My husband and I met, married and raised our two children in Southern California where we still live. Our oldest is married and has three grown sons. The other is an aerospace engineer who made watching The Big Bang Theory seem oddly familiar. I started writing when a co-worker challenged me to write my own book after I complained about a disappointing story. At the urging of friends and critique partners, I entered the Golden Heart Contest for Unpublished Writers, and Silent Song was one of six finalists in the short contemporary category. It eventually sold to Kensington Publishing. Between my day job as a high school teacher and family obligations, writing was put on hold for several years. Once I retired, however, characters and story ideas began dancing in my head again, but now they danced to Regency music. The Wolverton World is the result of letting them dance onto the manuscript page.
Jann: Tell us about your road to publication?
Leslie: My road trip was long, winding, and a bit rocky at times. My first book (a contemporary), Silent Song, took 10 years from first concept until Kate Duffy bought it for Meteor Publishing, then for Kensington when Meteor was sold off. By that time, my day job and growing family obligations pretty much took over and I set aside my writing for several years. When I retired, I had time to immerse myself in reading for pleasure, and it wasn’t long before the “what if” ideas started popping up again. I rejoined RWA to get caught up on the changes in the market and started writing once more. I completed Scandalizing the Duke and Chasing Scandal before I started submitting to the traditional houses. The long waits between submission and check-backs, the almost-but-not-quite editor nibbles from contest entries and the black hole of Covid lockdowns finally made me decide that I didn’t want to wait another 10 years to see my book in print. I researched all the “new” stuff and asked lots of questions, then uploaded Scandalizing the Duke through Draft2Digital and set my release date. I’m still learning, but I’m back on track.
Jann: What motivated you to write Regency romance?
Leslie: I decided to focus on historical in general, and Regency in particular, for their unlimited shelf life for readers. Contemporary stories quickly lose their freshness which can limit their appeal to new readers. Readers of historically set stories embrace the time warp instead of being distracted by it. I also write what I like to read, and I love historical fiction.
Jann: Historical romance readers look for accuracy from the author. What are your favorite sources for research and how much time did you spend on research? Do you research before, while you write a first draft or after?
Leslie: I tend to research as needed while I write. I usually begin with overview information off the internet for key events for the time period when the story will be set. I use historical study sites like universities and English history sites that I come across, then cross check for accuracy. I look for events that might impact my characters or move the story in a particular direction. I’m also a member of Regency Fiction Writers and we share a lot of links and sources, so I can often verify information that way. One of our members (Kristine Hughs) has recently completed an exhaustive research book on Waterloo in which she has read reams of primary source letters and dispatches, etc. to include. I know I’ll be able to rely on the accuracy of that book for both facts and flavor of the time period. My third book, Scandal’s Choice has an amputee hero, and I read the biography of Lord Oxley as well as researched recovery times, the history of prosthesis, and interviewed a man about the actual sensations of using and wearing one. Every story has a different research component, so I use whatever seems appropriate at the time.
Jann: Where did the idea come from for this series? Did you think of character, plot or theme first?
Leslie: I always think of people first. My first concept for the series was a what if–what if a widower returned to London with three daughters to launch and one was a bluestocking, one was a rescuer, and the third an intuitive, and what if the mother of one of his suitor’s mother caught his attention?
Once the writing/plotting began the bluestocking, Elizabeth, became a woodworker and enters a marriage of convenience, the rescuer became Charlotte in Scandalizing the Duke, and the intuitive has yet to emerge from the schoolroom. The widower papa doesn’t show until Scandal’s choice (Elizabeth’s story) and he has remarried when he does. First concepts never make it past research and revisions.
Jann: How long did it take you to write Book One?
Leslie: About 6 or 9 months initially. I think of book like babies: 3 months of trying, 9 months to delivery.
Jann: Book One, Scandalizing the Duke, from your new series The Wolverton World, debuted in February of this year. How did it feel?
Leslie: Fabulous, exciting, and scary.
