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A Crime Writers’ Interview: Jo Macgregor

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It’s been awhile since we’ve done a Crime Writers’ Interview. 🙂 Today, we’re delighted to introduce you to a great suspense author, Jo Macgregor.

When not writing, Jo Macgregor is a counseling psychologist in private practice in South Africa. She works mainly with victims of crime and trauma, and brings her twenty years of experience as a therapist to her writing, creating deeper characters and realistic psychological scenarios. She started her professional life as a high school English teacher and writes young adult fiction under the name Joanne Macgregor. Her psychological non-fiction (self help) is published under the name J. Macgregor. She writes intelligent novels with all the feels and a twist of humor – fiction that targets your head, heart and funny bone!

Although she lives in the frenetic adrenaline-rush of the big city, Jo has always been in love with nature, and escapes into the wilds whenever possible. She loves reading, is addicted to chilies and bulletproof coffee, and her Hogwarts House is either HuffleClaw or RavenPuff!

Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio): Let’s start with a somewhat open-ended, “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Jo: One, in my day job, I’m a psychologist in private practice. While I keep my therapy work and my writing very separate (I even do it on different days and in different places) and would never “mine” my clients’ experiences for story ideas, I believe my knowledge of psychology — people, personality and pathology — really does inform my writing. I like to think my characterizations are deeper and more real, and certainly my portrayal of psychological problems and how psychologists work in practice are more accurate than I see in lots of fiction.

Two, I think life is more comedy than tragedy, so there is humor in all my books. I can’t read humorless, bleak stories and I certainly won’t write them!

I had to ask my daughter for a third one! According to her, a cornerstone of my character is that I believe it matters how we treat people and that the actions of ordinary people count, and shouldn’t be disregarded or underestimated. She says that informs all my writing. So now you know 😊

Kass: Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you?

Jo: I write romance and dystopian novels, too, but when it comes to reading, crime is hands-down my favorite genre. I think crime stories offer entertaining ways to wrestle with bigger issues facing individuals, cultures and countries. I think we can even grapple with existential issues in crime stories.

In my most recent novel, The First Time I Died, I look at some big questions (Is there an afterlife? What is real? Can romantic love last forever? Should you trust outer “reality” or subjective inner experience more?). But because it’s all wrapped up in a gripping whodunnit, it doesn’t feel like a philosophical lecture.

I also like that crime stories usually end with some kind of resolution — the killer is caught and punished, justice prevails, moral order is restored — and that scratches a deep itch. In real life, this sort of resolution is rare and usually imperfect, so reading crime fiction is a type of satisfying compensatory fantasy. Also, it’s just exciting — it pulls me into a story like no other genre can!

Kass: What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you?

Jo: I can’t write only one type of story — maybe because I’m a Gemini or maybe because I get bored easily. So, I’ve written a psychological thriller (Dark Whispers) and a mystery with a paranormal twist (The First Time I Died).

Even my Young Adult novels (contemporary romances and dystopians) tend to have a grand mystery or crime at the center of them. In practice, I don’t choose the genre first. What happens is that the idea for a book comes to me, and only then do I pick the genre that would be the best vehicle to explore that idea and the themes that go with it.

Kass: What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?

Jo: The first books I remember reading — and they remained my favorites for years — were the Famous Five and Secret Seven mysteries by English writer Enid Blyton. Perhaps this is where my love for crime and mystery novels first started! I was fascinated by the mental puzzle of the mysteries and tried to work them out before the child sleuths could, and loved imagining myself solving some grand mysteries!

Kass: Where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little about your stories.

Jo: I have fifteen published books under my belt. Under my full name, Joanne Macgregor, I started with a series for younger YA readers – Turtle Walk, Rock Steady and Faultlines – which have an ecological theme and are set in South Africa.

I have two other books out for younger readers (Jemima Jones and the Great Bear Adventure, Jemima Jones and the Revolving Door of Doom), and half-a-dozen other YA books – three YA contemporary romances (Scarred, Hushed and The Law of Tall Girls) and a YA dystopian trilogy (Recoil, Refuse, Rebel).

And under my pen name for adults, Jo Macgregor, I have two books out – Dark Whispers and my most recent novel, The First Time I Died. I’ve also compiled the therapeutic stories and metaphors I use in my clinical practice into a self- help book called Self Help Stories, which is published under J. Macgregor.

Kass: I do hope there’s a sequel to The First Time I Died. I loved that book! Tell us — what’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Jo: In my dystopian YA series, The Recoil Trilogy, my protagonist is a (reluctant) sniper. I don’t like guns; I see too many victims and relatives of victims of gun violence in my therapy practice. So, I didn’t know much about them.

