I’m writing this post early since I’ll be in Bethesda, Maryland, for Malice Domestic from May 2 through 5—and this post will be up on May 6. And now For A Good Paws, my fifth Barkery & Biscuits Mystery, is officially available. As I’ve mentioned, For A Good Paws is the last mystery in the series—and my last published novel from Midnight Ink, which is going out of the publication business. Sad—but still enjoyable to have a new mystery published!
Since I’m writing this before I leave for Malice, I can’t tell you how much fun I had, but you can be certain I did have a lot of fun. For one thing, I’m scheduled to be on a panel called Paws on the Case: Pet Related Mysteries. For another, I’ll be joining some fun writers at the dinner table for the Agatha Banquet, including others who write about dogs and other pets! And I also hope to be getting together with some former Midnight Ink authors and the former editor, too.
This month I will also be out there promoting romance fiction. First, I’ll be one of the authors attending Romance Authors Day at the Anaheim Public Library on May 18. Later, I will be on a panel of three at The Ripped Bodice, the only store dedicated strictly to romance, on May 23, along with Sheila Roberts and Meg Tilly.
Oh, and by the way, since you obviously read the Slice of Orange blog, you most likely saw my interview by Jann Ryan a couple of days ago. Jann has been a wonderful friend for many years–and she’s the one who introduced me to Romance Writers of America and its Orange County Chapter quite a few years ago!
So, Happy May everyone. Hope you read a lot—and enjoy it.
Linda O. Johnston’s first published fiction appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for Best First Mystery Short Story of the year. Since then, Linda, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, has published more short stories, novellas, and over 50 romance and mystery novels, including the Pet Rescue Mystery Series, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. She currently writes the Superstition Mysteries and the Barkery Biscuits Mysteries for Midnight Ink, and also writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries for Harlequin Nocturne.
I’ve been friends and reading author Linda O. Johnston for many years and it’s a pleasure to do this Q & A with her today. Welcome Linda to Jann Says . . .
Jann: I remember reading your first novel, A Glimpse of Forever, in 1995. What is your writing process and how has it changed since then, if it has?
Linda: My process has changed a lot from what it was back then. When I started getting my novels published, I was a full-time lawyer with young kids. Back then, I would get up an hour before anyone else in the household and write for an hour, then bring printed copies to edit at lunchtime. Now, I’m a full-time writer, and my sons are grown and living elsewhere. My dogs will often tell me what to do—time to eat, time to go out—and occasionally my husband interrupts for something important, but otherwise I spend most of my day on the computer writing, editing and promoting.
Jann: If you could go back in time, is there one thing you would do differently with your writing career?
Linda: Not really. I feel as if I’ve been very fortunate. I’m still working on turning my stories into best sellers, but I’m happy with where I am, too. I’ve had more than 50 books published!
Jann: Many authors, including you, have a deep love for animals, but they don’t necessarily have them play such big roles in their books. You write in several different genres—mystery, romantic suspense, paranormal romance and romance. Throughout all of these genres, animals are a focus. Why?
Linda: I love dogs! I’m a dogaholic. A cynophilist. I didn’t always include dogs in my writing, although one of my favorite time travel romances from way back when is Once a Cavalier, where Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, the breed I particularly adore, were the avenue that allowed my heroine to travel in time back to the court of King Charles II of England, where the ancestors of today’s Cavaliers were lap dogs to the courtiers to take the fleas off them. And my own Lexie was the model for the Lexie in my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet Sitter Mysteries, my first cozy mystery series. Kendra was a lawyer who lived in the Hollywood Hills with her Cavalier Lexie. At the time, I was practicing law, I live in the Hollywood Hills, and one of my Cavaliers was Lexie. Unfortunately, dogs’ lives are shorter than ours, so Lexie is no longer with us, but I still have two Cavaliers: Mystie and Cari. They always inspire me to write—and to give them treats!
Jann: Book #5 is a Barkery and Biscuits mystery, For A Good Paws, which is coming out this month. Tell us about the series, characters and story.
Linda: In my Barkery and Biscuits Mysteries, protagonist Carrie Kennersly is a veterinary technician. She bought a bakery, Icing on the Cake, from a friend who had to leave their town of Knobcone Heights, California, and Carrie turned half into a barkery, Barkery and Biscuits, where she bakes and sells healthy dog treats she developed as a vet tech. In the first book, Bite the Biscuit, Carrie became a murder suspect and had to figure out whodunit to clear herself. In the subsequent stories several of her friends also become murder suspects so she has to help them, too. Since I always include romances in my mysteries and suspense or mystery in my romances, Carrie has a romantic interest, Dr. Reed Storme, a veterinarian at the clinic where she still works part time as a vet tech. Her brother Neal lives with her in her home, and one of her closest friends is Councilwoman Billi Matlock, who owns a day spa and Mountaintop Rescue, an animal shelter. Carrie also has several assistants at her shops who are also her friends, and several other townsfolk appear a lot in her books including the head vet at the clinic, Dr. Arvus Kline, and the owners of Cuppa Joe’s, a coffee shop.
