Tag Archives: paranormal suspense

A Crime Writers’ Interview: Jo Macgregor

Crime Writers logo

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.


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

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Wacky Relatives and Other Wedding Woes (and a new Riga Hayworth Mystery!!)


picture of wedding cake

(photo by sparechangekitchen CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 WANA Commons)

When my husband and I were planning our wedding a few of his, shall we say, less stable family members were being a bit problematic. For the sake of cordial relations with the in-laws I won’t get any more specific than that.

He looked at me one day and said, “ You’re not getting a very good deal out of this marriage in terms of extended family.”

I laughed. “Honey, we’ve got just as many crazies in my family,” I told him. “You just haven’t met them because they’re not speaking to the rest of us anymore.”

I thought of that conversation the other day as I started reading the latest Riga Hayworth mystery. In this fourth book in the series, Riga is getting married. Or at least, she’s trying to. But weird and wacky things keep happening. Like a dead photographer who gets up and walks away.

Then some of her crazier relatives show up and she finds out some things about her family that have her doubting whether she should even get married. Is it fair to her fiancé, Donovan, to bring this baggage into his life? But then again, Donovan has his own baggage.

The bottom line is we all do. Show me someone who has no past trauma, no issues from childhood, no crazy family members that make them cringe in embarrassment, and I will show you a… well, a fictional character, because that’s not reality. Actually it wouldn’t even be a very believable or interesting fictional character.

As a psychotherapist, I was always pleased to see engaged couples giving some thought beforehand to what impact their baggage might have on their relationship. It’s always better to know ahead of time what problems you’re likely to encounter so you can perhaps plan some strategies, or at least not be taken by surprise. Facing those possible demons head on right from the beginning is a lot healthier than denial and defensiveness.

groom slipping ring on bride's finger

(photo by cellar_door_films CC BY_NC_SA 2.0)

But I also encouraged them to not let that baggage stop them from getting married. One of the many things that a good marriage does for us is provide healing experiences. Knowing someone loves you unconditionally goes a long way toward countering past hurts. And a loving spouse can help us realize that just because our family tree may have a few nuts in it, that doesn’t mean we’re damaged goods.

Riga knows they have their baggage but they also have plenty of good things going for them–genuine caring, good communication (or so she thinks) plus a few metaphysical talents–that are sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse.

It will be interesting to see how their marriage progresses in future books, that is if they can actually manage to get married in this one.

Check out The Infernal Detective below (I love the blurb for this book!) and then let’s chat a bit in the comments. What wacky relative showed up at your wedding? Have you ever felt like you were lugging too much baggage from the past into a relationship, or maybe found the other person’s baggage too hard to cope with?

Or if you don’t feel like getting that heavy (pun fully intended) you can just congratulate Kirsten on her new book. Happy Release Day, Kirsten!!

cover of The Infernal Detective

When Riga Hayworth finds a dead body in her bedroom a week before her wedding, it’s par for the course. When the corpse drives off with her fiancé…

That’s a problem.

Riga knows dead. More intimately than she’d like. So when a murdered photographer gets up and walks away, she believes there’s necromancy afoot. And when she discovers that several of her wedding guests are under the influence of dark magic, she’s certain. But how can she catch a killer and stop a necromancer when even her nearest and dearest are lying to her?

Murder. The undead. Irritating relatives. The Infernal Detective is a fast-paced, paranormal mystery, where nothing is quite as it seems, and magic lies just beyond the veil. Available on AMAZON now!

Oh, I almost forgot. Kirsten also has a really cool trailer for the book. Would you like an invitation to Riga and Donovan’s wedding?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

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TWO MORE AUTHORS! (Somebody order more champagne!)

Shannon Esposito and I are dancing the happy dance today as we announce that two more wonderful mystery writers have joined our group here at misterio press.

old photo of two children dancing

Shannon’s the short one (photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-08238 CC-BY-SA)

Okay, that isn’t really us, but we’re that happy! We now have seven authors which is exactly the number we wanted for our indie press, so that we can provide a variety of mystery/suspense titles and maintain a high level of quality for our readers.