I had to read a lot, watch a bunch of YouTube videos and watch documentaries on snipers. (One of those documentaries had sparked the original idea for the books!) But I felt that I needed to do more hands-on research — literally.

I found an amazing weapons expert, ran scenes by him to check accuracy, and then went out on the shooting range to shot revolvers, pistols, bolt-action and automatic rifles, and even a monster gun called the elephant rifle, which nearly took my shoulder off with its powerful recoil action.

The shooting was enormous fun and it turned out I was pretty good at it. Although I still don’t like guns and don’t own any, I think getting out and actually doing the shooting was excellent for injecting some real and gritty details into the shooting scenes in the novels.

Kass: In your latest story, what was your favorite (or hardest to write) scene?

Jo: My favorites were the kisses (I love writing kissy scenes, lol) and writing the scenes where the protagonist experiences either flashbacks, hallucinations or psychic visions (it’s up to the reader to decide what they believe!)

The hardest to write was a sex scene which one of my beta readers felt was needed. Although I’ve written smoochy and schmexy scenes before, they usually either stop short of the full Monty or fade to black, so this was the first full sex scene I’d ever written. It made me hysterical with nerves, and I was sweating by the time I finished it. And after all that, I wound up not including it. Other beta-readers and my trusted editor said it wasn’t necessary and felt shoe-horned in, which was how I felt too, so I cut that sucker out!

Kass: Ah, now I want to read that scene!

But seriously, having read The First Time I Died, I can see how a sex scene would have felt forced. It is an excellent book, one of my all-time favorites. Thanks for joining us today, Jo Macgregor, for a great Crime Writers’ Interview!

Jo: Thank you for having me!

Kass: Folks, if you have comments or questions, please jump in below. But keep in mind that Jo is in a very different time zone from the North American continent, so there may be a bit of a delay before she responds.

The First Time I Died
When Garnet McGee returns to her small Vermont hometown for the holidays, she vows to solve the mystery of the murder which shattered her life ten years ago. But after dying in an accident and being brought back to life, she starts hearing voices, seeing visions and experiencing strange sensations. Are these merely symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and an over-active imagination, or is she getting messages from a paranormal presence?

Garnet has always prided herself on being logical and rational, but trying to catch a killer without embracing her shadow self is getting increasingly difficult. And dangerous, because in a town full of secrets, it seems like everybody has a motive for murder.
Fast-paced and riveting,

The First Time I Died is a suspenseful and haunting crime story with a supernatural twist.

Available Now on: AMAZON US  AMAZON UK  AMAZON CA  AMAZON AUS

Readers can connect with Jo Macgregor on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, AND INSTAGRAM.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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A Crime Writers Interview: Teresa Trent

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Please help us welcome Teresa Trent to our blog for another crime writers interview. I just love her Pecan Bayou cozy series, and now she has a new series out… oh goody!

Teresa Trent head shot

Teresa enjoys creating small towns filled with quirky characters and high crime rates. She lives in Houston, Texas with her family and spends her time as a writer and caregiver. Teresa started the Pecan Bayou Mystery Series in 2011 and adds to it yearly. Her Piney Woods Mystery Series, published by Camel Press, debuted in 2018 and will also have a new mystery each year. Teresa loves to write with just a little humor and to include characters you might not find in other cozies, including Danny who was influenced by her own son with Down syndrome.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio press): Let’s start with a somewhat open-ended, “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Teresa Trent: My life experience plays into my writing. My Pecan Bayou Series has a character with Down syndrome because I have a son with Down syndrome. Because of that, I am around many people like him. I couldn’t “world create” without my character Danny because without him it wouldn’t be my world.

I love a certain kind of story. I want to be touched emotionally but I also want to laugh, so characters need to be human. When I decided to start writing seriously I wanted my voice to be unique and my stories to touch other people’s hearts. I know I’ve written my book correctly when I find myself crying in the final scene. I also laugh at my own jokes.

Kass: Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you, rather than say romance or science fiction?

book cover

And Then There Were None, first published in the U.S. in 1940.

Teresa: I was an English teacher once upon a time, and one of my favorite novels to teach about was And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I loved solving the puzzle of finding the murderer.

With romance you know the guy and the girl are going to get together in the end. With a mystery you are never sure if your suspected villain is the right villain, so, the ending in this genre is unpredictable. I love sci-fi, but have never felt I know enough of the science side to write it.

Kass: What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you as a writer? Do you also prefer it as a reader?

Teresa: I write cozy mysteries because I enjoy the small-town characters and the less graphic situations. I have written some light horror short stories but find I keep coming home to cozies.

As a reader, I enjoy all types of stories. To me a good story is found in the writing more than the genre, so if a book hits the best seller list, I want to read it, not only for pleasure but to see what that author did right!

