“People want the real you. They want your stumbling answers, they want the true intention and reason why you wrote this book.” Zibby is joined by broadcast journalist, talk show host, and now author Tamron Hall to talk about her debut novel, As the Wicked Watch. Tamron shares how the book was inspired by two cases she covered as a reporter in 1997 which have stuck with her, as well as how the subsequent series is enabling her to right some of the wrongs she has encountered throughout her career. Tamron and Zibby also talk about the ways in which they combat mom guilt and why time management is so essential for working mothers.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Tamron. Thanks so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Tamron Hall: Thank you so much for having me. I hope moms have time to read at least one book by another mom.

Zibby: I know. I think the question is, how did this mom have time to write this book? is really probably what people are wondering.

Tamron: You know what? It was incredible, to say the least, to have a toddler in the home while trying to write this book. Here I am writing my second novel in this series. I can’t come up with a better word than incredible. It was an incredible experience to have a toddler while writing a novel, let me tell you. That’s another book, coming soon.

Zibby: Exactly. Yes, incredible. There are probably more choice words about what it’s really like. I have four kids myself. It’s hard to get anything done, ever, so I totally get it.

Tamron: It is. It’s such a challenge. Just this morning, I had a bout of mom guilt. I slept in this morning. My son woke up around six. I laid until in bed until eight. This is not usual for me. I just celebrated a birthday yesterday.

Zibby: I saw. Happy birthday.

Tamron: Thank you. We’ve been filming the talk show and obviously talking about As the Wicked Watch. I laid in bed for an extra hour and a half. I had a full bout of mom guilt. I had to call my friend, who’s a mother of four, to walk me off the ledge. She said, “You just stay in that bed. You stay in that bed right now.” I felt so horrible. I’m talking about the toddler who’s in the next room. Can he hear me? Does he know I’m awake? Should I go in right now? I feel horrible. That was my day today.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. I’m here to also absolve you of any guilt.

Tamron: Thank you.

Zibby: He doesn’t even know. It’s already gone. You got the time. You needed the time.

Tamron: I’ve been trying to use this approach that was suggested to me by a couple of moms, honestly, is focusing in not on the amount of time, but the quality of time. We really now have implemented the put-down-the-phone rule, not even in his same atmosphere so that he knows that we truly are locked in on him, even if it’s for that thirty minutes, going in and being absolutely present. I think that I believed I was doing that, but I truly have to have that come-to-Jesus moment with myself and say, the phone was in the room enough that even if I glanced at it, he saw me glance, and being aware that at two and a half now, he sees that. He recognizes that. He was saying some bumblebee thing. He looked up. He caught me for a split second not looking. It’s like, oh, boy. We’re just trying to implement that rule of, not obsessing over the clock number, two hours, five hours; it’s, can I be completely present with this person who deserves that from me and who I want to share that with? It’s been an interesting part of the mom journey. Man, they don’t write enough books about that topic.

Zibby: Honestly, I feel like the same thing even with my husband. It’s so easy to be distracted. A girlfriend of mine once told me that she had read some study. If you lock eyes with someone for only eighteen seconds — I probably misquoted it, but it’s something like that, something really small. The power of just sustaining eye contact for less than thirty seconds is enough to keep you going for a while. A lot of times, you look up, and then you look down. Then you look up. I try that. Well, actually, now I’ve been forgetting to even try that, but when I did try it, it worked really well.

Tamron: It does work. Honestly, you asked me how I got this book done. That’s really how I’m able to, as a new mom, a new-ish mom, and also with the other things I have going on — I’m a Virgo. I’m super analytical. I don’t even use my notes on my iPhone. I still write things down. I try to manage my time. That includes with my son. That includes, to your point, with my husband. I’m sure he believes he deserves more time too. That allows for me, on Saturdays, to really dig into my book. I would get up in the morning. I’m an early riser. Thirty years of morning TV, I can’t get past five AM. I would, on a Saturday, get my cup of coffee. I still love making my coffee. I think that’s because my grandfather was always in the home, so it’s the Folgers. You get the cup.

Zibby: Oh, wow, with the actual glass thing?