Jann: Tell us about your main characters, Lucien, Duke of Wolverton and Charlotte Longborough. What major conflicts did you set for Lucien and Charlotte to work through on the way to their HEA?
Jann: Charlotte is a compulsive rescuer whose determination to rescue her former neighbor’s wife from his abuse will surely spell disaster and scandal if she is caught.
Lucien is determined to see that scandal never again attaches itself to him, or anyone under his roof.
Charlotte can’t achieve her goal without help, and Lucien can’t take the chance that she’ll act on her own.
Jann: I see you have Book Two, Chasing Scandal and Book Three, Scandal’s Choice, set to publish soon. Can you share what these two books are about? Will you have more books for this series?
Leslie: Book 2, Chasing Scandal, is about Lucien’s illegitimate brother Tristan who is an agent of the Crown. His mission to uncover a traitor is complicated by an abducted child and the woman who believes he is the kidnapper. To protect the child, the two of them must work together though their journey leads to unexpected discoveries and rewards.
Book 3, Scandal’s Choice is Charlotte’s sister Elizabeth’s story.
Known among the ton as the odd sister, Elizabeth has decided two failed Seasons are as much as she can tolerate. But her plan to return home and run her father’s household is shattered when he remarries, and an unfortunate incident at a local assembly limits her prospects even more.
Faced with war injuries that resulted in amputation, Major Warleigh hates the idea of being dependent on anyone, especially his brother and sister-in-law. Their overwrought sympathy and plans for his invalid care make him shudder. Neither of them like the prospect of returning home, nor do they have many choices in the matter. What began as a flippant remark grows into a genuine proposal for marriage of convenience. They discover loyalty, honor, and love are more than ideas, and marriage is more than spoken vows when a woman claiming to be his fiancé arrives, unannounced, at their door.
One on my beta readers asked for Anne’s story (Lucien’s sister), and I had originally planned on her book being book 2, but I realized I didn’t know her fears and secrets yet. Her personality is a lot like the heroine in my current work in progress, but her background and goals don’t fit, so she’ll have to wait.
I do want to do a book for the Duke of Everham (I affectionately call him the doggie-duke). There is a good reason he prefers dogs to people.
Jann: What do you hope readers will take away from this series?
Leslie: Satisfaction. I want the reader to like the people in the stories and root for their journey to happily ever after. I don’t begin with theme as my goal, but certain ones tend to show up. Family is always a part of my stories since the support or absence of family impacts how we deal with life and the goals we form for ourselves.
Jann: You also have a new series, Hazardous House Parties, coming out in the future. What can you share with us today about the series?
Leslie: Several guests at Lady Kirkwood’s birthday house party deal with accidents a bit more frequently than normal. The first book is currently titled Braxton’s Vow and is a second chance trope that evolved from friends to enemies to lovers.
Jann: In your books, who is your favorite character and why?
Leslie: My favorite character is the one I am developing at any given time. Charlotte was eager and hopeful, Julia was braver than she realized, Elizabeth is a creative who cannot deny her drive. In Braxton’s Vow, Arabella is clever, inquisitive, and daring.
Jann: What’s your all-time favorite book?
Leslie: Only one?? How does anyone pick just one? I’ve read Pride and Prejudice every other year since I was in the 4th grade, so I guess that’s it, but I cherish so many stories and the authors who’ve written them. It is like asking who’s your favorite child. Always for different reasons, but always equally.
Jann: Where can we get your books?
Leslie: You should be able to get my books at all the major vendors by typing in the title of the book. This lets you select the vendor you prefer to make your ebook preference. The paperback should be able to be ordered from any of the vendors. (Editor’s note: see below for buy links.)
Jann: Congratulations Leslie on The Wolverton World!! It’s been a real pleasure talking with you today. Take care and stay healthy!!
Linda O. Johnston enjoys writing, romance, puzzles, and dogs.