In For A Good Paws, Carrie takes notice when she hears that a local killer is being paroled. Mike Holpurn, the parolee, was convicted ten years ago of murdering Flora Shulzer, who was then mayor of Knobcone Heights. On his return from prison, Holpurn confronts Flora’s husband Henry Shulzer, whom he claims was Flora’s murderer. When Henry is found murdered, the town assumes the killer is Holpurn, but Carrie’s not so sure… and she gets involved once more in solving a murder.
It’ll be the last in the series, since the publisher, Midnight Ink, is closing. I might find another publisher or self-publish more… but I suspect I’ll go on to a new mystery series.
Jann: How do you stay motivated? What drives you to keep writing?
Linda: Writing is who I am. Even when I tell myself to take a rest, my mind still keeps churning and I take notes!
Jann: What are you dying to try next?
Linda: Another mystery series! And also a possible stand-alone story featuring dogs. My problem about doing that is a good one: time. I’m busy with deadlines, writing four new Harlequin Romantic Suspense books.
Jann: Do you ever run out of ideas? If so, how did you get past that?
Linda: My mind is always at work, whether I’m awake or asleep, at the computer or anywhere else. Ideas are never the problem. I’ve plenty of them. But time to do something with them is more of an issue with me.
Jann: Thank you Linda for sharing with us today. Looking forward to the release and reading For A Good Paws!
May will be a good month for me. It’ll see the publication of For A Good Paws, my fifth Barkery & Biscuits Mystery. It will also be a difficult month, since For A Good Paws is the last mystery in the series. The series has been published by Midnight Ink, which is going out of the publication business.
I’ve enjoyed writing the Barkery & Biscuits series and have also enjoyed promoting the books. As I mentioned last month, I’ll soon be attending a couple of mystery-oriented conferences, Malice Domestic and California Crime Writers. I’ll also be signing at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. And I’ll be doing whatever online promotion seems appropriate.
But all the time, knowledge that there won’t be any further Barkery books remains in my mind. At least I’m not planning any, since I can self-publish, or perhaps find another publisher to pick them up, but don’t have any plans for either at the moment.
And—hey! Here I am at A Slice of Orange. Maybe you’d be interested in picking up a copy my last book in the series. It’s a fun series, after all—about Carrie Kennersly, a veterinary technician who buys a bakery and turns half of it into a barkery to sell the very healthy dog treats she’s created. Oh, and did I mention that it’s a cozy mystery series? Carrie and her friends keep tripping over dead bodies, and she has to figure out whodunit to save herself and them.
Okay, I know A Slice of Orange also features romance novels. Which is fine with me. I’m currently writing four new novels for Harlequin Romantic Suspense.
More mysteries in my future, too? I hope so. But meanwhile, help me say goodbye to my Barkery series, will you? Any suggestions?
In any case, it’s been fun.
Writing conferences rock.
Mostly. Whether you’re a writer or reader or both, I can recommend that you attend one or several each year. You can learn a lot—and have fun doing it.
This year is one of my busy ones for conferences. Since I write both romances and mysteries, I belong to a lot of writing organizations and attend conferences that specialize in both.
This year, I’ll be attending Malice Domestic, featuring mysteries, in May, in Bethesda, Maryland, and the Romance Writers of America annual national conference in New York City in July.
In addition, I’ll be at the California Dreamin’ conference held by local Southern California Romance Writers of America chapters in April, and California Crime Writers, held by local Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime chapters in June. These two conferences are both held every other year locally to me—and they’re always the same year!
So, this is one of those years that I’ll attend four conferences. I enjoy doing that, partly because it’s a wonderful way to network both with other writers in the genres I love and with readers, too, who attend.
Sometimes I participate by giving talks or being on panels. Not so much this year, although I think I’ll be on a panel at Malice.
There are a lot of other conferences, too, that I sometimes attend. Some of the mystery-oriented ones that I’ll miss this year are Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon, both excellent conferences—but I unfortunately can’t attend them all!
And yes, in between all of those conferences I need to get some writing done. Travel now and then with family. Attend local chapter meetings of some of those organizations. And, of course, take care of my dogs.
So it appears that 2019 has started out busy and will only get busier.
And you? Do you attend book-related conferences? Which do you like most?
I’m currently in the process of reviewing and responding to the copy edits for For a Good Paws, my fifth Barkery & Biscuits Mystery for Midnight Ink. The process they use is a bit more complicated than many publishers I’ve dealt with recently since it involves making notes about things to change and not just redlining a clean version. It takes more time, but it’s really not so bad.
I’m a bit emotional about this one anyway, since it’ll be my last mystery for Midnight Ink because the publisher is sort of closing–at least not buying any more books, although they may continue to market existing ones for a while. So far, I haven’t requested my rights back and probably won’t immediately.
Will I do more Barkery mysteries? I’d need to get at least some of my rights back to do that, and I’ve got other ideas to work on first–so I’m not sure. But if not, I’ll miss them!
These days, I’m sitting at my computer a lot working on those edits, which are due soon. Recently, we’ve had a lot of rain, so sitting at my computer is a good place to be. Since I’m in LA, I didn’t experience the Polar Vortex first hand but I’m sending hugs to those of you who did. We have family near Chicago, so I got to hear some fairly scary stories—but all came out of it okay. Hope that’s the same with you and yours as well.
And yes, the year marches on. No, it’s not March yet, but it is almost Valentine’s Day. So hug your sweeties, stay warm and dry—and read, write and/or edit some good books!
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