Emmy Award-winning television host, veteran journalist, and bestselling author Tamron Hall joins Zibby to discuss WATCH WHERE THEY HIDE, an edge-of-your-seat thriller featuring journalist Jordan Manning as she delves into the case of a missing mother. Tamron analyzes her complex protagonist and then shares the personal experiences that inspired elements of the novel, from news reporting and gender disparities in journalism to the sinister aspect of online gaming and her sister’s tragic experience with domestic violence. Finally, she shares her best advice for aspiring authors.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Tamron. Thank you for coming back on "Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books" to discuss Watch Where They Hide, your latest in the Jordan Manning series, chronicles. I don't know, what do you call it?

Tamron Hall: I think it's a series. My goal is for it to be the series. We’re two books in. The goal, Zibby, was ten. We'll see if I make it.

Zibby: Wow, that's a big goal. I love it. Aim high. Why not?

Tamron: Thank you.

Zibby: I read every word of this book. I stayed up until one in the morning the night I finished it. I could not put it down. It's so good. It's interesting. You have to think so much. In a good way. Not like it's so confusing.

Tamron: Not the struggle. I've been there where I need to read that five more times [indiscernible/crosstalk].

Zibby: Exactly. Let me go back. What was that? Wait, wait, wait, did I forget something? Or I hadn’t read it in a while. Anyway, why don't you talk about the plot? I just wanted to say I really, really enjoyed it. Can't wait for the next, number three.

Tamron: Wow. First of all, thank you so much. Thank you to all of your fans and supporters who showed up for our event. It was thirty below zero, but it warmed my heart to be in that audience. It was very cold that day, remember? The plot, Jordan Manning is a journalist who has a background in forensic science. She's pulled into a case of a missing mother of two who lives in Indiana. Jordan is based in Chicago. We meet her in this book as her career is starting to pick up steam. She's been breaking news and really becoming the top reporter at her TV station. Now she's approached by someone -- I don't want to tell you how they find her. She's approached by someone who is in desperate need. That really speaks to the heart of Jordan Manning. She is someone who loves her job, but more than that, she loves to see people treated fairly. She is front of mind of justice. That causes her as a reporter to cross these lines. The reporter is supposed to be neutral. The reporter is supposed to be the observer and not the participant. In this book in particular, we see Jordan cross this line of being more than the reporter. She is, in some ways, a vigilante, all while -- this was important to me -- all while exploring, what's it like for a young woman in her thirties who loves her work, who is driven, but also is at a date where the guy is saying, "Hey, you work too much"? That constant battle of, particularly, women of wanting to or needing to be a wife, a mom, a colleague, a friend while having our own goals and dreams. She's got this goal and dream of being a reporter, but life is pulling her in so many directions.

Zibby: I actually found that really interesting between her and Nate. Does it mean that it's the right person if you have to hide that you're working hard? I know she doesn't -- I won't give anything away. That rang an alarm bell for me when she has to listen to all his doctor stuff for twenty-two hours and feign interest. [laughter] 

Tamron: So many people have been there, right? Jordan is inspired, of course, by my life as a reporter, but I also took pieces of other friends from different industries, by the way. What is that experience? Here's Jordan covering the disappearance of a mom of two; Jordan, also now being pulled into that angst of, am I supposed to have kids? When is the right time? While at the backdrop of all of what's happening in this case, she has a friend who's getting married. Yet again, she's the bridesmaid who doesn't have a date. I wanted her to be a 360 character. I want you to see her humanity and her drive and why she's willing to compromise it all for this woman who is missing. At the same time, she goes home, and looking at the wedding invitation of a friend thinking, I got to help my best friend plan the wedding. Yet again, I'm just going to spend the whole evening being asked, what's going on with your dating life?

Zibby: True. Still, she didn't have to say -- what did you do today? I just went to a flea market. I'm like, you did not just go to a flea market. You did something amazing. Come on, but I get it. I get it.

