Q: Are there certain songs that inspired you while writing The Boy? Do you have different playlists for different books?
A: It depends on the book and the setting, but I usually do have something of a playlist, a soundtrack for the story. For the books set in South Louisiana, that’s a must. Music is a part of the place, a part of the culture–from the traditional Cajun music of Beausoleil to the Zydeco music of Zachary Richard to the soulful country-blues sound of Marc Broussard. The music is part of the rich atmosphere of the area and the soul of the people there.
Q: Which character in The Boy would you say most resembles you and why? (Was the resemblance intentional or unintentional?)
Annie Broussard. My heroines and I spend a lot of time together in my head, so they have to be women I can relate to on some level, women I would be friends with in real life. Annie is very down-to-earth, just a normal woman trying to juggle all the aspects of her life–work, motherhood, her relationship with her husband. She’s a small town girl–we have that in common. And she has the courage of her convictions. I admire that. I love that while everyone else is terrified of Nick, Annie has always stood up to him, and he loves her for that.
Q: How do you like to work? Do you have a schedule, or is it more of a mood that dictates your writing habits?
A: I have to work my way into the story, so at the beginning I’ll work a few hours then leave it be, think about it, come back and tinker with it until I have more of a feel for it. Once I find my rhythm, the hours become longer and longer, and I tune out other aspects of my life. The book becomes all-consuming.
Q: What shows do you like to watch? Are you a fan of television crime shows? British or American? Does television ever inspire events in your novels?
A: I don’t watch any American crime fiction on network TV. I know too much about how a real investigation works, and most of the cop shows here bear little resemblance to reality. That bothers me. I work really hard to try to accurately portray the jobs and the people I write about, so that’s what I want to see. I’m a political junkie, so I watch a lot of news, but I also watch true crime shows for research and inspiration. I also like some British crime shows, which tend to be more character based than action based. Nobody solving crimes with holograms and crazy nonsense like that. My current favorites are Shetland and Vera. I’ve only just discovered Netflix, and I’m finding some good shows there, as well.
Q: What is the research process like when it comes to writing a book that deals so much with police work/criminal behavior?
A: I’ve been at this for a long time, so I have a good grasp of how to run a homicide investigation. I’ve done loads of research over the years, including a lot of hands-on research with people in all aspects of law enforcement, from homicide detectives to sex crimes detectives to FBI agents, forensic psychologists, ballistics experts, blood evidence experts. I’ve driven police cars, shot all manner of weapons, discussed cases with profilers. Every summer I go to a police academy conference specifically for crime writers where we take the same courses as the professionals, taught by their instructors. It all adds to the realism of the story.
Q: What space in your home is the best reflection of your personality, and why? Where are you most comfortable writing? Please describe that space so we can picture it.
A: I live alone with my dog, so every part of my home reflects who I am and what I like. I surround myself with art and with things I’ve collected. I’m a nester, so I like to work in my office where I’m surrounded by books and everything I might need. Last fall I was displaced from my home by a massive wildfire. My neighbor’s house burned to the ground. My house had extensive smoke damage, and part of the process of restoration is having literally everything you own taken away to be cleaned, which takes months. It seemed the perfect time to do a bit of remodeling, so I had a cabinet maker come in and do my office. He built a huge wall of cupboards with open bookcases above that go nearly to the ceiling, very traditional in style in a clean soft white. He also did matching built-in cabinets flanking the fireplace which has a white stone French art nouveau-style mantel. Above the mantel is a five-foot tall painting of one of my horses, Feliki. She was a fierce competitor. Now she keeps an eagle eye on me as I work. No slacking with Feliki watching! One end of the room is a unique curved bay of floor-to-ceiling windows and a door that leads out to the patio and the pool, and beyond the pool is woods. My house is built on a hillside, so I’m at canopy level of the trees. It’s a very private, peaceful property. I have two big, plush wing chairs that sit in that alcove beyond my desk, and this is where my cocker spaniel, Miss Molly, hangs out while I work. It’s a very lovely, calm, space.
Q: What true crime story particularly piques your interest? Anything specifically intriguing about that case?
A: There are too many to name. The things people will do to one another and their motivations for doing them never cease to amaze me.
Q: Why have you chosen to set so many books in Louisiana?
A: It’s a special, unique place, so rich in atmosphere and history. All I have to see is a scene with those big live oak trees draped in moss, and the fog hanging over the swamp, and already I’ve got a stage set for suspense. There’s a built-in sense of mystery about a place like that, where you have civilization camped at the edge of raw wilderness that I think people find intriguing. And the mix of people and cultures in south Louisiana also adds a richness and a texture to the story before I’ve done anything at all. I just find it a fascinating place.
Q: What was the first part of The Boy that you started writing? Where did the story begin in your mind?
A: I write in chronological order, so I start at the beginning and finish at the end. I saw that opening scene–Genevieve running down that bayou road in the dead of night, terrified, flashbacks from the scene in her home racing through her head–and had to to know what had happened and why. I find out the answers to those questions as I go. I don’t write from an outline. I want the revelations to shock me. I figure if I’m surprised, my readers will be as well.
