As someone who grew up wanting to be Stephen King, Tara Moss was taken aback recently when an interviewer referred to her as the Robert De Niro of writing.
"What are you talking about," Moss asked at the time.
"You are a method writer," the interviewer replied.
Moss connected with the statement. "I am a method writer - I really enjoy my research," she tells me over the line from Brisbane.
And the Canadian-raised former model has taken that research to the extreme in 15 years of writing crime fiction.
Being choked unconscious, set on fire, witnessing autopsies, doing loops over the Sydney Opera House with the RAAF, getting her race car driver's licence and private investigative credentials, as well as spending time with the NSW Homicide Squad, the LAPD and FBI agents, is all classified as research by the now Australian citizen.
Moss says as a writer of crime fiction she has a responsibility to her readers to achieve a high level of authenticity.
"It's fiction but you are writing about real life. There are people out there who are victims of crimes and there are lot of investigators who are working in that area every day, so I think it needs to be reflected in a very accurate way."
With the release of Assassin, the final book in her popular Makedde Vanderwall series, Moss admits it will be hard to say goodbye.
"I think when my schedule settles down and I realise I won't be writing her again that will make me feel sad," she says.
"For the moment I just feel like the experience of writing her final story is quite cathartic. I have been immersed in her world and had her as a part of my life for a decade and a half."
She says Mak, who has had a rough ride over the six books, has an appropriate, if dark, end.
"It feels like it is the right time. I also feel that her story is told - that this is where I wanted her story to go.
"I think for those who love Mak, we appreciate what she has been through; we have seen her grow into this person and grow in that darkness."
Like Moss, Mak is Canadian and a former model. But she says that is where the similarities end.
"Mak is the first protagonist I wrote in a novel, she was the protagonist I wrote between modelling jobs when I was 23.
"I didn't have a publisher, I didn't have an agent and I had only a very abstract idea of ever being published, so I wrote what came instinctively.
"I guess I have always thought of Mak as being like a fictional sister. I have never thought of her as being me - that would be a huge mistake in fiction.
"To begin with it would be very limiting but I certainly created someone who came from the same background so I didn't have to second guess her."
Moss' own life, which she shares with her poet-philospher husband, Berndt Sellheim, and their 18-month-old daughter, is far from the chaotic one she has created for Mak.
"I live in the Blue Mountains and I have got something of a writer's retreat up there where my husband and I both write.
"We have both been full-time parents and full-time novelists up in the mountains, living our version of the dream."
Moss says despite being well-known for her modelling, she hopes people see her as a writer.
"After having written nine novels I would like to think that is what people know me for now. But you can never really guess how people interpret you. I find fashion enjoyable; it is another form of expression but it is not my passion. My passion has always been books, so being able to do that for a living is my childhood dream come true.
"My first writings were Stephen King-style novelettes for my classmates in elementary school when I was 10.
"So I always had a fascination with the dark side of human nature and I wrote about that from a very young age."Assassin is published by HarperCollins ($29.99). Tara Moss will be appearing at the Prendiville Catholic College for Dymocks Joondalup on Thursday, September 27 at 6.30pm. Cost is $6 including refreshments. To book, phone 9300 0895. The following day at 10.30am she will be at Swanbourne BookCaffe for a morning tea and book signing. To book, phone 9385 0553.
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