Names are tricky little things. T.J. MacGregor was born with one name (Patricia Janeshutz), got nicknamed (Trish), then changed her name when she got married (MacGregor). She published her first two novels as Trish Janeshutz, a last name that few could pronounce or spell. So her editor at that time asked her to come up with a simpler name that contained initials – i.e., an androgynous name, because suspense novels by men were selling better at that time than suspense novels by women.
T.J. has written 28 novels, which include two different series – the Quin. St. James/Mike McCleary and the Tango Key series, as well as four stand-alone thrillers -The Seventh Sense, Vanished, The Other Extreme, and Out of Sight, which won the Edgar Allan Poe award for Best Paperback Original of 2002. As Alison Drake (we still don’t know where she came from) she wrote five novels and as Trish Janeshutz she wrote two. Her most recent books, Kill Time (October 2007) and the sequel, Running Time (November 2008) are time travel novels. As Trish MacGregor, she has written 15 nonfiction books that reflect her interests - astrology, the tarot, dreams, and yoga. In 2003, with the death of renown astrologer Sydney Omarr, Trish took over the writing of his astrology books. Confused yet? Check out the bibliography.
Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, she’s bilingual and has an ongoing love affair with South America. Before she sold her first novel in 1984, her jobs were all over the map. She taught English to Cuban refugees, Spanish to hormonal teenagers, was a social worker, and a librarian and Spanish teacher in a correctional facility for youthful offenders. Her best job was leading travel writing trips with her husband, writer and novelist Rob MacGregor, to the Peruvian Amazon.
She lives in South Florida with her husband and their teenage daughter, Megan, and a menagerie of pets.
1 Tell us about your current novel.
Running Time is the continuation of the story that began with Kill Time. The premise is that for thirty years, the government has had the secret to time travel and has used it to “disappear” political dissidents and subversives into the past. The protagonist, Nora McKee, lost her mother in this way 23 years ago and in Running Time, she and her lover, Alex Kincaid, try to find her. They now know she was disappeared to Blue River, Massachusetts, 1695, so they travel back to this dark period in the town’s past, when several women were tried for witchcraft, and battle religious fundamentalism in its most vile form.
2. Can you give us a sense of what you're working on now?
I just finished a novel called Esperanza. It’s different from anything I’ve written before. A man and woman meet on a bus in the Andes, bound for an Ecuadorian town – Esperanza – that neither of them has ever heard of. They fall in love, but are constantly threatened by Esperanza’s brujos – hungry ghosts who terrorize the town by seizing the living so that they can become physical again. The man and woman discover that they have stumbled into an ancient battle between brujos and cazadores del luz, light chasers, evolved souls who guide the dead and the nearly dead in the afterworld. They learn that not only are they somehow central to this battle, but that they are both in comas, separated by forty years in time. If they choose to die, they will be together in Esperanza, but not as physical beings. If they return to their physical bodies, they will be separated forever. If they return to their respective lives with full memories of what has happened and try to find their way back to Esperanza, then there’s a chance they might be together. Big problem: the woman returns to 2008 with no memory of what has happened and the man returns to 1968 with nearly all his memories intact and the brujos have followed them back.
3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?
Being able to do it full-time!
4. The greatest DIS-pleasure?
Considering the alternatives, no DIS-pleasures at all.
5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?
Walk in a writer’s shoes for a day. A month. A year.
6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in
Bari Woods. Her book The Killing Gift was brilliant. Anything by Cornell Woolrich or Dashiell Hammett.
7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that
Miami Vice had just premiered. The man who would buy my first novel, In Shadow, loved the show and on that following Monday made an offer on my book. Later on, he admitted that he’d been influenced by the premier of Vice because the novel featured a black and white cop team and was set in Miami. The book had been rejected 24 times. I quit my part-time job teaching, let my teaching certificate lapse, and never looked back.
8. What do you consider the highlight of your career thus far?
There have been a lot of highlights – winning the Edgar for Out of Sight, connecting with other writers whose work I admire, walking into a bookstore and seeing any of my books on the shelves. That feeling really is indescribable.
9. How about the low point?
The death of my first editor, Chris Cox. He was a smart, quirky guy with a heart of gold who I got to know well when he made several trips with my husband and I to the Amazon. Chris went as a travel writer. When you drink Pisco sours sit on the open deck of a an old rubber hauling ship that plies 350-miles of the Amazon, when you catch piraña that you later eat for dinner, swim with dolphins the color of bubble gum, and swing from Tarzan vines in the middle of the jungle, your perspective on your editor goes through a major shift. Wow, he’s an adventurer, he’s funny, he’s fun. I felt privileged to speak at a memorial service that was held for him in New York after his death. Susan Sarandon, who had known him for years, opened the service with a moving tribute to him. I later learned that she had paid for a private nurse to be with him during the final weeks of his life. He was that kind of person, someone who connected people.
10. Which book or short story would you recommend to readers unfamiliar with your work?
The two time travel novels, Kill Time and Running Time.