I was excited to chat to the talented Joanne Macgregor who has an amazing new YA book out - 'The Law of Tall Girls' (isn't the cover amazing!).
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Or did life step in and change your plans?
I never knew one could be a writer, as a profession, I mean. But I think I always was one. I was first published in The Star at the age of 7 years, and have been dabbling ever since, but I only got serious about writing an actual book less than ten years ago.
Take us through your first novel, how the idea came and how it eventually came out into the world.
Turtle Walk is a novel for younger teens, with an ecological bent. It came about because my own children were young teens and I was frustrated that the only books that seemed to be available were imported, mostly from the fantasy genre (not my personal favourite), and had boys as protagonists. I wanted my kids to read about relevant, smart, resourceful, kick-ass girls who go out and save the world, so I figured I'd better write that book! I sent it to a bunch of South African publishers, most of whom loved the story but said they were only publishing text books and setworks (and apparently great stories and English set works are not the same thing), until Protea Boekhuis picked it up and published what eventually became the eco-warriors series.
You've gone the self-publishing route - do you have some advice for others wanting to go this way?
I'm a hybrid author - half my titles are traditionally published and half self-published. I enjoy the speed, control and rewards that come from going independent, but it's not for everyone. It's a massive amount of work, you have to be prepared to invest money in making your product as professional as possible, plus you have to jettison genteel notions of the artiste untouched by "taint" of commercialism, and be prepared to hustle your butt off. I love it!
Take me through your top three books of all time?
I hate questions like this - it's like choosing a favourite child! But let's go with a sampling.
For my classic, I'd choose Shakespeare's Macbeth - so clever, so perceptive when it comes to human nature, such beautiful language. Plus, murder, mayhem, madness, and witches!
For one of my favourite "modern" (these things are relative) novels, I'd choose East of Eden by John Steinbeck. His writing - so deceptively simple, so beautiful, so profound - was a revelation to me. And the insights into human nature are raw, accurate, and compassionate. I'll be satisfied as a writer when I've written as sentence as beautiful as, "The afternoon was silver with rain" (though that was from The Grapes of Wrath).
And where would I be with the Harry Potter series - which I love through and through - and their author, JK Rowling who came to writing later in life, and showed me that I could do the same!
What are your currently reading?
I've just finished The Shining by Steven King; am currently reading Operation Prom Date, and next up is Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. I am a book-glutton - I like to read widely and deeply. I love tumbling across a new (or old, unknown) author whose work speaks to me. I'll read anything - even you if you stand still long enough - and I usually read several things at a time. Because time is in such short supply and I like to do more than one thing at once, I enjoy audiobooks best of all!
What are you working on at the moment?
I've just released my newest book-baby - The Law of Tall Girls, which has been several years in the making. Next up will be something completely different: a non-fiction, psychological self-help book! After that, I'm hoping to write another adult psychological thriller. I'm a Gemini, which perhaps accounts for the fact that I can not stick to a single age range or genre. This is me, folks. Love it or leave it!
When you're not writing, what are you doing?
In my other day job, I'm a counselling psychologist with a special interest in trauma and criminal victimisation. In my other other day job, I'm a corporate trainer in change management. I'm also a mother, wife, veggie gardener, Harry Potterhead, pretty good cook and baker, amateur but enthusiastic flower arranger, and expert sleeper.
Ever write in coffee shops?
Not often. I have written there, for Nanowrimo and when City Power fails me in the electricity department, but I really write best when alone, in perfect quiet, in my own home. I like to talk to myself, pace up and down, stay in my pyjamas, think aloud through scenes, and have a little hum now and then. Like Winnie the Pooh. Fellow diners and coffee-drinkers tend to look askance at such behaviour.