PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE: Tell us a little bit about The Bitter Season.
TAMI HOAG: In The Bitter Season, I return to my old friends, Minneapolis homicide detectives Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska. Nikki has left Homicide to be part of the new cold case unit, a move she’s making to be able to spend more time with her two sons. Her first case is the twenty-five-year-old unsolved murder of a decorated sex crimes detective. Meanwhile, Sam is having to adjust to life without Liska, and having to break in a new partner. Their first big call-out is a brutal double homicide – a university professor and his wife who have been killed with antique ninja and samurai warrior weapons from the professor’s collection.
PRH: Family is a strong theme in this book, but not necessarily happy families.
TH: Happy families are boring to write about. I prefer complex characters. I love delving into the psychology of the characters and the dynamics of their relationships. We are all a product of our pasts and of the impact our relationships have on us. I’ve known many people who grew up in difficult family situations or were tossed some terrible curveballs by life. The interesting thing is to see the choices they made in those circumstances. Did they let that baggage drag them down, or did they find a way to move past and rise above?
PRH: The plot of The Bitter Season interweaves several stories and a host of characters. Did you map that all out before you started the book?
TH: No. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer – a pantster, if you will. I knew some key points of each storyline going in, but I write an outline. I need the story to progress organically or I get bored. I want to be surprised. Somehow it all comes together in the end, and along the way I learn things about my characters I might never have if I had made a blueprint from the beginning.