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volante: australia

Investigating Tara Moss
Investigating Tara Moss

Tara Moss

During an exclusive guided tour of Sydney, her beloved adopted hometown, international best selling author Tara Moss does what a good writer should—create an intriguing atmosphere, revealing some interesting aspects of her character and leaving other things up to the imagination by Elyse Glickman

Expanded from issue 24 of Lucire


IS TARA MOSS a real-life superhero? She probably wouldn’t think so, but anybody who gets the chance to see her in person or even have a chat with her would probably disagree. Moss was born in British Columbia, relocated to Australia and has been raising a very demure and chic form of hell around the world ever since. While other beauties coast on beauty until they can’t anymore (or else land a lucrative merchandising deal for Target, K-mart or the Home Shopping Network), Moss doesn’t sell a lifestyle. Rather, she has become one unto herself.

Though I interviewed her by phone two years ago for The Book LA, a prestigious Los Angeles ‘coffee table’ arts magazine on the US release of Fetish, and international debut of her third novel, Covet, I was still somehow taken by surprise when we met for this interview, face to face, and on her turf. Going in, I knew she had a hugely successful run as a model between the time the mystery writing bug first hit her and her subsequent literary triumph on an international scale. I also knew that while the rest of the world was just that into her and her alter ego Makedde ‘Mak’ Vanderwall, the US was just meeting the fledgling female hero (not ‘heroine’, for reasons you will discover soon). The woman behind the unstoppable Mac was also, very literally, riding high, jumping out of planes, researching real murders, racing cars and motorbikes, taping a true crime show (Tara Moss Investigates) for National Geographic Channel and yet still finding some time to land the perfect Vivienne Westwood earrings or Italian leather boots.

On a humid late summer day in Sydney, she calls me by mobile during my ‘indulgence’ breakfast at Bills (Sydney’s current "it" place for decadent ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter) to set a time for our meeting. She has a slightly gravelly, reassuring voice that somehow reminds you of your best friend. Two hours later, at the appointed time, opposite the buzzing boutiques and Paddington Market along Oxford Street, she emerged from a throng of passing shoppers, looking almost too good to be real. Six feet plus, non-ending legs, frizz-free hair and dressed very girly in a Wheels & Doll Baby mini-dress accessorized with Vivienne Westwood earrings, oversized Jackie O-style sunnies and Sonya Rykiel satchel. Then as she gets closer, some revealing details appear, the dress and earrings are skulls, she was a wicked smile, and she’ll suddenly stop in her tracks at the appearance of one very cherry motorbike.

‘Wow,’ she says, almost out of breath. ‘There’s my dream bike: a Triumph Rocket 3, the most powerful bike I have ever seen. I have a Triumph Scrambler, which has 900 cc of power. It’s the same one as what Steve McQueen rode famously in The Great Escape.’

Noticing I am not an authority on bikes, she patiently and literally brings me up to speed. ‘It is a very powerful bike, especially considering most people ride 650 or 700 cc bikes. Now that bike over there is completely off the hook in terms of power, and more powerful than most cars. This bike could probably tow things. One day, I would like to be able to handle something like this. But for now, I wouldn’t be able to lift it if it fell over, so I will probably have to work out and build up my upper body strength before I dare do the Rocket.’

Somehow, I think in the end she won’t have any trouble making that dream a reality for herself. After all, she’s barely in her 30s and has maintained three dream careers—model, novelist and television personality. However, she doesn’t see the modelling niche of her life as dreamy. Instead, she found it rather than uninteresting, except for the fact that it enabled her to travel to some choice destinations and provide her with great opportunities to network and ask lots of questions to experts in the areas she was interested in, ultimately providing her with the confidence eight years to leave easy money behind in favour of more overwhelming and ultimately fulfilling challenges. And there were times when, contrary to what one would expect, being a recognizable model didn’t make getting a foot in the door for what she really wanted to do easier.

‘I had to work twice as hard to gain the credibility I needed required to get into places like the American FBI academy, and some of the other educational institutions where I needed to do research to make the characters and stories believable and visceral,’ she responds in surprise when I asked the inevitable question on if her model status and looks gave her any sort of carte blanche. ‘I embraced that challenge, however. I also find that, depending on what country I do my research in, many people I meet actually don’t know about my model background, and that actually helps me a lot. Besides, with a model background, when you do research for your novel at a prison, you do not want the locals to take interest in you and look up your photos online. It’s not the best way to go about things.’

