|Linda O. Johnson|
With 58 books traditionally published, author Linda O. Johnson, a resident of Hollywood, is still on a roll with her mysteries featuring curious canines. Her toll includes several series, award-winning short stories, and romantic suspense. An attorney, Johnson is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Before earning a law degree she ran a small newspaper, and worked in advertising and public relations. Her Alaskan mysteries are written under her pen name, Lark O. Jensen. Linda’s dog of choice? The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that she fell in love with at first sight during a trip on the London Underground
Jill: When did you begin your first mystery series, and why?
Linda: The first of my mystery series was the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries. I began writing it because I loved mysteries and this idea kept pounding through my brain. Why? Well, Kendra was a lawyer who lived in the Hollywood Hills with her tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Lexie. At the time, I was a practicing lawyer. I live in the Hollywood Hills, and our tricolor Cavaliers at the time was named Lexie. I’ve never tripped over dead bodies except in my writing, and I’m not really Kendra, but she inspired me to write about her.
Jill: When and why did you bring dogs into the mix and as characters?
Linda: I brought dogs into the mix and as characters from the very beginning I wrote some time travel romances before starting mysteries, and one of them was called Once A Cavalier. It featured—you guessed it! a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel back in the time of King Charles II of England, when the spaniel ancestors of today’s Cavaliers were bred and held by courtiers to keep fleas off them! Some show up in the paintings from that time.
Jill: Which mystery did you have the most fun writing and researching?
Linda: I enjoy them all, of course. I especially had a lot of fun writing the Kendra books. And my current Alaska Untamed Mysteries are also a lot of fun to research, since they’re about a naturalist who gives wildlife tours in Alaska. They were inspired by a tour I took on my most recent Alaskan cruise a few years ago.
Jill: Most favorite settings for your mysteries?
Linda: Alaska, of course. And I enjoyed making up things about Destiny, California, the fictional superstition-laden town where my Superstition Mysteries were set. Fun also to make up things about Knobcone Heights, California, the location of the Barkery & Biscuits Bakery for dog treats, the setting for my Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries. And then there’s good old L.A., where I live and where my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter, and Pet Rescue Mysteries were set.
Jill: How many series do you write?
Linda: These days, often three at a time—a mystery series, and one of my own series for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, plus I write books in the HRS ongoing series about the large Colton family.
Jill: What is your daily writing routine and has it changed over the years as you add more series?
Linda: My daily writing routine is to read and respond to my emails and Facebook, then sit down at my computer and write. I’m generally writing a book in one series at a time, so that doesn’t change my routine. But years ago, when I was a practicing attorney, I used to get up an hour earlier than everyone else in the house so I could write before getting the kids ready for school and going to work.
Jill: How much of your own Cavaliers’ personalities are in the mysteries and their activities?
Linda: When I’ve written about Cavaliers, it’s easy to include their loving, snuggling, caring personalities—just like my own pups.
Jill: When and why did you decide to include a romantic suspense series?
Linda: My favorite books to read over time include romantic suspense as well as mysteries, so it seemed logical to write my own romantic suspense stories and even start various series with them.
Jill: Re mysteries - pitfalls and challenges along the way, biggest mistake you made on your journey to agent and publisher?
Linda: Me? Make mistakes? Well, none comes to mind, but that could be because I intentionally forgot them. Once upon a time, though, before I got my wonderful agent Paige Wheeler of Creative Media Agency, I started my own agency. Hey? Maybe that was my biggest mistake! But it did teach me a lot about what I wanted in an agent.
Jill: How important is it to attend conferences and join writing groups such as Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America?
Linda: I think it’s very important to belong to groups as well as their local chapters. I belong to MWA and MWA SoCal, SinC and SinC SoCal, RWA, Los Angeles Romance Authors and Orange County Romance Writers. And I believe in getting together with other writers at conferences too. I [usually sign up] for the California Crime Writers Conference and Bouchercon.
Jill: Do any of your fictional dogs solve crimes in addition to perhaps nudging a human towards the solution?
Linda: The dogs in my stories tend to help their owners but not necessarily solve any crimes—although in my most recent mystery, Bear Witness, part of the Alaska Untamed Series, the protagonist Stacie’s dog Sasha, whose name means “protector,” does live up to that name.
Jill: How much research do you do, and where?
Linda: The research depends on the story. I go out to talk to law enforcement officers and more, including those in charge of pet rescue, when needed, and also look things up on the computer a lot. And when I was writing the Pet Rescue Mysteries, I volunteered at a local shelter.
Jill: How much social media do you do daily/weekly?
Linda: I’m constantly on Facebook. In fact, I check out my FB page—and you’ll see my own adorable
Cavaliers on my home page there. I’m also active with Writerspace.
Jill: How much time do you spend on your podcasts? Are they easy to make?
Linda: I’ve been interviewed on podcasts but don’t do my own.
Jill: How many pet rescue places do you visit, and why?
Linda: I used to volunteer at a local pet rescue place and did so even after I stopped writing the Pet Rescue Mysteries. Now, I just visit local ones now and then to look at the animals there and make donations. I visited
before for research, and also because I love animals—and the loving part continues.
Jill: Your best form of marketing for your mystery series?
Linda: I do whatever I can to market my mysteries. I blog every week on Killer Hobbies, once a month on A Slice of Orange, and enjoy various kinds of getting word out there thanks to Writerspace. And I do guest blogs whenever I can.
Jill: Book tours in the UK?
Linda: No book tours in the UK, although that would be fun. I visit there whenever I can—and in fact I saw my first Cavalier on my first trip to London a long time ago.
Jill: Any movie adaptations in the offing?
Linda: Unfortunately, no, although I’ve had some nibbles and do try to get my name out there, plus I go to local events to promote my stories. I live in Hollywood, after all!
Jill: How has your life changed with your success?
Linda: Well, I’m always busy, even though I no longer practice law.
Jill: Tips for authors writing about animals/dogs/cats?
Linda: Love what you’re writing and who you’re writing about. Include as much as you can about the type of animal you’re focusing on in your story, and make sure your protagonist and other characters care about them too—and if you have someone nasty to pets in it, make sure they’re caught and punished! And never, ever kill an animal in your story! (I know some people don’t follow that one, and I don’t want to read their books.)
Jill: What do you hope readers take away from any lessons in your books?
Linda: Be resourceful… and love animals, especially dogs.
Jill: What’s next?
Linda: My second Alaska Untamed Mystery as Lark O. Jensen, Cry Wolf, will be published in September. And at least more Shelter of Secrets stories to come. I have 2 Harlequin Romantic Suspense books coming out this year, Undercover Cowboy Defender in my Shelter of Secrets series for Harlequin Romantic Suspense in March and Csi Colton And The Pregnant Witness for the HRS 2023 Colton series Colton NYC, in November.
Jill Amadio hails from Cornwall, U.K, like the character in her crime series, Jill was a reporter in Spain, Colombia, Thailand, and the U.S. She is a true crime author, ghosted a thriller, writes a column for Mystery People e-zine, and freelances for My Cornwall magazine.
She lives in the USA. Her most recent book is In Terror's Deadly Clasp, To read a review of the books click on the title.