Interview with Jo Macgregor

Jo and me at the Franschhoek Lit Fest with author Joanne Harris and the moderator of our panel Victor Dlamini
Jo and me at the Franschhoek Lit Fest with author, Joanne Harris and the moderator of our panel, Victor Dlamini

Jo’s Garnet McGee series is PERFECT for this time, if like me you’re struggling to read anything that’s too intense. They provide enough mystery and murder and mayhem to be satisfying but not too much realism for me to think ‘Oh the world is such a shit place, let Covid take me now’. I thoroughly enjoyed her latest one The First Time I Hunted, and I recommend all of them, they are wonderful holiday reads. She also has some great recommendations here which I am keen to try out. Enjoy!

Favourite restaurants in Joburg?

I love PRON (People’s Republic of Noodles) in Linden. I’m addicted to their fresh pickles, handbreak bread, cumin lamb and chicken in chili oil — so much so that when I arrive, the waitrons tell me what I’ll be ordering 😊

My favourite lunch at PRON in LInden
My favourite lunch at PRON in LInden

Favourite coffee shops?

I don’t often do coffee shops, but Cut and Craft in Kensington is great!

Favourite wine/gin/whisky?

I’m not a wine snob – if it’s white, dry, cold and quaffable, I’m game. My favourite gin is Inverroche Amber – simply wonderful!

Favourite deli?

The Cheese Gourmet in Linden — amazing cheeses and cold meats, knowledgeable staff and fabulous sourdough bread.

Favourite bookshops?

Got to be Love Books in Melville 😊

Favourite TV shows?

This varies all the time and, these days, a good TV show is one I fall asleep to quickly, and that doesn’t startle me awake at intervals with loud music (BWAHAHAHAHA!)

Favourite gyms/hikes/yoga studios/swimming pools?

I don’t have favourite exercise. Exercise is something I do, because I kind of have to, like completing my tax return. But it’s not fun. I do enjoy rambling in the Drakensberg when I get the chance.

At The Cavern one of the best spots in the berg
At The Cavern one of the best spots in the ‘berg

Favourite beauty salons?

What is this thing you speak of?

Favourite hairdresser?

Bailey at the Blue Door in Kensington. She doesn’t try to sell me product. I appreciate that.

Any hidden gems you want to share with us?

Pastelaria Princesa in Queens Street
Pastelaria Princesa in Queens Street

There are a couple of genuine Portuguese gems in Kensington — O’Vicente in Sovereign street has the best prawns as well as all Portuguese specialities served up in no-nonsense style at a good price. Locals fight to get tables here. I love to sit on one of the functional chairs on the sloping floor and watch the dynamics in the big families — great fodder for writing.

Pastelaria Princesa in Queens Street does wonderful breakfasts and is great value for money. They have a deli downstairs where you can buy chorizo and the very best natas (Portuguese custard cookies) this side of Lisbon. I have a theory that these are what Meg Ryan ate just before her famous “I’ll have what she’s having” scene in When Harry Met Sally.

The Mediterranean Fish shop in Malvern, is fabulous for all kinds of fresh fish, meat and deli products. Whether you want off-the-boat octopus, the best LM prawns or fresh pig cheeks, this is the place for you – all in brand new premises with safe parking.

Tell us your favourite place(s) to go on holiday in Southern Africa. What is it you love so much about the particular region/resort?

ON a game drive at Welgevonden 2
ON a game drive at Welgevonden

I adore the Welgevonden Game reserve in the Waterberg. It’s malaria-free, has the big five in spades, and is beautiful in any season. Having sundowners in the veld with animals in the distance is my idea of heaven.

I also escape to the Drakensberg whenever I can.

There is something about wandering off into the mountains, finding yourself in a forest of ancient trees, cycads, ferns and freshwater pools that instantly restores my soul. I’m definitely a country, rather than a city girl.

Favourite mode of travel? Roadtrips/rail/bus/plane/private jet 😊

My fifteen year-old Hyundai Getz!

It’s my life’s ambition to be able to afford a trip on a luxury train like those of Rovos Rail, but so far, I haven’t won the lotto.

Favourite way of spoiling yourself when you’re away?

Afternoon naps. (I must be getting old.) And tasting the local cuisine, especially by visiting local food markets.

Lunch on the beach at Paternoster on the Cape West Coast 2
Lunch on the beach at Paternoster on the Cape West Coast

Any plans for the Christmas hols?

Plett, doll.

Favourite reads for the hols?

Any and all. I’ve been loading up my Kindle and iPod in anticipation.

What is the new book about?

The First Time I hunted 2

My new book, The First Time I Hunted, is the third book in my Garnet McGee series for adults.

Garnet is a Psychology Masters graduate who had a near-death experience and returned “from the other side” with psychic abilities. In this book, she’s hunting for a serial killer called the Button Man who sews the lips of his victims closed with a button in the centre.

Her abilities are still unpredictable and largely uncontrollable, but she’s got determination and sass in spades, so she’s unstoppable!

Explain your writing process for this book. What kind of research did you have to do for it? How many words do you write a day/week? How do you fit writing into your day job? Do you write at home/coffee shops?

I do loads of research for each book; for this book that included topics such as dairy farming in Vermont; historical New England barns; psychopathy; serial killers and interviewing a real  FBI agent to get my details correct!

I write at home, preferably in silence, and try to write most mornings. I do my day job in the afternoons. This sounds neat and tidy, but the reality is messy and exhausting. One day I will simply run away and join the circus — I reckon tightrope walking will be a doddle after the kind of juggling I’ve had to do.

Will there be a book launch? Details of that.


Where can fans get your book? Are there signed copies available?

You can buy the ebook on Amazon here:

Jo Macgregor - The First Time I Hunted
The First Time I Hunted

You can get paperback copies (signed, if you like) directly from me, but probably only from January. There’s a contact form on my website:

Favourite piece of writing advice?

Just begin. This was the advice of my standard 9 English teacher, Sally Kok, and it’s still the truth. Starting — a book, a day’s writing, a scene — is the hard part. Once you get going, it gets easier. Marginally.

What’s next for you? What are you busy working on at the moment?

I’m catching my breath for a few weeks, then I’ll open my brain to the next book. Or rather, the next series, because I have a great idea for a Young Adult trilogy. Please send inspiration and energy. See also, Inverroche Amber.

2020 has been a shitty year but do you have a favourite moment?

No, no favourite moments. I mean, it has been indescribably dull, hasn’t it? And when not the hamster-wheel of sameness, it’s been full of drama and emergencies. I am grateful that me and mine have been spared the worst of Covid ravages, and that I’ve been able to continue working and earning some income.

Thank you so much for taking part in Reading Matters! Xxx

Jo Macgregor, Yes she also happens to be sickeningly GORGEOUS
Yes, she also happens to be sickeningly GORGEOUS

I enjoyed it!