published in more than twenty languages worldwide.

Her latest novel continues (from Deeper Than the Dead and Secrets to the Grave) her Oak Knoll series of chillers, that combine a strong human element with a touch of romance. Down the Darkest Road centers on Lauren Lawton, a desperate woman at the very end of a fast fraying rope.

Q: I find your thrillers very empathetic; you really seem to get into the heads of your characters and make them real, especially the women. How do you immerse yourself so thoroughly in them?

A: For me, the process is kind of like method acting. I really try to feel what they're feeling no matter what they're going through. If the experience is real for me, I hope that translates for the reader as well.

Q: You are also very hard on your leads, placing them regularly in desperate situations, and then taking them from very bad to much, much worse; do you enjoy that aspect of plotting your novels?

A: I don't know that "enjoy" is the right word. That would make me a sadist! I feel like that's my job as the writer--to throw as much at this character as possible--and it's the protagonist's job to fight and rise to the occasion. For me, that's the definition of "heroic".

Q: Reading a lot of mysteries, I'm usually pretty good at seeing what's coming and guessing 'whodunit'. Only a few authors, including Jeffery Deaver and yourself, regularly fool me. How did you develop your talent for misdirection?

A: Writing is a very organic process for me. I don't write from an outline. I don't know where the story is going. I let it develop and let the characters take me on the ride. I want it to be a surprise for me. If I'm surprised, then the reader should be as well.

Q: For a sleepy little community, Oak Knoll seems to have more than its share of serial killers - how do you account for that?

A: Actually, there have only been two serial killers--though that is two more than any town would want to have. One I knew going in was a serial killer. The other one turned out to be something I hadn't exactly anticipated. But in terms of crime rates, for a city of 35-40,000 people to have several murders over the course of five years--which is the time that has elapsed from the first book through this one--isn't bad at all. I would still move to Oak Knoll in a heartbeat if I could. Life--and death--there is never dull!

Q: I have appreciated the fact that the characters I like best in your novels continue to play parts in successive stories - FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit legend Vince Leone, his wife Anne Navarre, and Sheriff's Detective Tony Mendez in particular. Will Lauren Lawton show up again in Oak Knoll?

A: I wouldn't be surprised to see Lauren again. While I like the focus of each book to be varied in terms of main characters, I enjoy revisiting all of them. It's like seeing old friends. I want to know how she and her daughter do after all they went through.

Q: In Down the Darkest Road, Lauren quotes Winston Churchill saying, 'If you're going through hell, keep going.' Have you ever had to apply this to your own life?

A: Absolutely. Thank God, I can say I've never been the victim of a violent crime, but like most people, I've gone through my share of rotten times.

Q: White knight Tony Mendez seems especially unlucky in love, first falling for Anne and then for married Sara Morgan. Will he get anywhere with fellow cop Danni Tanner?

A: I love that people are rooting for Tony and Danni to get together. I love them both, and I'll definitely be finding out whether or not those sparks between them turn into a fire.

Q: Vince Leone didn't have a big role this time around? Will he be back on center stage any time soon?

A: Absolutely. Vince won't take a back seat for long. I'm already making notes for another book featuring Vince. It won't be the next book, but he'll be back.

Q: Your Oak Knoll series covers have been spectacular. As the author, do you have much say in cover design and/or selection?

A: I have consultation rights, which means Dutton's brilliant art director puts together the idea and I get to say whether I like it or not, or ask for corrections or changes to be made. I have to say, my Dutton covers are my favorites. They've knocked it out of the park every time.

Q: Can you tell us anything about what's coming next in Oak Knoll? And can we expect the same adrenaline rush from reading it as from the first three books?

A: I'm taking a break from Oak Knoll right now to revisit my old friends Kovac and Liska from Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, and Prior Bad Acts. Then I'll go back to Oak Knoll. I've got two really strong ideas for the next book in the series, but I haven't decided yet which one to go with.
Find out more about Tami Hoag, all her books, and her involvement as a top equestrian competitor in the Olympic discipline of dressage at
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