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Monday, November 02, 2009

Author Interview ~ Linda O. Johnston


Linda O. Johnston has authored 23 novels so far, including several Silhouette Nocturnes and the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. She is also working on a spin-off mystery series about a pet rescuer.

What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

This has been a busy year! I’ve had two Silhouette Nocturnes published--dark and sexy paranormal romances ALPHA WOLF and BACK TO LIFE, as well as a Nocturne Bites, an e-short story, “Claws of the Lynx,” which is also included in the anthology AWAKENING THE BEAST, an October 2009 release. ALPHA WOLF and “Claws of the Lynx” are part of my Alpha Force mini-series about a super-secret military force of shapeshifters.

My next book, HOWL DEADLY, a December 2009 release, will be number eight in the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. It was preceded earlier this year by NEVER SAY STY. The Kendra books are light, cozy mysteries. Kendra is a lawyer who lives in the Hollywood Hills with her tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Lexie. I’m also a lawyer who lives in the Hollywood Hills with my tricolor Cavalier Lexie. Fortunately, though, I’m not a murder magnet.

I’m also working on a spin-off from the Kendra series--a mystery series featuring pet rescuer Lauren Vancouver.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

My first published fiction was a mystery short story published in ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE. It won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for the best first mystery short story of the year. I completed my first novel manuscript after leaving my first law job at a firm--not my favorite position. The story was a mystery in which the young associate protagonist discovered the dead body of the senior partner at the end of the first chapter. Very cathartic, but that one never got published.

After that, I wrote a number of other manuscripts that remain under my bed. Eventually, I started receiving “good rejections” --ones with personal responses. At the time, I was writing a story that I was told had too many genre crossovers, which in those days was impossible to get published. It had romance, time travel, sci-fi, paranormal, historical and contemporary elements. These days, anything goes, but not then. I next wrote a time travel romance, an accepted genre despite its inherent crossovers, and that was my first published novel: A GLIMPSE OF FOREVER.

I remember when I got the call that GLIMPSE had been accepted--several years after I left my first law job. I was sitting in my office at my beloved in-house law position. I was so excited that I jumped up and ran out and told everyone I could find!

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

I always do the best I can with whatever I’m working on. Sure, there are always doubts about how a story will be accepted by readers, but I don’t worry about that too much. Usually.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication?

Who, me? Make mistakes? I’ll never admit to them, no matter how plentiful!

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Just do it! Find the time or make it, and keep at it.

How do you craft a plot?

I come up with an idea, then let my subconscious go wild! Usually that happens best when I’m in the bathtub at night. I make notes, then write it all up on the computer the next morning and continue from there till I’m stuck again and have to wait for my next bath.

Do you begin writing with a synopsis in hand, or do you write as the ideas come to you?

I always do a synopsis first, both for myself and for my editors. If I don’t follow it, I find I usually have to go back to rewrite where I went off-track, since my initial plotting always seems to work best.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

Fortunately, I’ve had no major setbacks. That might be because I love to write in many different genres, so there always seems to be something coming up. Do you hear me knocking on wood? Yes, I can be superstitious at times!

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

I like to read works of other authors in the genres I’m writing in to help get me in the mood and learn what’s out there, but not necessarily while I’m writing in that genre. I want my voice to remain my own.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?
I’m proud of ‘em all, or I wouldn’t submit them for publication. There’s something special about each story to me, so I’m not going to single any of them out.

What is your best advice on maintaining a good editor-author relationship?

Listen to what your editor has to say. It’s always okay to ask questions, or explain why you’d prefer not making a suggested change, but being adamant or belligerent isn’t a great idea.

How many drafts to you edit before submitting to your editor?

I usually write one draft as fast as possible, to get it down. Then I handwrite changes, enter them onto the computer, and review them at least one more time. Guess that’s around 3-4 drafts.

We often hear how important it is to write a good query letter to whet the appetite of an editor. What tips can you offer to help other writers pen a good query?

Describe your story as succinctly and appealingly as possible, using hooks that will leave the editor panting to read more. Also explain briefly your own background and why you’re the perfect person to have written this particular story. How can you lose?

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Nope.

How much marketing/publicity do you do? Any advice in this area?

I believed, naively, when I started writing that writers just write. I learned better. It’s actually been fun, going out there and patting myself and my work on the back. I’ve even learned not to be tongue-tied in front of a group. My advice is to pretend you’re not a shy person (a lot of writers are) and do whatever seems appropriate to get your work out there.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response?

I’m always delighted to hear from readers, especially when they like my stuff. Those who tell me stories about their pets are especially poignant.

Parting words?

Thank you, NovelJourney, for this opportunity to tell your readers about me, and about my work. The questions you asked were really fun to answer. I’d love to hear from your readers. They can visit me at my website: www.LindaOJohnston.com My e-mail address is there.

6 comments:

Laura in Texas said...

As a lawyer (and wannabe writer) myself, I'm always happy to find success stories about similar types. I look forward to seeing more of your writing!

Diane said...

Sounds great! Pet stories always tug at our hearts! :O)

Linda O. Johnston said...

Thanks, Laura. Isn't it fun how many lawyers like to write? Maybe because the contracts and briefs we write contain elements of fiction...
And, Diane, that's definitely one of the reasons I enjoy writing about pets. I'm working now on the first novel in my pet rescue series, and heart-tugs will definitely be included!
BTW, if you add your e-mail addresses to your comments you'll make it a lot easier for me to notify the winner of a copy of NEVER SAY STY!

Kathy Bennett said...

Linda;

Thank you for an upbeat look into the life of a writer. Love your books and, of course, all the animals!

Janie Emaus said...

What a great interview to go along with such great books.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Thanks, Kathy and Janie!