Kass: What do you find to be the most fun and/or the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching? Why is that?

Teresa: I love writing a first draft. I love collecting thoughts, characters, plot lines, settings and then putting them all into a story. After that comes several drafts where I drag through the story looking for grammatical errors and plot holes and I usually have plenty of both!

Kass: Where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little more about your stories.

Teresa: I write the Pecan Bayou Cozy Mystery Series and the Piney Woods Cozy Mystery Series which both occur in Texas.

A Dash of Murder cover

Book 1 in the Pecan Bayou series.

Pecan Bayou is in the Hill Country famous for wildflowers in the Spring and German food. Austin is also a part of the hill country and politically a little more left-leaning than the rest of the state. It is no mistake that Rocky, my newspaper editor has a Christmas tree that always leans slightly to the left. I so enjoyed creating this cast of characters starting with my amateur sleuth, Betsy, a woman who writes helpful hints for a living, and is constantly having to tackle those pesky bloodstains.

The Piney Woods Mystery Series is in East Texas, close to the Louisiana border. Nora is very different from Betsy and works in the historic Tunie hotel. Piney Woods is an oil boom-bust town heavily influenced by close neighbor, Louisiana. Gumbo is a popular dish on the menu and running across the state line to gamble is a major attraction. Nora and her law man boyfriend, Tuck Watson solve murders together while Nora tries to keep the hotel afloat.

Kass: What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Teresa: That would be how to explode a port-a-potty. You would be amazed how many You Tube videos there are on the subject.

Kass: In your latest story, what changed the most from the first draft to the last?

Teresa: My latest book, Murder of a Good Man, was a little darker than some of my other stories, so I had to work to bring it up to the lighter form of the cozy mystery. When I first started writing this book, the news had just come out about Bill Cosby, and that was the inspiration for the plot line. What if a guy the whole world loved was really not such a fine gentleman?

Thank you so much for joining us today, Teresa! If you all have any questions for her, please ask them in the comments. And you can connect with her on her blog, on Twitter or Goodreads.

Here is her latest release, folks…

Murder of a Good Man, Book 1 in the Piney Woods Mysteries

Murder of a Good Man coverWhen Nora Alexander drives into Piney Woods, Texas, to fulfill her dying mother’s last wish, she has no idea what awaits her. First, she is run off the road, then the sealed letter she delivers turns out to be a scathing rebuke to the town’s most beloved citizen and favored candidate for Piney Woods Pioneer: Adam Brockwell. Next thing you know, Adam has been murdered in a nasty knife attack.

Suspicion instantly falls on Nora, one of the last people to see him alive. After all, everyone in Piney Woods loved him. Or did they? Nora learns that her mother had a complicated past she never shared with her daughter. Told not to leave town by Tuck the flirty sheriff, Nora finds a job with Tuck’s Aunt Marty trying to get the rundown Tunie Hotel back in the black. The old hotel was Piney Woods’ heart and soul in its heyday as an oil boomtown.

Now the secrets it harbors may be the key to getting Nora off the hook. She’s going to need to solve the mystery quickly to avoid arrest, or worse: becoming the killer’s next victim.

Available on: Amazon    Barnes & Noble     iBooks     Kobo     Paperback

Note: I am going to be traveling when this interview goes live, so K.B. Owen will be fielding comments.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

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A Crime Writer Interview: Nancy Lynn Jarvis

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Welcome to our second Crime Writers’ Interview! Our goal is to bring to you, our readers, some new and interesting authors and books for your reading pleasure.

Because books are not toasters. We don’t just buy one every few years. They are more like clothes. (Or for some of us, food!) We need a sustainable supply.

headshot Nancy Lynn Jarvis

So please help us welcome Nancy Lynn Jarvis.

Nancy Lynn Jarvis was a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor® for more than twenty years before she fell in love with writing and let her license lapse.

She has worked in the advertising department of a newspaper, as a librarian, and as the business manager for Shakespeare/Santa Cruz at UCSC.

Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years, a philosophy she applies to her writing, as well.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio press):  We like to start with a somewhat open-ended, “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Nancy:  If there was any doubt about it before, there isn’t now: I turn seventy as my new book, “The Two-Faced Triplex” comes out, so I’m officially a geezerette. I was late to the writing party, starting the Regan McHenry Real Estate series at fifty-nine, but I love telling stories on paper so there’s no planned retirement for my writing venture.

My favorite out of the books I’ve written is not a mystery, but a comedy/commentary on the invisibility that comes to older people titled, “Mags and the AARP Gang.” I’ve also edited a cookbook, “Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes.”

photo of sunrise

The view my Airbnb guests will see at sunrise.