Tamron: I’ve upgraded to the espresso, but I still have my own cup. I make my coffee. I’ve upgraded. I’ve upgraded from my grandpa’s little kettle. I make a cup of coffee. I was able to just vanish into this character who obviously is inspired by my years as a reporter, but also now inspired by my ability and confidence to speak up and speak out on behalf of survivors of domestic violence, on behalf of women as we continue to fight for equality in the workplace, hearing our voices, whether we’re moms or non-moms. I tell people, I don’t conflate motherhood with womanhood. I was a woman for forty-eight years. I’ve been a mom for two. They are two different experiences. I don’t conflate them. Jordan Manning, the character, the protagonist in this, the case she’s following involves the death of an eleven-year-old girl. In my career in 1997, I covered the deaths of two girls, one white, one black, both eleven. I didn’t realize how much I had pent up inside of me related to those cases. Now being a mom, a journalist, five AM, strong cup of coffee, it just allowed it all to flow out of me quite effortlessly, only, though, when I managed the time.

Zibby: Do you set an end time?

Tamron: Yeah, I do. I set an end time. I will watch the clock and kind of monitor myself almost like a football game. It’s like, listen, if I’m not in the second quarter, I got to get this ball going. I manage my time. I am really, with my husband — my husband will do the pop-in. Of course, we were all working from home over this time period. When he was working from home, I never interrupted. He’d be in his meetings on his Zoom. I’m on a Zoom or I’m writing, my husband’s walking by, thankfully not in a bath towel like we’ve seen some other people. I’m like, what are you doing? We did have that classic gender thing where he thought — I didn’t know this about my husband. I think somehow, he doesn’t believe that I’m actually working. A lot of my friends who are married experienced that same — I know this is awful because now I’m going to some gender stereotype conversation, but it is one that a lot of women, a lot of wives or moms have talked with me about. I experienced it for the first time with my husband. I don’t fully think he understands how the wheels of this train stay on, both professionally and with our son. I said to him, “Do you think that Amazon just sends us toilet paper? Do you think Jeff Bezos remembers that I interviewed him thirty years ago, and so we’re on the paper towel list? No, someone’s ordering that. That’s how it’s magically popping up. You need to magically break down that box and put it out of our house.” There were all these things happening. Believe it or not, it was all inspiring me to stay with the time management and get this book done. I feel like I’m in therapy with you, Zibby. This is the best podcast ever.

Zibby: Oh, good. You know, they do have a subscribe-and-save feature on Amazon. I’m sure you’ve seen it.

Tamron: I do. I am a proponent of subscribe and save. I do that in addition to subscribing and saving to this very specific iced tea that my husband drinks that he believes, again, just magically pops up. That is part of my time management. I find these little tricks, to your point, whether it’s subscribe and save — I do a lot of the meal kits in the week. Then I have my food and wine, is what I call it — Saturday and Sunday are my New York Times cooking app Sundays where I explore more complicated cooking. All of that micromanaging, I guess is what it is at the end of the day, of my life gave me the room to be a present mom as best I could, a present wife, and a new author. That was how I tried to manage it. It worked some days. A lot of days, it didn’t.

Zibby: I tried the meal kits. They took me so long. I could order in. I know that’s terrible.

Tamron: There’s eighteen minutes. I’m like, eighteen minutes for Martha Stewart, not me.

Zibby: Exactly. I know.

Tamron: As you know, as I said, this book was written largely during the beginning stages of the lockdown. Living in New York City, it was a little more complicated to get takeout and do all those things. It was a survival tactic, but it also became a time management. The meal was picked out. I knew what we were getting, three, four a week. That helped me juggle. I don’t like that word, which we as moms don’t use anymore. I think people used to embrace it, but now we know it’s a set-up. It didn’t allow me to juggle, but it allowed me to have a calendar and some control so that I could move forward with this novel and my life.

Zibby: The novel is not just writing it, but it’s also editing and publicity. The writing is just one tiny — it’s not tiny — big piece, but I don’t even know if takes more time to write it than all the other stuff that comes after.

Tamron: That was the surprising part for me. Like I said, I knew the story. It had been simmering inside of me since 1997 when I covered the first case. Then the second case a few months later, I was a reporter in Chicago, and it happened. I covered that, again, not knowing that this would all manifest into a novel and it would release in the way that it did, from my spirit to the pages. I didn’t know that at all. For me, I knew that somehow, I needed to resolve some of the things that were inside of me after covering both of those stories. That part, to your point, was easy. I did not know the promotional part of it. I also underestimated the promotional part in the talk show. I think, though, Zibby, what has helped in that respect of the promotion and marketing is talking to people like yourself where we are no longer in that Insta-life world. People want the real you. They want your stumbling answers, as I just gave you one. They want the true intention and reason why you wrote this book. It’s worked to my advantage, not knowing the strict rules of marketing and the strict promotional schedules of both of those things. I didn’t get in my head about it. I pop up on this conversation with you. I’m able to talk to you about my husband and our Amazon fight and still talk about the book without feeling so strategic. That’s really what the novel is too. It’s about this reporter who is so strategic in planning every detail, but a lot of her personal life is falling apart. Does that sound familiar, perhaps? You might be .

