CF: You have written 21 suspense and mystery novels with about twelve of those currently in print. In addition, you have co-written one book about the Tarot and wrote another about dreams; you have two new books on astrology coming out, with two previously published. If my count is right, counting co-authored works, that comes to about twenty seven books - an amazing number, and that's just the ones I can track down. I'm told that there are at least a few others. How do you do it? Have you cloned yourself? Are you a terrifically energetic person, or are you perhaps instead an amazingly disciplined and organized person who makes incredible use of a limited amount of energy?|
TM: Let's see, I'm a Gemini so I guess in a sense I have cloned myself. One twin writes and the other twin pitches new ideas.
CF: Are you a very energetic person also?
TM: Yes, I am, I guess you could say that.
CF: Otherwise I don't see how you could get twenty seven books out - or more.
TM: Well, I do this full time. You can get a lot done in around eight hours a day of writing.
CF: I know, I've had jobs where I wrote all day.
TM: Right. You just do it until it's done. I also have a Capricorn Moon, which keeps me pretty focused.
CF: Ah! I can imagine. So you have some good discipline to go along with your energy.
TM: Yes, I think so. Also, it's better than teaching! I mean, not wanting to be a teacher, never wanting to go back to that.
CF: Is the difficulty with teaching these days more with the administration than with the students, or is it both?
TM: I don't know. My last teaching job was in the early eighties, so I don't know. I've taught everything from elementary school to adults. Adults are easier to teach, but kids are more fun.
CF: Has it been difficult to be a writer and raise your daughter at the same time?
TM: Only when she was a baby. I can still remember that we moved when she was about six weeks old and I was on a deadline for a book. She would wake up hungry in the middle of the night and I'd feed her and then I'd be wide awake. I'd just go to work around three or four in the morning while she slept in her carrier next to my desk. But now she's in school so it's not a problem. I still tend to work a lot at night - it's quieter.
CF: That makes sense, less mental energy going on.
TM: And also the phone's not ringing, the cats are asleep, and it's just quieter.
CF: We have a fellow working here who grew up in Venezuela, and he told me there were a lot of Americans there. I wondered, since you grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, my next question is (if it's not too personal) when and where did you learn English? Or is that the right question?
TM: My father worked for Standard Oil, which was what Exxon used to be called. At the time we were living there, there were maybe 8000 people -there was a big American community. In the early '60s, I think it was in 1963 when they nationalized the oil industry, and a lot of Americans including my parents left. So I was 16, and they settled in Florida. You know South Florida at that time compared to now was practically uninhabited.
CF: Yes, my coworker says Miami is now "the third biggest city in Venezuela!"
TM: That's about the size of it. Back then, Caracas was a great place, it was beautiful. Now it's very polluted. But I had a wonderful childhood there, so I can't complain.
CF: I was wondering, since you didn't have a Spanish-sounding surname or a first name...
TM: No, my parents were Americans. I had the best of both worlds, getting to live in a foreign country and learn a foreign language.
CF: That's great. Most Americans don't have that opportunity.
TM: No, they don't.
CF: What motivated you to become a suspense writer? For instance, a lot of authors say "I am a fan of that genre, and I wasn't finding the sorts of books I wanted to read in the bookstores." Were you always brimming over with stories that you wanted to tell?
TM: I never started out classifying myself as anything but a storyteller. I was so naïve about genres when I first started out that I didn't even realize that my first book was a mystery until my editor classified it that way. And I'm not really much of a mystery reader, I mean I like thrillers, I like science fiction, I like things having to do with what I consider to be real mysteries.
CF: I gave you two alternatives there: of the two you were more full of stories.
TM: I think so. Really, when you think about it, it's not like you sit down and you've got so many stories - you're facing a blank computer screen. You have to start off with something that kind of encapsulates an idea. At least that's what I do; I'm not sure what other people do.
CF: Everybody has their own way into it. I don't think anybody writes an outline, though.
TM: My agent, whom I've been with for about six years, is the first agent I've worked with who really insists on writing an outline for fiction. At first I really had a hard time doing it. Then I found that if I could apply my left brain to the right brain material, it gave me a better structure for the novel. In that way it's very helpful as long as you don't stick to it so closely that you lose the creative thrust for the thing.
