SP: Hi Tara! We’re so excited to have you here on the Spinning Pen! Can you tell us a little about you and your writing journey? How did you get your start?
TG: You know that kid who brings a book everywhere? That was me. (My guess is that everyone reading this interview was the same way!) In high school, I wrote as much as I could: on napkins, scraps of paper, pocket notebooks.
And then, after taking literary fiction classes in college and grad school, I started working for a publishing house, which renewed my passion for genre fiction—the mysteries and thrillers and speculative fiction that I loved to read growing up.
SP: Ok, now for some bookish conversation…we want to know all about your latest book, NO BEAUTIES OR MONSTERS, which came out with Delacorte in December!
Welcome to Twentynine Palms, where nothing is what it seems.
Rylie hasn’t been back to the military base in Twentynine Palms since her father died. She left a lot of memories out there, buried in the sand of the Mojave Desert. Memories about her dad, her old friends Nathan and Lily, and most of all, her enigmatic grandfather, a man who cut ties with Rylie’s family before he passed away.
But her mom’s new work assignment has sent their family to Twentynine Palms again, and now, Rylie’s in the one place she never wanted to return to.
At least her old friends are happy to welcome her home. Well, some of them, anyway. It turns out Lily is gone, vanished into the desert. To make matters worse, there are whispers around town of a mysterious killer on the loose.
But it isn’t just Twentynine Palms that feels frightening—there’s something wrong with Rylie, too. She’s seeing things she can’t explain. Visions of monstrous creatures that stalk the night.
Somehow, it all seems to be tied to her grandfather and the family cabin he left behind. Rylie wants the truth, but she doesn’t know if she can trust herself. Are the monsters in her head really out there? Or could it be that the deadliest thing in the desert . . . is Rylie herself?
SP: Where did this idea come from?
TG: When I was living in Northern California, I took a trip to the Mojave Desert and never wanted to leave. The desert seemed so otherworldly to me, so wide open that it really sparked my imagination—I knew it was the perfect setting for an eerie mystery.
SP: What was your favorite scene to write?
TG: A desert hike gone wrong! Early in the book, my main character, Rylie, is hiking on a relatively short trail with her brothers and an old friend (some boy-next-door vibes), but their route doesn’t go as planned. Without giving away spoilers, basically one of them doesn’t return right away, and that event impacts the rest of the book.
SP: Before No Beauties or Monsters you wrote The Breathless. What is something you have learned from writing your first to second book?
TG: I learned that my novels grow out of place—they’re inspired by legends and lore and local terrain. For example, The Breathless is a gothic mystery set in a rambling house in the woods, and the story is very contained, very isolated, almost mirroring the way that the house and the family are hemmed in by trees and ghosts. And in No Beauties or Monsters, there’s a much larger cast and a bigger backdrop, and the mystery permeates the town and the entire desert itself.
SP: Can you tell us about your writing process? Are you an outliner?
TG: I’m an outliner to a fault! But I think my favorite part of the process is thinking about all the possible set pieces—those cinematic moments and images that might appear in a movie trailer, for instance. So for No Beauties, picture strange desert hikes, missing person posters, and a lone, ominous cabin at the edge of a national park.
SP: What’s one craft technique and/or marketing tip you would recommend to other writers?
TG: I realize this might not work for everyone, but I think it’s helpful to figure out your book’s elevator pitch as early as possible. Being able to succinctly describe your story is necessary for marketing down the track—but what I’m talking about is nailing down a logline before you even start writing. Having a clear idea in your head about the core of the story can keep your draft aligned with your vision as you go.
SP: Are you working on anything new?
TG: Yes! I’m working on a co-written project, a twist on the dark academia genre.
SP: Time for the lightning round! Early bird or night owl?
TG: It varies, but mostly bird.
SP: Most obscure hobby?
TG: I’ve recently gotten obsessed with jumping on trampolines.
SP: Fav Book Boyfriend?
TG: My latest book crush is Kai from Calculated!
SP: Word you can never spell? This may be a trick question.
TG: Ha! I once confused ‘hostel’ with ‘hostile’ for a travel grant application in college. Because who doesn’t want to travel from hostile to hostile?
SP: Alright, time’s up! We’re so sad to see you go! BUT…there’s way more where this came from. Where can we go to read more from you?
TG: You can order No Beauties or Monsters from any store, or request it at your library. And The Breathless is on Audible.
Thanks so much for your time Tara!
To check out Tara’s books, go HERE. To connect with her on Instagram go
HERE. Check out her website go HERE.