Thursday, October 9, 2014

Q&A with Linda O. Johnston

This week, we sat down with Linda O. Johnston, author of Lost Under a Ladder.

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Linda O. Johnston: All my life! I recently remembered a high school Advanced English assignment I completed way back when in which I was supposed to do my own Chaucer-like verse form. I always collected ideas for assignments but this one was particularly special. If I kept it in written form I haven't found it yet, but it began, "Five bodies in the morgue lie still."

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
LOJ: I loved reading Mary Stuart, Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt as a child. Their stories enthralled me and made me want to try writing my own romantic suspense and mystery stories.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing? 
LOJ: Lawyering. My law license is currently inactive since I'm writing full-time, but I enjoyed writing and negotiating contracts. They're just another form of fiction, after all. And if not lawyering or writing, I'd do more to help rescue endangered pets. But I really enjoy writing . . . 

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
LOJ: As I mentioned, I was a transactional lawyer for many years. I specialized in real estate. I haven't practiced law for several years, though.

MI: What is/are your favorite thing/s to do when you’re not writing or working?
LOJ: Following my dogs' orders. And when I'm able, I visit with my grand-toddlers, who live in another state.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
LOJ: My favorites are always my own sleuths! I adore Rory Chasen from my Superstition Mysteries and her determination to come to terms with superstitions . . . and murders. I loved Lauren Vancouver from my Pet Rescue Mysteries because of her determination, too—to save animals. And then there was Kendra Ballantyne, from my Pet-Sitter mysteries. Kendra was a lawyer, like I was. She lived in the Hollywood Hills, like I do. And she had a tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Lexie, as I do! Of course, I've fortunately never tripped over dead bodies like Kendra . . . 

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
LOJ: Nope, no favorites. They're usually whatever I happen to be reading . . . or writing.

MI: What was your inspiration for the Superstition Mysteries?
LOJ: I happened to be knocking on wood one day in the hope that a wish I'd just made would come true—that I'd come up with an idea for yet another fun mystery series. It occurred to me nearly immediately: I'd just come up with that idea!

MI: How does the Superstition Mystery series compare to your past works?
LOJ: The similarities to my past cozy mysteries (I also write romances) include the fact that I love having my mysteries feature pets, especially dogs. In this case, Rory Chasen winds up running the Lucky Dog Boutique, so there are plenty of dogs involved, as well as superstitions about them. Differences include the fact that, instead of setting this series in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, as my earlier mystery series were, I invented the enjoyable superstition-centered town of Destiny, California. But like the protagonists in my earlier series, Rory doesn't especially want to solve murders yet finds that she has to, because her friends and close acquaintances keep becoming primary suspects.

MI: Tell us about Rory Chasen (and Pluckie)!
LOJ: Rory is an avowed animal lover who used to be an assistant manager at a chain pet store in the Los Angeles area. Her world was rocked when her beloved fiancĂ© Warren walked under a ladder and died a few minutes later when he was hit by a car. Rory doesn't really believe in superstitions, and yet she needs closure. Are superstitions real? She has to go to Destiny, California, a town that's all about superstitions, to find out.

Of course she takes her beloved black and white spaniel-terrier mix Pluckie along. And a short while after they reach Destiny Pluckie insists that Rory go into the Lucky Dog Boutique—where they find its owner, Martha, lying on the floor in a back room. She's ill but well enough to know she'll be fine since she'd been on her way to a business meeting—and seeing a black and white dog on the way to a business meeting is good luck!

Rory and Pluckie run into a lot more superstitions in Destiny, yet Rory remains skeptical. She also remains in town, still seeking answers—and soon winds up helping to solve a murder where Martha is the main suspect.

MI: Do you have a favorite superstition?
LOJ: I do knock on wood, as well as crossing my fingers. Who doesn't? But it's also a lot of fun to me if I happen to find a heads-up penny or even another coin on the ground. 

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
LOJ: I have two pets, Lexie and Mystie, both Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Lexie, the older one, is a tricolor, and Mystie's a Blenheim (auburn and white). They have me very well trained, and I'm always at their bark and call. I obey them well—a lot better than they obey me.
Linda with Mystie (left) and Lexie (right)

MI: If you don’t have a pet, do you have a favorite animal?
LOJ: I do have pets, and my favorite animals remain dogs. I love 'em all, although my very favorites for a very long time have been Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. In fact, I'm addicted to Cavaliers. 

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
LOJ: Dark chocolate! They say these days that it has some qualities that are good for you . . . 

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
LOJ: I'm working on some for my Barkery and Biscuits series, but although I used to cook more I take easier routes these days, including using my Crock-Pot. My personal people favorites are entrees like casseroles that contain mushrooms.

MI: What’s your favorite part about being an Inker?
LOJ: So far I've really loved the Inker community of other authors, who are all delightful and supportive and caring. Then there are my editor and publicist—also very friendly and supportive. Plus, I love the book covers. And the anticipation of starting this new series as well as a second series that will start next year: Barkery and Biscuits. In fact, there's a lot I enjoy about being an Inker!

Lost Under a Ladder, the first Superstition Mystery, is now available online and in bookstores!

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