Tamron: The irony of her is that she's this bold character who's willing to drive hours to get to know the last minutes of this missing woman, but she shrinks herself down in this desire to be wanted by this man in front of her, who, to your point, would likely, hopefully, if he's the right one, be more interested in her authentic life of reporting and trying to get justice, but she's not convinced of that. That's the part of the character I really wanted you to see. I'm so happy you make that point. You're rooting for Jordan, but then you're also frustrated. How can you be so strong and independent, and you're too afraid to tell this guy that you were at work and what you were doing? That's the nuance of Jordan. That's what I wanted to bring this time around.

Zibby: I totally got that. Unless Nate happened to have a thing for flea market aficionados. [laughs].

Tamron: I've been there. Listen, the flea market scene -- as I said, the case is inspired by two cases that I covered that I could not shake, one when I was nine months pregnant with my son. When I hosted the show Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall, I actually ended the show after this particular case. I was in the audio booth. I was recording the voiceover for this case. The woman who had gone missing and was ultimately found murdered was pregnant. I thought at the time, there are so many moms reading about Baby Einstein or whatever, and I'm in an audio booth reading the unimaginable. It's crazy. That was my life. For me, the case itself inspired, but the flea market, truly -- this is the truth. My aunt, who's no longer with us, used to take me to this flea market on the side of the road in, I think it was called Lancaster, Texas. I visually describe this flea market that you see Jordan end up at. It was from my real memory bank of places where my aunt and I -- 

Zibby: -- It felt like something.

Tamron: I'm telling you, from the glasses to the positioning -- I've been to that little Texas flea market. I just moved it to Indiana this time.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, even with how it smelled. I don't even know why I'm talking about the flea market so much. It was just such an emblematic moment for her relationship. Anyway, moving on. I was glad, by the way, that -- Jordan gets herself into these crazy situations where she should be there, police with a warrant, but instead, she's just knocking on people's doors. I found myself getting really worried. You get very attached to these characters. At one point, she emails her friend Joe, or texts him. She's like, nobody in the world even knows where I am, and sends him a picture. I was like, thank goodness, finally. Finally, she does this.

Tamron: Again, that's the life of a reporter. I can tell you -- I guess it was in the late nineties. There was a series of crimes in this park. Myself and my camera guy went on a sting with the police department. They wouldn't let you do that now. They certainly wouldn't let me do it now. I'm in camo. I'm in the bushes with my camera guy. The police have on bulletproof vests. There's this moment, truly, where I am like, what? I'm twenty-two years old. I'm thinking, my mother would die. I'm hiding in the bushes of a sting in a park. I could've been killed, and my parents would not have known where I was. I'm at work. With Jordan, to your point, I needed her to be aware of the danger but still willing to go that far for Marla, the missing mom, or to find out what's going on with her. There was that moment of, wait a minute, you would surely tell one person where you are. We see that even now with technology, so many cases that I could bring up in real time where technology is the last footprint or the last handprint or the last anything of an individual, whether it's pinging, which I've had a lot of cases solve, the pinging of the phone, or a last text message or a last photo. That's why Jordan brings that into action.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. At least she reached out. I was worried.

Tamron: You're such a concerned friend. 

Zibby: I am. I am concerned about this character. I know.

Tamron: She's a mess. She's a mess, but she's got a good heart. She's got a great heart.

Zibby: Yes, she's great. Actually, one of the things I really like about Jordan is all the relationships she makes with people along the way which end up becoming very useful to her, but just that notion that you have to be nice to everybody. You never know where it's going. You shouldn't be nice for the sake of being nice because they might be useful. That's not what I'm trying to say, but her relationships with everyone from someone who works at the courthouse to somebody here, all these people that dot her past that she's able to sort of leverage when she needs help because she's such a nice person.

