Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Cozy Mysteries and Me - A Guest Post by Linda O. Johnston

Cozy Mysteries and Me
By Linda O. Johnston

I'm delighted to be here as a guest again on Cozy Up With Kathy. When I asked Kathy what she'd like me to write about she said that was up to me, but she anticipated it would include animals.

Of course it does!

Let me start by saying I love genre fiction, both reading and writing it. And those stories with animals, particularly dogs, are my favorites.

I wrote a lot before starting to sell anything, and when I began getting published my initial work consisted of mystery short stories. The first, "Different Drummers," won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award as the best first mystery short story of the year! It didn't include any animals, though.

At the same time, I was writing, but not selling, romances and mystery novels. Eventually, when I began writing time travel romances, my novels started being published, too. Did they include animals? Not all of them, but THE BALLAD OF JACK O'DAIR, about an Alaskan hero in Gold Rush days, included Taku, his wolf-dog. STRANGER ON THE MOUNTAIN was my take on why Penn State, where I went to undergraduate school, called its football team the Nittany Lions, even though there weren't any mountain lions around then--although that's changed now, I understand. And then there was ONCE A CAVALIER, another time travel romance. In it, the time travel that occurred to and from the time of King Charles II of England was based on the presence of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in the present or past. That's because Cavaliers are the descendants of the lovable little spaniels depicted in a lot of Old Masters artwork of the time, bred at court to help take fleas off the courtiers.

And my own dogs these days? Cavaliers! I've been owned by the breed for many years. I fell in love with Cavaliers on my first trip to London when I saw someone holding one on the underground and the rest is my history.

Fast forward to these days. I'd been interested in writing cozy mysteries but didn't begin to sell any till I wrote the first Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Rescue mystery SIT, STAY, SLAY for Berkley Prime Crime. It was about Kendra, a lawyer who lives in the Hollywood Hills, which is where I live. My law license is now inactive since I'm a full-time writer, but I'm a lawyer, too. And Kendra has a tricolor Cavalier named Lexie, who's depicted on the cover of SIT, STAY, SLAY. I'll bet you can guess my older Cavalier's name!

There were nine mysteries in the Kendra series, and my Pet Rescue Mysteries were a spin-off. In them, Lauren Vancouver runs a very special no-kill pet shelter in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley--and in the Pet Rescue Mysteries, "no-kill" means pets, not people! They are, after all, cozy mysteries. There are five books and one novella in that series.

Meanwhile, I've also been writing romances for Harlequin. My Harlequin Romantic Suspense stories haven't included animals--at least not yet. But my Harlequin Nocturnes include the Alpha Force mini-series, and, yes, there are animals in them. Some are real--cover dogs or other animals. And why do the characters need cover animals? Because those animals resemble how the humans appear when they've shapeshifted! The latest Alpha Force story, UNTAMED WOLF, was just released this month, and the next, LOYAL WOLF, will be out later this year.

My next mystery series, the Superstition Mysteries for Midnight Ink, begins in October of this year with LOST UNDER A LADDER. They take place in a fictional town called Destiny, California, which is all about superstitions. Are animals involved? Of course! My protagonist Rory Chasen winds up running the Lucky Dog Boutique--and, yes, solving murders. I'm also working on another series for Midnight Ink that also involves dogs!

Okay, you get my drift. I love animals. I love writing about them. I've always loved animals and used to beg for a dog until I was eight years old and my grandfather bought me a puppy from a pet store--which we had to return, because all the dogs in that store had distemper. In those days you couldn't bring a dog into a home where there'd been distemper for three months, so I had time to pick out the kind of puppy I'd get next--which turned out to be a Boston Terrier, Frisky. I've had dogs pretty much ever since. I even wanted to be a veterinarian when I was young, until I realized I might have to do surgery or worse on my patients.

That's a good reason to write fiction about them. All dogs in my books, even the Pet Rescue Mysteries, are healthy and well cared-for, or at least they become that way. And I never depict abuse or worse. There's enough of that in reality.

And I always say, "Reality is for those who lack imagination!"


  1. Great interview. can't wait for a new series by this favorite author!

  2. How great to have such a career at such a young age. You are young compared to me, just starting out with my first novel at age 70! Not about dogs, but a cat that helps, sort of, to solve the crime. Lots of luck with your newest series.
    Elaine Faber
    Black Cat's Legacy (at Amazon, of course)