Q: Some people believe that pets can have a positive effect on a person’s mental health/self-development. Do you feel that they impact your writing? If so, in what ways?
A: Oh yes! I have to have my animals around me to calm and center me. I’m like a racehorse that needs a stable pony. I currently have just the one dog, but I usually have two or three. Dogs keep life real and in the moment, while I’m usually barely tethered to reality because I live in this alternate universe in my head so much of the time.
Q: What type of snacks do you keep within reach while you’re in the writing zone? Do your eating habits change when you’re in the zone?
A: I used to be a junk food junkie while on deadline, but I’ve recently changed my wicked ways and started eating a healthier diet. There was a brief period of mourning over the loss of my Cheetos, but I’m over it now. I’ll sneak a few from time to time so as not to feel deprived, but now my body immediately calls me on it, so it happens less and less. Now I’m all about the green tea and healthy snacks. So boring, I know! But I haven’t given up vodka and tonic. I just add a lot of lemon to make it healthy! LOL.
Q: Who is the first person you show your work to, and why?
A: My agent and then my editor. I’m a lone wolf. No critique partners or writing group for me. I have a clear idea of what I want to do in a story, and I only want the opinions of the people who pay me to do what I do. I don’t want a lot of other voices in my head. I want to keep my focus narrow.
Q: Every writer gets stuck at some point in a project. What was the hardest part of The Boy to write?
A: I had a lot of external stress while I was writing this book, things that stopped my creative process hard in its tracks, and then I would have to pull myself out of that funk and try to move forward. Then the next catastrophe would hit and derail me, and I would have to pull myself up out of the weeds again and drag myself on. I had a big move across the country from Florida back to California, which was a positive thing, but also very stressful and time-consuming. Then I lost my older dog, which was heartbreaking. She had been with me through so much in my life. Then the country took what I felt was a catastrophic political turn, and that knocked me sideways. Then my mother, who had struggled with Alzheimer’s for several years, passed away, and I lost another dog to illness several days later. It was just one thing after another. Honestly, I was lucky to be writing characters who are so alive to me. It wasn’t that they weren’t cooperating. They had to wait for me.
Q: Can you describe something about Genevieve or another character that you never added to The Boy but have established in your mind?
A: Something that I only touched on in THE BOY was Annie’s background and the mystery her mother took with her to her grave. I know that her mother just showed up in Bayou Breaux, pregnant and alone, and that Sos and Fanchon Doucet took her in, and later raised Annie after her mother’s death. This history is something Annie lives with that gives her a unique perspective when dealing with Genevieve Gauthier–also a single mother with a mysterious past. But I have yet to solve Annie’s mystery. I walk around with that in my head just as she does. I don’t really know the answers yet, which I’m sure sounds strange, but one day all will be revealed to Annie and to me!
Q: Who is your favorite character in The Boy and why?
A: I love writing Nick Fourcade because he is so complex and difficult. He’s WAY smarter than I am, which is a challenge. I’m often impressed with his thinking, which sounds completely bonkers since I’m writing him. It’s a weird process, to be sure. I love the intricate workings of his mind, his elaborate philosophies, the very particular way he speaks. He’s a hard-ass, but I understand where he came from and how much he cares about getting justice for victims, it just makes me love him more. I love how in love he is with his wife, and how much he loves being a father. He’s the guy I would go for, for sure–difficult but good as gold.
Q: Are there any books you keep by your side while you write, classic crime thrillers or anything that inspires you? Do you read suspense while you’re writing it?
A: I don’t read suspense while I’m writing suspense because I’ll be distracted by it and I’ll be too analytical about it to enjoy it. That’s reading I save for when I’m on hiatus from work. While I was writing THE BOY, I had to have a copy of the first Nick and Annie book–A THIN DARK LINE–close at hand for reference. I wrote that book more than 20 years ago, so to say the details were sketchy in my mind would be a huge understatement. I ended up re-reading it again to refresh my memory and to get the voices of the characters firmly back in my mind.
Q: Is The Boy a book that your younger self would have picked up to read? How would younger Tami respond to The Boy?
A: Definitely. I’ve always loved books that delve into the psychological complexities of the characters and their relationships. Throw in some moral ambiguity, and emotional torment, and I’m totally hooked!
Q: What was the first thing you did when you finished writing The Boy?
A: Deadline is so brutal. By the end of this book I was working insane hours, pulling all-nighters. I was completely done in by the time I typed THE END. Add to the brain drain the fact that I’m a beat-up old athlete with a terrible back. I remember I went directly from my desk to a steaming hot salt bath, and then to bed at the crack of dawn. And when I woke up a few hours later, I went straight back to my desk to work on revisions because I was so terribly late getting the book turned in to my publisher. That’s the glamorous life of the best-selling writer!