Travels With Tami: Changing Genres With Your Favorite Authors

Tami Hoag
Tami Hoag
I’m an avid reader who enjoys a variety of genres. I discovered a number of good writers by reading series romances and have stayed loyal to them through the years although they’ve changed styles and even genres. Writers like Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Iris Johansen, and Tami Hoag have consistently done what they did in those early smaller novels right on through their present blockbusters—entertain and enlighten.

I began reading Tami Hoag through her Loveswept series romance novels and thoroughly enjoyed her rich, conflicted characters. For me, reading romance is pure escape. I want lots of good conflict and struggle, but I must have a truly happy ending. Tami Hoag’s romance novels followed my recipe perfectly.

She has always been a prolific writer. In fact, during her first three years as a romance writer, she released twelve books! That’s the kind of writer I enjoy. It’s difficult to wait a long time for the next book even though I understand how much time it takes to write one. While these books had the necessary romance and sexual tension, there was also a plausible story that kept me wondering what would happen next.

The Trouble with J.J.
Oh, how sweet her early books looked!
Her first series romance was The Trouble with J.J., published in 1988, and she has been writing steadily ever since. Her earlier books were laced with humor that spiced the romance deliciously. This was another one of the draws for me. There’s nothing sexier than a man with a great sense of humor. It wasn’t long, however, before Tami began adding suspense to her series romances, another of my favorite ingredients.

When she moved to the mainstream fiction with Night Sins (1995), I moved right along with her because no matter what kind of book Hoag was writing, she wrote it with the same intensity and attention to detail.

Night Sins swas not only a bestseller, it became a TV miniseries starring Valerie Bertinelli and Harry Hamlin. You can occasionally still catch it in reruns. I love seeing my favorite books on screen. It just adds another layer of enjoyment (unless the screen writers mess with the plot, of course). Though she has had other books optioned for movies, none have made to the screen so far, which is a big disappointment for readers like me.

I really like Hoag’s stories because they are character driven. She says she doesn’t work from an outline, but usually starts a story with a crime and lets the characters live through the story to find the climax. That intrigues me because I’m the kind of person who’ll witness an event and then think about it for a long time while asking myself, “What if?” Whatever format she uses, it works for me and millions of other readers worldwide.

Tami Hoag, Secrets To The Grave
No sweet innocence left.
Hoag’s books often contain graphic violence, which she says is simply an element of crime fiction. I agree. You don’t shoot or stab someone without getting blood everywhere. In an interview with Expanded Books on YouTube, Hoag said, “For me that’s what it should be. Violence should have an impact.” I absolutely agree with this statement. While I don’t mind violence and know you can’t read about murder without someone dying, I like knowing the culprit will pay for the crime. I know it doesn’t often work out that way in real life, but I don’t enjoy the book if it doesn’t work out that way in fiction.

Some said Hoag took a risk with her novels, Deeper than the Dead and Secrets to the Grave because both books are set in the mid 80s before criminologists and police had the technology and forensics available today. However, Hoag obviously enjoyed going back to letting her characters use the strong investigative skills that the police still match to the technology of today. I liked both books and again it was because I had a real interest in the characters and wanted to know what happened with them.

Tami Hoag uses The First 48 as inspiration.
Inspiration as well as entertainment.
Like most crime writers, Hoag says she has a library filled with reference books. She also learns a great deal about what detectives and federal agents do by following them around and interviewing them. She has toured the FBI Academy and even worked with their firearms training interactive video test. She’s a regular viewer many of the true crime shows on A&E and Discovery, which provide lots of fodder for her stories.

I think this is great. There’s little that aggravates me more than finding an error in procedure or behavior in a character. I know I see them all the time on TV shows, but darn it, I expect my authors to be smarter than TV writers. I’m afraid I’m a bit of a snob and won’t read any further if an error makes me stop and wish I could correct it.

Hoag says she gets most of her ideas from studying true crime. She then takes the crimes and begins asking characters questions: how would that crime affect a victim? How would it affect the detective? What would be the long-term effects? Answering these questions helps her create believable, three-dimensional characters that readers remember for a long time. Some of these characters show up in more than one book because Hoag says they’re still speaking to her.

I’ve read about a lot of authors that do this and I do believe that characters evolve while they’re being written. I know when a writer says this they’re not chained to an idea but will let the story and the characters create the outcome.

Tami Hoag’s stories are rich, layered, and complicated. They’re also nice and scary at times. So fix yourself a good cup of coffee, turn all the lights on and lock the doors, and enjoy some great suspenseful reading from one of America’s favorite writers.

Leigh Neely is a former newspaper and magazine editor. She currently does freelance work and recently had a short story published in the anthology, Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices. She writes regularly for the blog Women of Mystery.

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