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volante: australia

Investigating Tara Moss
Investigating Tara Moss


Though Makedde herself is clearly not a Russ Meyer creation, according to Moss, her first three books work as a ‘trilogy’, as the reader will experience her transformation from an average girl and psychology student to a fully realized person interesting skills, strengths and capabilities. ‘She goes through a lot of trauma and adventure in the first three books and comes out of it smarter, more complex and with a unconventional skills set which includes self-defence, surveillance, investigation, and she puts it to use in the fourth novel Hit, which has been a best seller internationally, and I hope will arrive in the US next year. In that book, she gets her private investigator’s licence, which is something I happen to be working on right now. The fifth book continues her evolution, but I am still working on what that will be. As I want some of the story to be set in Paris, I was doing research in the Catacombs and the cemeteries around town.’

Is there anything Makedde cannot do, or Tara for that matter? As a writer, Tara knows she has a dual responsibility to the reader in keeping Mak exciting and heroic but also keeping her human, even as she immerses herself in the darkest aspects of the human soul, the domains of the most dangerous people and the most thrilling locations among the globe. Though as a woman, Mak herself is a fresh presence, her exploits also recall another recently resurrected and revitalized hero.

‘Does she remind you a bit of James Bond?’ I ask.

‘As far as I am concerned, she’s Jane Bond,’ Tara affirms. ‘Even though Daniel Craig looks great in swim trunks, we’ve had enough of James Bond and need a Jane Bond now to take over the mantle. And she would look great in swimwear in her own right. Better still, she’s more realistic and fallible. They did that well in Casino Royale, having him make mistakes, and be fallible, but Mak is generally more realistic than the average James Bond hero. She’s flawed, she falls in love with the wrong men, she gets into fights and gets hurt. She tries to pick locks and gets caught by the cops, she’s adventurous but by no means a superhero, especially in the beginning.’

Like Ian Fleming, however, Tara definitely has a flair for the international, with each novel taking place in several different world capitals and other fascinating locales. While New York and Paris will be making appearances in the next novel, Canadian-born Mak has made the rounds in places like Sydney, Hong Kong and the FBI Academy in Virginia. With the clear worldwide appeal of these books, however, Tara laughs at the irony that in the many translations of her books, the title Covet had been mistranslated as Comet and Covert, and jokingly remarks that she hopes readers everywhere will know what the actual word Covet means.

And speaking of covet, that’s exactly what we end up doing when we visit a booth of Asian-influenced dresses and tops by local designer Rebecca Ruby’s booth. In inspecting the very Diane Von Furstenburg-ish frocks, and she asks my opinion of what prints she feels suits her best. Everything, given her covet-able build. But instead, I hold my tongue and I help her narrow her favourites down to a red Japanese flower print and an abstract with blue and purple dotted streaks for her. Though I initially covet something with the same red print, Tara tactfully steers toward a green and brown lotus print. Such a no-brainer with some cute sandals, Tara says, validating my choice and hers.

Sensing by this time I have become a huge fan of Australian fashion (by now, I must of told her of my jacket score at Cue on the day of my arrival in Sydney), Tara expands on her favourite spots in the big city for Australian style. ‘I love Bettina Liano, as her jeans are particularly long, and I especially love Charlie Brown, Scanlan & Theodore, Diesel for casual stuff,’ she says. ‘I also like shopping on Crown Street, with Wheels & Doll Baby—they’re very LA because they are quite rock and roll. And when you hit Melbourne, check out Christine’s on Flinders, because you will find some Vivienne Westwood accessories and Sonia Rykiel. Also, the GPO and the alley with the shopping arcades are absolutely brilliant.’

Like many style-conscious Australian women, Tara feels that Melbourne edges Sydney out just slightly in the department of fashion shopping. However, at this moment in her life she has embraced Sydney as a place of new beginnings as she recently split from her husband—an interesting thing, as she was happily married when we first chatted two years ago. Diplomatically, she keeps that that side to her private persona—the one that can get hurt and vulnerable—a mystery. And true to the writer she is, she knows how to divert your attention to something else that seems interesting and revealing. In this case, it’s the family she’s put together of girlfriends who have become permanent members of her bike-riding, fine-living posse. By this time, we’ve escaped the late summer heat inside a Max Brenner, where we are waiting on cold drinks and she’s picking out tasteful Easter gifts for her friends and recalling holidays past with her family back in British Columbia; how important it is to her to go back there as much as she can.

Her domestic side notwithstanding, however, she remains a superhero to her legions of fans, which include a handful of adventurous male readers, millions of women ages 18 to 80 and aspiring writers who are in awe of the way she goes about her research when bringing Mak and her complex world to life.