Tamron: It was important for the reader to experience that. I wanted you, the reader, to see yourself as an ally and a friend. As you continue to read the story, that's how it plays out. If you stop reading, Jordan stops on that page. That's how I visualize it. If you keep reading, that keeps Jordan going. That keeps her to solve the case. She needs these relationships. This would've been no fun to write if it's just Jordan Manning. [singing] "All by myself..." She needs these people to work along with her, some more intimately than others. Again, that's real reporting. I harken back, once again, to my reporting days. One job, I was the late-night reporter. It was eleven PM until seven AM. I can't even remember. It was really overnight. Nothing good happens overnight. Knocking on the door -- my camera guy, Chris Mathis, who actually texted me this morning saying, "Congratulations on the book," he would sit in the car. This is the truth. I'd say, "Okay, I'm going to go knock on the door, but you don't turn the car off." I don't know who's opening that door. If we're both out of the car, we can't drive off. I'm now knocking on the door of some alleged gang member who was involved in the shooting. This is the last address. We're trying to figure out who lives at this home. Knock, knock, knock. I'm looking back at Chris like, keep the door open. I may have to run. I don't know what's coming to the door. That happened to me a lot over the years of reporting. 

Even with the missing storyline with Marla, I got chills last night thinking about how many cases that I covered that were similar. I had two front of mind. I started to go through my memory bank and allowing myself to dig deeper into understanding why I wanted Jordan to cover this particular case. The names just started to flood in. That's why writing Jordan, it brought different challenges, for sure. The biggest challenge is getting people to understand that Tamron Hall from the talk show actually wrote this book. I love my day job. I love that people know me from my day job. In my time away from the set, this story poured from my soul, and this character and the friendships and the allies, the love story. I wanted your heart to race with this one. The first, I wrote in Sag Harbor. We were there. It was the pandemic. This book was written in the city, in Chelsea, New York, most of the time. I feel, even when I reread the book, the heartbeat of it. It's just a more, bop, bop, bop. I think that was the location change, which is a phenomenal part of this experience. All those who are interested in writing or starting out, I never knew that even where you write has an impact on what you write. It did in this book. It's a much more heart-pounding and "bop, bop, bop" book.

Zibby: Maybe for all ten books in the series, you have to write them in different locations.

Tamron: As long as it's not as cold as the day we hung out. Let's have your book club in Hawaii. Then I'll stay a little longer to write my next one.

Zibby: I will plan them in warmer spots from now on, yes. That would be fun. There's another through line of the book, which is the tension between Jordan being an out-in-the-field investigative reporter versus the coveted anchor chair, which is totally different. Where does she want to end up? Where does everybody think she wants to end up? What does she really want in her heart? Is it okay to not want what everybody wants and admit to yourself? All of that. Then I think of your career. You're essentially in a chair versus out in the field for a talk show. How do you feel about it?

Tamron: It's so funny. The talk show is a hybrid of all of those things because we still do shows on the road. I'm still interactive with the audience. We've got 180 people a show in our audience. To the point of that question, there were times where I was at the Today Show, for example, or even at MSNBC, and I felt inauthentic to myself. I am a journalist. I'm inside, but I want to be out with people. At the Today Show, the joy of my day, honestly, was when we would walk outside on the plaza to say hi. I have some colleagues, whom I won't name, they'd say, it's freezing, we have to go out there today? I'm like, yes! It reminded me of the connection versus a connection to a camera. That's what I loved about reporting, being able to get out of my car and talk to people and listen to them. Touching someone on the shoulder changes the trajectory of the interview, just having that connection, or even standing outside a courtroom in the [indiscernible] of reporters. We're all pushing. On TV, you see all those mics. Those mics are being held by people. Sometimes I was the smallest. I'd just have my hand sticking out breathing into my cameraman's armpit trying to get my mic up to the stand closest to the person who was being interviewed. 

I, with this talk show, have the best of both worlds where I'm able to sit down and intimately interview someone, but have 180 cohosts, humans, living, breathing, empathetic creatures. I can feel that energy. We do three live shows a week and two taped shows a week. In the live shows in particular, in real time, I'm sometimes shifting my trajectory because I can feel the audience. I can feel that motion. For me, it's the best of both worlds. To the point of Jordan and her dilemma, I think it's a dilemma that so many reporters have, the big chair, the big bucks, the big name. Your name is on the billboard. There are not often reporters on a billboard. All of the trappings of journalism that make it a little glamorous, that make it celebrity, it's right there in front of her, but she is not built that way. She's following it but very, very conflicted about this notion of being the celebrity anchor, even though her work has put her in the position to be that.