A former lawyer, Linda is now a full-time writer and has published 52 books so far, including mysteries and romantic novels. More than twenty-five of them are romances for Harlequin, including Harlequin Romantic Suspense and Harlequin Nocturne. Her latest release is Colton First Responder for Harlequin Romantic Suspense.
She has also written several mystery series including. The Kendra Ballantyne Pet-Sitter Mysteries, which was a spin-off of the Pet Rescue Mysteries and The Superstition Mysteries. Pets, especially dogs, frequently show up in Linda’s novels
She is currently writing a lot of books for Harlequin. Three new Harlequin Romantic Suspense books will soon be released. The first up is Her Undercover Refuge in July 2021.
What’s the fun of being a writer? Everything!
And part of that includes the fact that writing is always there. It becomes part of you. At least it has with me. Everything I do, everywhere I go, my writerness is part of it. And yes, that’s an unusual word although when I Googled it, other people have apparently used it, too.
I was on a cruise to Alaska last week with family and friends. It was lots of fun. We sailed near land going north, then south through the Inside Passage, visited several cities, took a few tours, and enjoyed the onboard food and entertainment. That entertainment sometimes included dogs, and you can imagine how much I liked that.
I particularly enjoyed the wildlife we saw, including young and adult bald eagles, other birds including those that flew over and sometimes dived into water like marbled murrelets, a few bears on the shoreline in the distance, some spouting whales, including humpbacks, and small breaching dolphins.
We got to wade in the water in the middle of a river—because, as you might surmise, that river wasn’t full of water.
We visited Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and took a tour that included visiting a formerly private castle.
And, oh yes, I did some writing and editing . . . and came up with an idea for another mystery series.
Will I ever write it? Who knows? But plotting and researching it will definitely be enjoyable. Plotting is who I am, and my subconscious is always at work.
And yes, that’s part of the fun of being a writer.
Linda O Johnston started publishing fiction with a series of short stories for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. The fist story, “Different Drummers” won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for best first mystery short story in 1988.
Her first novel published in 1995, A Glimpse of Forever was a time travel romance for Love Spell. Since then she has written over 40 novels . . . mysteries, paranormal romance, romantic suspense and more.
Pets and especially dogs frequently show up in Linda’s novels. She has written for Berkley Prime Crime, The Kendra Ballantyne Pet-Sitter Mysteries, which was a spin-off of the Pet Rescue Mysteries and for Midnight Ink The Superstition Mysteries.
She is currently writing three different series. Her most current releases are Pick and Chews, the fourth Barkery & Biscuits Mystery from Midnight Ink, Second Chance Soldier, in the K-9 Ranch Rescue series for Harlequin Romantic Suspense and Protector Wolf, a paranormal romance for Harlequin Nocturne.
A New Mystery
The official availability of my new May release is in 2 days–May 8.
What is it? It’s, PICK AND CHEWS, the fourth in my Barkery & Biscuits Mystery Series for Midnight Ink.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have four books being published this year, one mystery and three romances.
PICK AND CHEWS is about Carrie Kennersly, a veterinary technician, who buys a friend’s bakery and turns half into a barkery, where she sells healthy dog treats that she’s developed.
Does she have a romantic interest? Of course! Everything I write contains a romance, as well as elements of mystery or suspense or both. In this case, Carrie’s guy is a veterinarian at the vet clinic where she still works part-time, Dr. Reed Storme. Reed has been telling her to back off from helping to solve murders because it’s too dangerous for her. But… well, in PICK AND CHEWS he backs off from that position a bit because he’s the one who’s the main murder suspect.
So, what’s next this year? Well, as I mentioned before, the first in my K-9 Ranch Rescue miniseries for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, SECOND CHANCE SOLDIER, was published in March. Its sequel TRAINED TO PROTECT will be an October release.
And then, in November, my last Harlequin Nocturne, VISIONARY WOLF, will be published. It’s the ninth in my Alpha Force series about a covert military unit of shapeshifters—and the last, since the Nocturne line is ending this year.
So—yes. Three romances, plus one mystery, in 2018. I celebrate them all!
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