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Tami HoagFame & Fortune: Author Tami Hoag
Thriller writer loves to horse around with her money

Thriller writer Tami Hoag leads a dual life that can turn the simplest telephone conversation into an Abbott and Costello routine.

You see, this "writer" is also a "rider" who competes in international dressage at the Grand Prix level. And for her, the subject of shoes can either mean the iron ones she buys for her beloved mare, Coco Chanel, or the closet full of Stuart Weitzmans that the author has brought home from Rodeo Drive since moving to Los Angeles in 2001.

There is one thing that's clear: Readers love the ride they get when they open one of Hoag's dozen thrillers. Several, including her latest, "Prior Bad Acts," feature hard-boiled veteran detective Sam Kovac and his wisecracking single-mom partner Nikki Liska, a Minnesota odd couple whose often grisly cases share a darkly funny worldview with the hit movie "Fargo."

It was her touch with humor that set Hoag apart from the herd during the years she spent writing paperback romance novels for Bantam's Loveswept series.

In the mid-1980s, Hoag left that stable to try her hand at thrillers and soon found green pastures -- hardcover, best-seller, money-green pastures, to be exact.

Success in more than one genre of fiction is rare enough; success in such disparate disciplines as romance and hard-boiled crime is almost unheard of. After all, we don't expect Jackie Collins to become John Grisham.

Hoag's first best-seller, the 1995 thriller "Night Sins," was made into a two-part TV movie starring Valerie Bertinelli and Harry Hamlin. Since then, her novels have become a fixture on the New York Times best-seller list, ensuring that the transplanted Minnesota farm girl can keep her prized horses in oats down in Malibu.

Bankrate caught up with Hoag in Wellington, Fla., during the winter Grand Prix season to discuss writing, riding, horseshoes and Jimmy Choos.

Bankrate: You're both a writer and a rider?

Tami Hoag: Yes. I ride at the international level, and I compete at the Grand Prix level, which is the highest level. It's called dressage. Dressage is all on the flat and is a form of highly elevated training. To the untrained eye, it appears as if the horse is dancing. It's the kind of sport that you can never perfect. There's always more to learn, more to refine. Even riders who are many-times-over Olympians continue to train and work with coaches to try to make things more precise and more invisible, because it should appear that the rider is just sitting there, when in fact we're working really, really hard. We're supposed to make it look easy, but it's very physically and mentally demanding.

Bankrate: You began riding as a young girl. Were you from a wealthy family?

Next: "I just loved being able to create my own world. ..."
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