Zibby: She also has a point of view about even posing with her arms crossed. You hate that?

Tamron: Yes. It's very specific. You know me too well, ma'am. My friends all know this story, and my team here. I had a very hard-and-fast rule about folding my arms because over the years, thirty years of being a journalist -- we do photo shoots and headshots. Every female journalist was asked to fold their hands as if it's just this, suddenly, I am tough. I had a rule for a very long time that I would not be photographed folding my arms in one of these staged things. Recently, I guess about a year ago, I said, okay, let me lighten up. I don't want people to think -- the magazines and whatnot have creative control. They say, "Can you fold your arms?" I said, "Okay. I don't normally do this. I'll do it, but I hope you don't use this picture." 

Zibby: They used the picture?

Tamron: I'll never fold my arms again.

Zibby: Oh, no.

Tamron: I will never ever. Anyone listening, if you see it, you better hold onto it as a collector's item because I can't do it. That speaks to, again, how we define authority, particularly with women. That's what we see in Jordan. We see it in her colleagues, how the authority of a woman is challenged in a newsroom. I've always thought that that was such fertile ground. When I was a reporter or anchor and you're reporting on a pay disparity in women, suddenly, you want to look in the camera and go, and it's happening right here now. [laughter] This guy next to me is making way more money. I can't wear the same shirt and tie every day because if I do, you'll write in. I make less than the guy next to me. On top of that, I have to present in a different way, which costs money that the networks don't cover. We talk about the growing number of female CEOs, but there was a time not very long ago, I think in the last five years, every news executive of a major network was a male. All of these things happen in every industry, but people forget it happens in this industry that reports on others. That's the irony there that we see.

Zibby: Interesting, especially given who is watching the news. Who watches? Who are the main consumers?

Tamron: Who consumes the most? Who votes the most? Who keeps the wheels on the axis?

Zibby: It would be funny to put little captions. You'd probably get fired. If somebody were to put all these things underneath, like an International Women's Day takeover or something.

Tamron: Imagine in all of our lives if that could happen, but especially women.

Zibby: You do talk in the book, too, about the disparity in coverage and how there's missing white woman syndrome and how that gets disproportional amounts of covering in the news as well. Can you speak to that?

Tamron: That is something that we talk about and we see in the first book where Jordan is in -- As The Wicked Watch. She is following the disappearance of missing Black girls on the South Side of Chicago. The conversation in the newsroom that happens, why the decision is made that one person gets to be the lead over the other -- when that book came out, this was exactly when the world was having this debate with Gabby Petito. I was booked on a number of shows to talk about it. I said, listen, Gabby Petito's family deserves, absolutely, to get justice. Like any parent, you want your child to be the lead. It was unfair to them, in my point of view, to have them answer that question of, why does she -- it's my child. My child should be the lead. Everyone should feel that way. The challenge is the answer. Why?

The reality that the evening news is thirty minutes, so we're going to put everyone in that thirty minutes who's missing, or the -- you don't have any other news. Then how does one pick the lead? I think it's an unanswerable question. I think it is one that is about race. I think it's about gender. I think it's about socioeconomics. JonBenét Ramsey, for example, hit a lot of -- they were wealthy. This lived in this exclusive neighborhood. She was beautiful. She was blonde. It was also the weirdness, if you will, of this pageant. It checked a lot of boxes of why a news executive would say, oh, this is good. On the flip side, a woman who might be a sex worker, oh, of course, that happened to her. These tropes and these awful things that we think of those who are the least among us and why they don't lead. There's no one answer. It's not just a straight line to race. It is not just a straight line to gender. It's many, many things, but most of all, it's ratings and what they believe will get the ratings from the masses.

Zibby: It's like The Morning Show in real life.

Tamron: It is The Morning Show. That too was inspired by a real place that I worked. Not [indiscernible]. There you go.

Zibby: By the way, another thing I will never relax about again is this online gaming world that you highlight a little bit in the book too, of how people can do all sorts of bad things. I guess you know this intellectually, but seeing it play out here was another thing.