We pause to look at business card cases and compacts, and for a while, Tara shifts back into femme mode.

‘I like that it’s a business case, but there’s a reflective surface so you can touch up your lipstick,’ she notes.

‘Is it made in Australia?’ I ask the vendor

‘No,’ the vendor says, ‘It’s made in China.’

‘Isn’t that typically Australian?’ Tara muses as her eyes wander to another part of the table. ‘Now this is cool, classic German cigarette cases …’

‘Which in our politically correct times are really business card cases,’ I quip, at last feeling like her equal in wit and spontaneity.’

‘You’re absolutely correct,’ she says, validating me, before a mischievous smile extends across her face when her eye hones in on the next vendor table.

‘And that belt! Paris Hilton could probably wear this as a skirt.’ Tara breaks up into laughter, and I follow. ‘No, I really think she would,’ she says inspecting the belt’s width and over-the-top embellishments.

‘Do you actually buy stuff here?’

‘I do … and I love the smell of leather, she says inspecting another couture grade bag. You can never have too many handbags, or too many belts,’ she adds.

Amid the baked goods and girly wares, we stumble upon a table displaying artistically preserved butterflies and insects. While I am (predictably) drawn to the delicate butterflies, Tara makes a beeline for an impressive tarantula preserved in Lucite.

‘This is up my alley,’ she says in an upscale drawl that evenly splices together her Canadian dialect with distinctively Australian inflections. ‘These are fabulous. The tarantula is a little bit gruesome, but I like it. There is great beauty in death. I have a bat at home in a little case, so I must get this tarantula as well. Did you also note that the male insects and butterflies are the ones with all the fabulous accessories?’

The preserved creatures also prompt her to muse on her future ambition to write a ‘dystopian society’ novel or series along the lines of other classics like Children of Men, The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984 among them. For now, however, she pointedly says she is focused bringing her baby, Makedde Vanderwall, into greater heights of maturity.

‘While you could call each novel in the series a sequel, each novel is actually self-contained and works on its own as well, as you can read them chronologically or separately and they will still make sense,’ Tara points out almost academically. ‘While each novel has a separate group of characters, the one who remains constant is Mak, because I really like writing her. She’s a great character, and my alter ego. She does things I would never do and vice versa. She’s a better motorcyclist than I am, she doesn’t age as quickly as I do, and she’s got a really, really good roundhouse kick! I am working on mine and its getting pretty good, but hers is much better.’

The day is as hot as it gets in Sydney (a situation not improved by hordes of treasure hunters at Paddington Market). Though Tara complains of the heat—albeit in a very no-sweat kind of way—you would never see her wilt. As we weave pass vintage clothing, and pause to gawk at jewellery and more leather accessories, she weaves in that when she quit modelling, she was so motivated to remedy her initial lack of driving skills by getting her driver’s licence, motorcycle licence and race car driver’s licence within space of six months. Now, when not hammering out the details of her fifth book, promoting the fourth novel and signing with a prestigious Los Angeles literary agency, she in the process of getting a helicopter pilot’s licence and has recently persuaded three of her Sydney-based girlfriends to become card-carrying bike enthusiasts and form a sort of glam girl gang, hitting Sydney’s daytime hotspots to raise hell.

‘We’re kind of like a modern version of the girl gang from the Russ Meyer cult classic Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill Kill,’ she says pertly. ‘In fact, if you look at that movie, it was a very empowering movie, full of self-assured women who did not exist to be rescued. I have even maintained a friendship with the actress from that film who was noted as the first woman to kill a male character with her bare hands on screen.’



Read this article in issue 24 of Lucire in print.


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Tara behind the wheel

Perdis on Oxford

Charlie Brown


Now, when not hammering out the details of her fifth book, promoting the fourth novel and signing with a prestigious Los Angeles literary agency, she in the process of getting a helicopter pilot’s licence and has recently persuaded three of her Sydney-based girlfriends to become card-carrying bike enthusiasts and form a sort of glam girl gang, hitting Sydney’s daytime hotspots to raise hell

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