I like new adventures, so every few years I try something different. Currently, I’ve started hosting Airbnb (yes, there will be a book about it; look for “The Truth About Hosting Airbnb” in March) and what I really want to do is start having writer retreats at my house where five or so of us writers can come together to work on our mysteries while we share creative synergy and, hopefully, have a great time

Kass:  *raising hand* Please put me down for that first retreat. That sounds amazing.

So tell us, why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you, rather than say romance or science fiction?

Nancy:  I love the logic of it. It’s fun to think about the order of events and clues and it’s an enjoyable challenge revealing everything the reader needs to know to solve the mystery without revealing too much too soon.

I’m a very visual writer―I need to be able to see what I’m writing about―so I don’t think I’d be any good at science fiction, and writing romance novels simply doesn’t appeal to me.

Kass:  What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you as a writer? Do you also prefer it as a reader?

Nancy:  My mysteries fall in the cozy genre. Regan McHenry is a Realtor who gets involved in murder because of clients, colleagues, and friends.

I grew up reading Agatha Christie at my grandmother’s house while sitting in a wicker rocking chair that I still have. Miss Marple was my favorite of Dame Agatha’s protagonists and was the perfect cozy amateur sleuth, so that’s the style I chose.

Sadly, since I’ve started writing, I’ve learned how to spot a red herring from miles away and usually I’ve solved the murder by page eighty-six, so I don’t enjoy reading cozies as much now.

Kass:  Where are you in your writing career, newly published, have 20 books under your belt, or somewhere in between? Tell us a little about your stories.

book coverNancy:  “The Two-Faced Triplex” is book seven and probably the final chapter of the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series. I was a Realtor for almost twenty-five years and had many related stories to use for background material and, while I still have more ideas, the technology involved in being a Realtor today has moved beyond my remembrances of working and I worry that if I continue the series, my books will become dated.

I’m currently editing a short story anthology pertaining to Santa Cruz, California (where I live) which will be titled, “Santa Cruz Weird.”

Beyond that, I’ve already begun playing with an idea for a series called “Geezers with Tools” about two single senior men, one widowed and one who thinks he’s a player, who start a handyman business to meet women. I like older characters and want to put more humor in my books. The very title of the series is a double entendre and, in my mind, a great setup to play with. The series will still be in the cozy mystery genre. My protagonists will solve crimes that come up as they work.

Kass:  What do you find to be the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching? Why is that?

Nancy:  I love writing first drafts and think researching for the mysteries is fun, although it does produce some very odd offers for items for sale in my inbox, so I would have to say editing is the hardest part of writing for me.

I was fortunate enough to have a willing (well almost willing) husband who became a great beta reader and content editor who kept me on track in large part, but he died about a year-and-a-half ago. “The Two-Faced Triplex” was hard to write and especially hard to finish because I didn’t know how I was going to get from finished first draft to something I was willing to send to my editor without his input in the middle.

Kass:  Oh my, so sorry about your husband. And I know what you mean about having that one beta reader whose blessing you have to have in order to feel comfortable releasing a book out into the world.

You said you enjoy doing research. What’s the oddest or most interesting thing you’ve ever researched?

Buying Murder book coverNancy:   The most unusual thing I’ve ever researched was the evolution of cat litter. In “Buying Murder,” Regan and her husband buy a house with a permanent resident. He was mostly decomposed, although partially mummified, as he spent time sealed in a wall anomaly filled with cat litter to keep him from leaking body fluids and, well, smelling like death.

He’d been there for sixteen years and, at the start of the mystery, who he was and when he died were unknown facts. I had those questions answered based on the type of cat litter that surrounded him. Cat litter formulations have changed over time, so I had to figure out what the litter components would have been sixteen years prior to the body’s discovery so his approximate death date could be determined.

Kass:  That is fascinating! Thanks so much, Nancy, for joining us today.

Before you leave, let me open up the floor to our subscribers and guests, in case any of them have questions for you.

And folks, don’t forget to check out Nancy’s new release, The Two-Faced Triplex:

The Two-Face Triplex book coverRegan signs on to play consoler-and-chief after the body of Martha Varner, one of her favorite clients, is found and the woman’s distraught daughter begs Regan to stop escrow from closing on a purchase her mother was about to make.

Martha Varner’s death, at first ruled suicide, is quickly ruled homicide. The dead woman’s best friend thinks she knows who Martha’s killer is. The police have a different suspect. And Regan? Well, she has her own ideas about who killed Martha Varner.

She just can’t imagine how complicated playing amateur sleuth will make her life and how dangerous her investigation will prove to be for her husband, Tom.

Now available on AMAZON.

You can check out Nancy’s other books on her Amazon Author Page. Also she is on Goodreads and Facebook.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )