Tara Moss is the Siren

| 16 October , 2009 | 4 Replies

I had the pleasure of interviewing Tara Moss about the latest instalment to her Mak Vanderwall adventures, Siren.

I’m a big fan of Tara’s, I met her back in 2002 when she worked with me to launch Ferrari’s $2M car to the Australian Media at the Sydney Motor Show. I gave her her speech the day before, we did a run through at 10pm the night before and the next morning at 8am she had the complete speech memorised (and it was technical) … I’ve been in awe ever since.

I’ve read all of Tara’s books and I was looking forward to Siren and I devoured it in two days.  Although there was a twist at the end that I boo hoo’d about I can’t wait for her to release the next one to find out what happens next – now that’s definitely a sign of a good book!


But back to Tara’s book Siren, as of this week Siren is the #1 Australian Fiction novel *big round of applause*.  Now you might think that Tara has had it easy going from a high profile fashion model to the literary world, but she hasn’t.  Tara released her first book, Fetish, in 1999 and it’s been an uphill battle ever since to get people to take her seriously as an author.  Tara always dreamed of being a novelist since she was a little girl, she started writing when she was 10 writing for her school classmates, but it wasn\’t until she was 23 that she first entered a writing contest.  She’s worked hard for her success (she’s been writing about Makedde for 12 years) and I totally take my hat off to her for that.

Tara is renowned for going to extremes to research her books (she’s set herself on fire, she’s been choked unconscious) and she says the research is half the reason why she loves writing in the crime genre.

Real life experiences always surprise me. I never imagined how it would feel to be choked unconscious, and now I know.  The choking scene in Siren is as accurate as real life, and that satisfies me.  I don\’t ever want to fake it, and my curiosity quite possibly knows no bounds.”

It takes about two years for Tara’s books to develop, she starts with an idea of the characters she wants to write about, and then tries to imagine the most dynamic and relevant life twist that could throw them together.  Once she has a seed of an idea, she starts the planning, thinking and researching process writing it out until it comes out, word by word, over 24 months.  Some days she’s focused on reading and researching the ideas – spending time in morgues, hospitals, squad cars, or getting her PI license or researching with the FBI – and other days she’s holed up by herself writing for 12-16 hours.  There is no standard system or routine for her, in fact, she abhors routine in all aspects of her life.

Her characters and plots take inspiration from a variety of sources – real life, case studies and imagination – but she’s ever so careful to never base them entirely on any real life individual.  She says in the 12 years that she’s been writing about Mak, the process has never gotten any easier.


So what’s the book about you say? Here’s a quick synopsis:

Mak Vanderwall — beautiful, street-wise daughter of a cop, graduate in forensic psychology, and now PI — is hired by a widowed mother to track down her missing nineteen-year-old son. Has he come to harm? Or has he run off with a bizarre troupe of shady French cabaret artists sweeping through Australia?

Has the dark beauty of the burlesque, the magic, the mind-bending contortion, beguiled him? Or has he been seduced by the mysterious and amoral older woman who has a terrifying starring role in the troupe′s modern performances of the Grand Guignol ′Theatre of Fear′, famous in Paris in the early 1900s?

And what of the rumours of violence and tragedy that have plagued the troupe for the past decade? Is their horrifying past fact or fiction?

Meanwhile, Mak is increasingly obsessed with the powerful and ruthless Cavanagh family. And it seems their security advisor Mr White, and his hit man, Luther Hand, may not have forgotten about Mak either …

Mak’s story is continued on from Tara’s previous books (Fetish, Split, Covet & Hit) but I don’t think you need to have read them to understand Siren because Tara has written it well and keeps you in the loop throughout.

The story splits its time between Sydney and Paris. And I particularly loved the European theatre history involving the historical Grand Guignol and the very strange theatre family.  You can tell she’s put a lot of thought into the book through the details and how she’s woven it all together, very clever she is!

Q&A with Tara:

I know Tara you would have been asked this question a zillion times but I had to ask you too, where did you get the name Makedde from?

A: Since Fetish hit book shelves in 1999 I have been asked (1), why I named my main character Makedde, (2), where the name came from, and (3), how the f&%*# it is pronounced.

  • I made it up (I do write fiction, after all, and I liked that it could be shortened to ‘Mak\’)
  • I was very young and I have no idea what I was thinking
  • Maa-Kay-Dee (Editor: this pronunciation is always addressed in each book)

In the subsequent years that I have spent wondering what I was thinking in creating an unpronounceable protagonist in an ongoing thriller series, I have discovered that the name Makedde most closely resembles a male African name, though pronounced differently. Like every author, I wanted to create a memorable protagonist, and in my case a memorable name as well. But what I could not have possibly predicted was the slowly growing population of Makedde’s that naming would create, many of whom I have met at book signings around the world. Incredibly, since my fictional Mak was launched into book shops, well-meaning parents have started naming daughters after my troubled private eye/forensic psychologist.

I certainly hope the name proves luckier for these daughters of the future than it has for my beloved Mak, who has suffered several kidnappings, broken ribs, a broken jaw and a severed toe, among other minor set backs which include the obsessional attentions of various psychopaths, hit men and serial killers. She lives in a dangerous (fictional) world indeed, and is quite the psycho magnet if I may say so myself.

Q: I\’m a cartoon (well Sassi is) and Mak is fictional, do you sometimes get confused over who you are when you\’re in the depths of writing or do you do a bit of ‘method writing\’ where you are Mak for the intense time that you are writing your book?

A: I relate emotionally to Makedde, but I never mistake myself for her or for any of the other characters I write.  I love them all, even the ones I need to kill off, and although they feel real to me, and they even sometimes tell me what they will or won\’t do, they are very much in the fictional world once I step out of my mental ‘writing zone\’.  I don\’t literally suffer from multiple personality disorder. 

Tara: May I say, Sassi, it must be fun to be a cartoon.

Sassi: Being a cartoon has it’s advantages, we never age and we can do anything 🙂

Q: Do you re-read your previous books?

A: I avoid re-reading my work once it is published as it’s unchangeable.  I have to focus on my future work, not my past.  I feel more confident about my more recent novels – Covet, Hit and Siren – and yet some fans tell me Fetish was their favorite even though it was my first novel and I wrote it at 23.  One always wishes to evolve and improve, and I do hope and believe I am achieving that both professionally and personally.

Q: You know what I think about the ending and I can\’t wait for the next book, you\’ve got your writing format and storytelling perfected but all I can think about is OMG what new method research are you going to get up to next?

A: Who knows what crazy research I will experience for my next novel&.?  My process is organic so I’m not sure yet what Mak will get up to next.


Okay, some fun & girlie personal questions:

If they made a movie of one or all of your books, who would you want to play Mak? She mightn\’t be right for the part, but I\’d want to try to cast Angelina Jolie just so I could be in the room with her.

Who is your celebrity crush? Vampire Bill from True Blood. He is a 175 year old undead civil war hero.  I can\’t help it.  I\’ve had a civil war fetish of unknown origins since I was little.

Which  is your favourite place in the world and why? Wickaninnish, Tofino BC, Canada.  It is a magical, mystic place of temperate rain forests, sky-scraper trees and breaching humpback whales. We took family holidays there when I was a child.  It has a special place in my heart.

Describe yourself in 5 words& Tara Moss, Human – Authoress. Adventuress. Considered Dangerous.

What\’s your life\’s motto? Life is too short to live the same day twice.

What five favourite things can\’t you live without? I can\’t live without my loved ones.  But ‘things\’?  I think I could live without everything if I was forced to.  Everything but food, water and air, of course.  And books.

Which Sassi Moment best describes you and why? Bad Hair Day would be me, though I don’t mind my often untamed locks.


Your favourite fun and girlie thing you like to do? I enjoy riding motorcycles, playing with my pythons (and no, that is not a euphemism, I have a pet Python) and I have a fetish for long baths, normally accompanied by aromatic bubbles, scented candles and a good novel.

Who would you like to have at a girl\’s night in and why? (Can be anyone around the globe living or passed.) I can\’t imagine anyone I\’d rather have a night in with than my mother, Janni.  If not her, I\’d like to hang out with the famed French erotic writer, intellectual and diarist Anais Nin (of Henry and June fame). She would have some wicked stories to tell.

Siren is available now from all good bookstores or HarperCollins, RRP$32.99.

Tara has her own website for you to meander around on and you can also follow her on twitter or facebook.

[Photo Credits of Tara 1, 2, 3]

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  1. Giveaway: Are you a Siren? | 26 October , 2009
  1. Sassi Sam says:

    It hasn’t been released yet, I am hoping it will be released end of this year.

  2. Camilla S says:

    What is the next book after Siren?

  3. avidreader says:

    I want to see the full footage of you being choked out. Why would you go to such lengths and risk for a small excerpt in your book. What was it like before and after you blacked out?

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