Since we’re introducing you to two authors this time, we got twice as much virtual bubbly, so grab a glass and stick around as we tell you about Stacy Green and Catie Rhodes. (Shh, don’t tell Kathy Owen that we’re throwing a bigger bash than she got.)

big tower of champagne glasses

(photo by Filaos, CC 2.0 license, Wikimedia Commons)

Whoa, that’s a lot of champagne!

Stacy Green already has two great creations to her credit: her adorable daughter, Grace, and her debut suspense novel, Into the Dark, (published by MuseItUp Publishing).

Stacy Green head shot

When Stacy isn’t taking care of her family or writing, she’s researching true crime and serial killers for her blog. She also enjoys gardening and healthy cooking. Her writing credentials are impressive. You can check them out over at her cyber home.

She has a new novel coming out in less than two weeks (April 8th to be exact) called Tin God. It’s the first in her Delta Crossroads series.

I have read it and can tell you that it is fabulous. I can’t wait for her to finish the next book in the series. Unfortunately, I can’t show you the cover just yet because Night Owl Reviews is having an exclusive Cover Reveal for Stacy today (Yes, she is quite the social butterfly, flitting back and forth between two parties!)

But I can tell you what it’s about:

Getting pregnant as a teenager and being coerced into giving her baby up for adoption left a festering scar on Jaymee Ballard’s life. Trapped by poverty and without many allies, Jaymee nearly gives up hope of getting her daughter back after her best friend is murdered. Now, four years later, a wealthy woman with legal connections hires her as a housekeeper, and Jaymee gathers the courage to seek her help. But Jaymee’s last chance ends up in a puddle of blood in one of the historic antebellum mansions in Roselea, Mississippi.

I just murdered your wife…again.

An unsigned letter consisting of six horrifying words turns Nick Samuels stagnant life upside down. Stuck in emotional purgatory since his wife’s unsolved murder four years ago, Nick is about to self-destruct. The arrival of the letter claiming credit for his wife’s murder and boasting of a new kill sends Nick to Roselea, where he and Jaymee’s worlds collide.

Jaymee and Nick realize exposing the truth about her daughter’s adoption is the only way to solve the murders. Up against years of deception, they rush to identify the killer before the evidence–and Jaymee’s daughter–are lost. But the truth doesn’t always set the guilt-ridden free. Sometimes, it destroys them.


Catie Rhodes will be the first to tell you that she’s that girl your mother warned you about…

Catie Rhodes head shotThe one who cusses and never washes her hands after petting the dog. Catie decided to turn her love of lying into writing fiction after she got fired for telling her boss the President was on the phone.

It didn’t take Catie long to figure out what she wanted to do when she grew up. With her faithful Pomeranian, Cosmo, at her side, she draws on her East Texas roots and her love of true crime and the paranormal to write the kind of stories she wishes the book stores sold.

And we’re thrilled to announce the release of one of those stories next week (April 5th), Forever Road. I gotta tell you that this is the best debut novel I’ve ever read.

cover of Forever Road

I’ll let Catie’s main character, Peri Jean, introduce herself.

My name’s Peri Jean Mace, and I’ve seen ghosts ever since I can remember. Don’t get too excited. Seeing across the veil branded me as a loony during my growing up years, and I learned to keep my yap shut about it.

Now I’m not sure I can anymore.

See, my cousin up and got herself killed the very same day I promised her a favor.  Now she’s back in spirit form and determined to make me pay. If I don’t solve her murder, she’s going to haunt me forever. Talk about the debt collector from hell.

That’s not my only problem. An obnoxiously hot cop wants to arrest my best friend for the murder.  My bigmouthed archenemy holds a clue to the killer’s identity. And there’s this mean—and ugly—woman who wants to beat me up.

None of this can turn out good.

You are going to love both of these books!

By the way, Catie also has a great blog called Long Roads and Dark Ends. Isn’t that the coolest name for a mystery writer’s blog?

I’m getting thirsty from doing all this talking so I’m gonna go get another glass of champagne. You all please make Stacy and Catie welcome now!

*dances off to get some more virtual bubbly*

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.