Zibby: I might be able to relate. I don’t know. I might. I actually just announced this week I started a publishing company because I am trying to help the authors with publicity and help put the author more at the center of the whole publishing experience.

Tamron: Congratulations. That’s a huge thing that I can tell you I appreciate as I am now an author. I also host a talk show. When I have people come on to talk about their book, I can sense very early on when they’re too coached.

Zibby: Me too.

Tamron: Oh, man.

Zibby: It’s such a waste of time because I could’ve just read it somewhere else. I could’ve played it on somebody else’s show or whatever. Then you’re not getting to know somebody. Then it’s like, why am I even doing this? Anyway, yes.

Tamron: That’s true. That’s a part of what you said regarding promoting the book. Writing the book is one thing, but promoting it is another. For me, there again was this intersection of, they both needed and need my authentic reason and voice. That’s why, initially, I didn’t want to share that the book was inspired by two sad, heartbreaking cases. You kind of want to, oh, I’ve got this novel. It’s about this woman. She’s a forensic scientist turned reporter. She’s solving crime. Okay, but here’s where this ties into my life. It ties in because I covered two of the most difficult stories that I could’ve ever covered early in my career. They have kept me up at night. They have, in the two years of my mom journey, made me probably even more protective of my son than I would normally be because I covered the deaths of two kids. In many ways, I didn’t know until I was writing the book how I see security and protecting children and the wicked that are always watching when we don’t know they’re watching.

Zibby: Also, your ideas about race in the book, too, and even how it was treated when you said — the reporter was like, we can’t wait to hear more about this. Jordan’s like, you can’t wait to hear more about the death of a black person? Really? Thank you very much.

Tamron: Exactly. We don’t even realize it. I’ve been in news a very long time. I remember back when I started, people would say, the suspect was a black male, five foot four, and brown hair. I went into a news director at the time. I was in my early twenties. I said, “That’s my brother. That could be anybody. We have to stop this.” He says, “That’s what the police give us. That is the description they give us.” He goes through this whole thing, unbeknownst to me that other journalists of color were having that same conversation in their newsrooms around the country. Ultimately, we don’t see that anymore. Back in the eighties, they’d have a little silhouette. It would say, five-foot-six black male, dark complexion, red shirt. Well, okay, who is that? I, later in my life as I started to attend conferences and speaking with other journalists of color, realized that that same battle was being fought all around. We see this change, much like, honestly, women’s empowerment in the workplace, particularly in news, which is what we talk about as well.

I dig into more in the next book about the dynamic of being a woman in the workplace and how we are seen and not heard even in an industry that reports on the bad guys. That’s what we talk about. Her views and her pulling the curtain back on some of these conversations that I have witnessed personally and that I’ve talked with other journalists about was also an important dynamic here because we have asked, why does the white, blond girl become the lead story and the other girl who doesn’t look like that is maybe the third story, local news? Even how police investigate the runaway, that transcends race. That’s sometimes socioeconomic. The poor white girl ran away. The rich white girl, where is she? It’s race. It’s socioeconomic. It’s what we see. Who can be a victim? Who can we empathize with? Who are we willing to believe will perpetrate some of the most heinous crimes ever? In this story, we see people allow themselves to believe that a crime could be carried out by children. Did they believe it based on the race of those kids?

Zibby: Wow. It’s some heavy stuff here.

Tamron: I know. Let me tell you.

Zibby: Did you know already that you wanted it to be a whole series? How many do you have planned? Do you have the story anchor for each one already picked out? I know you’re organized. Do you have a whole outline situation already?