‘Because my novels do have a lot of action and get gory quite often, I do have a lot of male readers,’ she says, savouring an intensely rich chocolate, mint and espresso concoction. ‘With a strong female character, women and men tend to gravitate toward Mak because she is not the usual heroine. I hear from everybody from enthusiastic teens to sweet-faced grandmothers who tell me they love the most gruesome scenes in the stories. I also get a lot of letters from people who want to be writers, as well as young girls interested in knowing how I got involved in some of the research things. How I got access to FBI and forensic science, investigation, and all that. I advise young writers to get involved in their local writing groups, and meet for other writers, write for street magazines, do book reviews so you can look at a good author’s work up close. When you put yourself into a writers’ community, it opens up plenty of opportunities for you to get involved with projects and have your stuff read, and meeting people in the industry.’

While Tara’s entrée into modelling is familiar, her entrée into writing is surprisingly humble and ambitious. ‘I started out writing book reviews for free for street magazines, then entered a literary contest and won a young writer’s award, which in turn is how I got my first novel seen by an agent. I quit modelling eight years ago as soon as Fetish came out in Australia. With my books now in 12 countries and eight languages, I can easily survive and thrive as a writer and make a living. Between the books and filming Tara Moss Investigates, I am also doing a lot of freelance journalism. I just recently covered the Grand Prix in Melbourne, and I am looking to interview somebody who is a noted expert in hang-gliding, something I have not done before and would like to do. Wouldn’t it be great to conduct an interview while gliding through the air without any machines? I encourage anybody to get out of the comfort zone, and put oneself into unusual situations.’

While Tara feels that life is too short to live the same day twice, she does point out that she would never put herself in anything too hazardous. But pushing her potential as a skilled writer to the extreme is the exception. She just signed on with a major literary agency in Los Angeles, and is thrilled with the many new ways she and Mak could take on new lives in film and television.

Although we scrap plans to hit Bondi Beach due to crowds, we dash around Sydney in her lipstick red Alfa Romeo past her favourite cultural and dining spots in Sydney. You can’t help but feel like an extra in a car ad as you jet alongside her through King’s Cross and Darlinghurst, as she spontaneously points out that you should check out a bike shop called Deus Ex Machina, which is also loved by fellow adventure addict and Triumph bike owner Eric Bana, as if Eric your mutual friend. As we speed around, she tells me that next time I hit Sydney, Iceberg’s at Bondi is hard to beat, as well as Otto’s on Woolamaloo Wharf, and Tabou on Crown Street in Surry Hills. Drinks at the Lounge in Surry Hills is a must, and should I make it to Sushi E, ordering the Dragon Ash Roll is essential. We speed past the Art Gallery of New South Wales (‘ … completely brilliant, a great place to wander after brunch on a Sunday morning), MCA at Circular Key (‘Even if you don’t like the current exhibitions, the shop is incredible’), and the ferries that go to the Taronga Zoo and the Aquarium.

While my day with Tara is a whirlwind, for Tara, the day is low-key, considering that jumping out of planes, doing combat role playing, spending time in squad cars, firing AK-47s, racing motorbikes and getting my her helicopter licence is her idea of relaxation. As the afternoon closes, she takes me back to my hosts in Balmain via ‘Madonna’s bra’ (the Anzac Bridge), and the conversation turns to her return to Los Angeles, and the possibilities that trip will bring it.

‘I can see why there is interest in the States, as the stories are very cinematic, especially with the locales, and especially as there are movies being made with strong female protagonists,’ she says. ‘Mak would translate very well to the screen. There is also an interest from Hollywood in doing a television series loosely based on my life, especially with the crazy research and private investigation work I have done for my books. It would be like a modern, hipper version of Murder She Wrote. It would be great for there to be a cool, smart fun female character with a wit and a sense of adventure.’

A couple of wrong turns on Balmain’s twisty grid keeps the interesting speculation going.

‘I am obsessed with Angelina Jolie like the rest of the world,’ she continues. ‘She really is Lara Croft come to life. But as she’s done that, it may not be much of a stretch. Actually, I would like to see an up-and-coming actress with genuine acting talent, who has a tomboyish sensibility but also very glamorous. That would be nice to see. It is a difficult role to cast, as she has to be believable kicking somebody’s ass and doing research with police and law people, and be taken seriously while doing it. Until (the new) Charlie’s Angels, Æon Flux and Lara Croft, not many people could visualize heroic women as credible characters, so this thing was a long time coming. It’s long overdue, and it paves the way for people to see women as strong, independent beings rather than passive beings hanging off the male adventurer. I am thrilled to be a part of all that.’

She drops me off in Balmain’s bucolic suburban streets, and the interview ends. But the intrigue is only beginning, and my next fashion must have just may be her next book … or those motorcycle lessons I have put off all those years. •


Read this article in issue 24 of Lucire in print.


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Tara spots a Rebecca Rose dress

Max Brenner

Tarantula time



Tara expands on her favourite spots in the big city for Australian style. ‘I love Bettina Liano, as her jeans are particularly long, and I especially love Charlie Brown, Scanlan & Theodore, Diesel for casual stuff,’ she says. ‘I also like shopping on Crown Street, with Wheels & Doll Baby—they’re very LA because they are quite rock and roll’

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