CF: And you wouldn't write one until you had a really pretty well-developed idea [would you]?
TM: I've gotten three hundred pages into a book and tossed it all out. I might find, for instance, that on page 305 I've written the first page of the book. It can be depressing, but it's part of the process, I guess.
CF: Are your books also available in Spanish?
TM: No, none of my books, if you can believe this, are available in Spanish. The Japanese have bought just about every novel I've written. They've sold in France, Italy, the Scandinavian countries, but never to a Spanish-speaking country.
CF: Is it a problem with your publisher not pursuing sub-rights aggressively?
TM: No I don't think so. There's probably a huge untapped market in having books in English translated into Spanish for sale in this country. But there doesn't seem to be any kind of distribution system that's uniform enough to make it worth a publisher's while - unless they're really huge best-sellers in English that then are made available in Spanish. And Spain now seems to be doing more of its own original titles. Mexico has a large publishing industry that I don't know much about. Of course authors all want their books published in as many languages as possible, but the Spanish thing has never worked out for me. Maybe it will.
CF: When did astrology come into your life?
TM: Well it came into my life before PCs and software like Win*Star, which make the math nonexistent. It used to take me literally hours to put up a chart by hand, and I hated doing that, so I got away from using astrology for a long time. But now I use it to cast charts for the main characters of my books. It gives me a lot of insight into who the person is as a real person.
CF: Do you go through the ephemerises and look for somebody who's about the right age or a Pluto that's right or something?
TM: In the novel I have coming out in February, called Vanished, I have a man and a woman who have been involved with each other since they were born, and they were only born two minutes apart (same place, same date, same year). So I thought, how are these two different? I knew they were both going to be Scorpios, but that's about all that I knew. Just intuitively I came up with the Scorpio Sun, and I played around with the birth times until it was all right.
CF: That tells me how you use it professionally.
TM: I do use it. I also do charts for people, but that tends to be pretty time consuming.
CF: I find it takes at least an hour of preparation to do a half-hour reading.
TM: If not more.
CF: That's just an easy introductory reading. If I'm doing progressions and transits and other stuff, it takes a while.
TM: I started writing about astrology because it seemed like a good idea at the time. I also had a weird experience at the time my daughter was born. I was in a room with four other women, and it was about two o'clock in the morning when I heard somebody calling my name. I sat up, looked around, the other women were asleep and the door to the room was sort of half closed. I thought, that's weird, laid back down and it happened again. This time I realized it was an internal voice. So I just shut my eyes and said "okay, whatever this is, make yourself known." I had a very vivid impression of my daughter at age 30 asking for her birth information. I thought "wow," and I gave it to her - she wanted to know where Rob and I were living at the time, I told her that. So then she thanked me and that was it. The whole feeling was that she was doing some type of hypnosis as a subject and was trying to get her birth information for some reason to try and understand what the early part of life had been like. So at that point I realized I was going to have to write about astrology and that the main thing for my daughter was that she was always going to have to know her birth time. That led to Cosmic Kids, and her chart is in there, so if there is ever any question, there it is. But that was the main event that made me realize I had to write about it.
To be continued… (go to Part 2)
Copyright: Matrix Software
Bio: Trish MacGregor
Trish MacGregor was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. Before she became a full-time writer in 1983, she worked as a prison librarian, a Spanish teacher to hormonal seventh graders, and English teacher to Cuban refugees, a teacher of English as a second language, a travel writer and an astrologer.
As T.J. MacGregor, Alison Drake and Trish Janeshutz, she is the author of 21 suspense novels. The most recent, Vanished, will be published in 2001 by Pinnacle Books. As Trish MacGregor, she is the co-author of Power Tarot and The Everything Astrology Book, Your Cosmic Kids, and Your Intuitive Moon, to be published in December 2000. She also co-authored The Lotus and the Stars with her husband, Rob MacGregor, which combines astrology and yoga. It will be published in 2001.
She lives in South Florida with her husband, daughter, and a variety of animals.