Tamron: I don’t have an entire outline, but I have a vision. Growing up, I loved Nancy Drew. I remember my aunt giving me the Nancy Drew box set. It was under my bed. All I picture is the Nancy Drew box set. I don’t know how many. It was like eight. I think I’m going for six. I said to someone in my family — my talk show’s third season launched September 6th. My birthday was September 16th. The book comes out October 26th. Somewhere along the lines, I’m going to turn 666 into something positive. We’re going to go for six in this series. I do have the cases in mind based on the fact that I did a series called Deadline: Crime over six seasons. Oh, there you go, another six, Deadline: Crime for six seasons. I have to tell you, obviously, all of the cases I’ve covered are heartbreaking, but there are some that rise to a level of fear and anger and just hit an emotional touchstone in a way that I’m still trying to understand. I’ve walked into rooms and immediately cried with the family members of people that I have reported on. There are a few, sadly, a lot, that have risen to that point of fire in my body. I would, through this character, like to explore some of the things that have happened, that I’ve witnessed in covering these types of stories that are heavy.

Through Jordan, we do talk about her personal life and how that does affect — imagine covering a story on a husband that has killed his wife, and then you’re going on a date with a new guy. It’s like, okay, that’s an icebreaker. What did you do today? Well, I did a story on a guy who’s going to jail now for committing a crime against his wife. Okay. I just interviewed Tarana Burke, the founder of the Me Too Movement. She got married last year. She said, “It’s not easy dating when you are the Me Too originator.” She made a joke saying something along the lines of, she would tell me, “You don’t have to be afraid of me if you’ve done nothing wrong.” These things seep into your personal life. With Jordan, the types of stories that she covers absolutely seep into her personal life. Again, imagine being at a dinner party. Everyone wants to know about the story you’ve covered. You just want to have a drink and laugh. That’s what happens to reporters all the time. You walk in, people want to know about the story you’ve covered, especially if it’s the big headline story. We follow Jordan in how she navigates the personal life and being this individual getting attention for things that she really doesn’t want to talk about after hours, but she’s dedicated to it.

Zibby: It seems like you’ve somehow successfully orchestrated the series to work through all the traumas in your own life. It’s like your PTSD or whatever. Just because you’re covering it doesn’t mean you’re not involved. It doesn’t mean you’re not emotionally affected. You are there too as if you were somebody on the street finding the body or whatever the situation is. That is a lot to take on. It’s almost like you’re very systemically expunging some of that stuff.

Tamron: It is. That is truly what and how it started. It was an exorcism, if you will. That’s exactly what was happening with me. For me, in this story and in the other stories, I also needed to seek justice. I also needed to have empowering characters in this novel because I did and do run into empowering people every time I’ve covered one of these stories. The other layer to it, honestly, Zibby, gave me a chance to right some of the wrongs that happen to victims that I’ve covered, whether it’s a failure of parenting, a failure of the system, a failure of society. That’s the superhero part in it. Jordan is able to do things that I only wish I could’ve done as a reporter. That was liberating for me, the writer. I think for the reader, they will feel that same sense of, good, somebody is trying to do something right here.

Zibby: It’s nice to be able to have a way to rewrite history a little bit.

Tamron: Is it. You know what? It is. I didn’t expect that.

Zibby: What advice would you give for aspiring authors now that you’ve become an author yourself and you’re down the path to more and more books?

Tamron: Wow. I think that the time management can’t be underestimated. If you really have this passion for this topic and it is truly something born within you, to your point, it will find its way to the page. It will find its way to the computer. Finding the time to let that happen is key. We’re all so busy. We’re all so overwhelmed. My niece the other day, who’s in sixth grade, she’s like, “Oh, my schedule.” If a sixth grader is overwhelmed, imagine what we are at twenty-six, thirty-six, forty-six, and on. For me, it’s not underestimating the time management component so that your characters and so that you can live in that space. As I said at the beginning of the interview, with my son, it’s not the hour that I have, it’s the quality fifteen minutes looking in the eye of that character, looking in the eye of that book, and looking into the soul of what you want to bring. Don’t underestimate that, the time management component. Get a team that will handle the rest. They’ll tell you how to market. They’ll tell you how to do that. Get a good team, good support system. Use what you are in the room to do for just that.

Zibby: I love that. Amazing. I definitely think you were right to stay in bed and take the time this morning and ignore your kid.

Tamron: Don’t say I ignored him. Say I delayed contact.

Zibby: I’m kidding. I’m totally kidding. Of course, you weren’t ignoring him. I’m sure you were listening every second anyway.

Tamron: Of course, I was. I was trying.

Zibby: That’s inspiring to other moms. Sometimes it’s okay to just stay in bed if you ever get that opportunity. I love it. Congratulations on the book. Happy birthday. I’m really delighted to have connected.

Tamron: It’s been a pleasure. Have a wonderful day.

Zibby: You too. Buh-bye.

Tamron: Bye.



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