Tamron: That, again, is why the book -- I hope when people read the book that they see what sets Jordan apart, and myself in bringing this novel to life. That was inspired by a real-life case. I am not in the gaming world. I had no interest. My brother had an Atari. That was my link to it. I covered a story of a man so obsessed with gaming that after his wife went missing for many years -- he finally confessed. They got him to confess because they gave him an Xbox. He had befriended a person online and with that person, conspired to, and ultimately, he did, murder his wife. The sinister nature of what happens in the gaming world, we talk much more about it than ever, but I was oblivious. I'm just looking for the parental control on Paw Patrol. That's my extent. I'm like, okay, Paw Patrol, time limit. I'm at that point with the four-year-old where I'm just limiting the amount of time. This individual who murdered his wife -- years, could not find her remains. I met her family and went out to -- they had a family lakeside home. I spent the day with them. Beautiful family, supportive. They were just left reeling by her disappearance. For him to confess after negotiating an Xbox...

Zibby: Unreal.

Tamron: It's unreal. It's unreal. That's the depths of -- people ask about thriller writing or crime stories. What is the fascination? I could've jumped into a lot of other different types of books that might have been easier for people to accept me as the writer behind it. This true-crime world and having a sister who was the victim of a crime, it's fascinating. From Jordan, you the reader, you get to see that this is not a cut-out person on a TV screen. This is a person who goes home and thinks about this case. This is a person who is so outraged by the wrong that's happened, or potentially with Marla, that she wants to give the family peace. This is not just reporting for Jordan. This is about helping a family, helping children who now don't know where their mother is get that answer. That's what's so gut-wrenching about some of the decisions that she makes. You understand. You wonder if you would go that far to help a family. I think most people would. Jordan just happens to go ever further.

Zibby: She does. I know we're almost at the end, but would you mind sharing what happened with your sister? I know we talked about it at the book club. It was so moving and all of that.

Tamron: Much like in this story, my sister was a woman who was a survivor of domestic violence in her life. One night, my family got a phone call that she had been found outside of her home in her swimming pool. Her death was declared an unsolved case of murder. We were told by police at the time -- they had a suspect. They were all but certain, but they didn't feel they could get a conviction. I waited for many, many years to tell my sister's story. I was at an event supporting survivors of domestic violence and shared my sister's story and started not only on a journey to find out who did it because we've always known -- there's a different level of frustration with criminal justice and understanding that and protection of victims. That may be in another book at another time. Our loss and our grief led to our family, her son Leroy and our family, working with survivors of domestic violence to help not only those who are victims, but family members who don't know quite what to say and what to do. That was our challenge. With my sister, we, like so many others, thought that tough love -- you can do it; you can leave -- would be enough. It's not. Finding the right words to comfort, the right words to support, the right tools is my mission now. We loved my sister. She knew she was loved and supported. She also knew we were frustrated, not with her, but that frustration of wanting someone you love -- that you want to save them. Through Safe Horizon and Day One and other great organizations, I've been able to share a little of her story with the goal of helping family members support people they love who are experiencing domestic violence.

Zibby: Wow. I'm, again, so sorry. It's amazing that you're using your story to help other people. Although, not a surprise. Oh, my gosh, Watch Where They Hide, everyone must read this book. Congratulations. Do you have any parting advice for aspiring authors?

Tamron: I think the biggest is, take the leap. Much like when you have a child, if you wait around for the perfect time, the perfect minute, the perfect second, you probably won't find it unless you're a very lucky human on this planet. For so many of us, particularly women -- I'm now fifty-three. I wrote my first book when I was fifty. We allow the fear of rejection or the need for perfection to hold us in place. Neither serves our soul. Perfection doesn't serve you well. Fear certainly does not. Go for it.

Zibby: Love it. Tamron, thank you so much. Thanks for coming on. [Indiscernible/crosstalk] the book.

Tamron: Thank you. Thank you for the support. Thank you. Bye.

Zibby: Thank you. Buh-bye.


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