Interview: Linda O. Johnston

Please welcome Linda O. Johnston, author of the Pet Rescue mystery series as well as Harlequin Nocturne paranormal romance and Harlequin Romance Suspense novels!

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
It’s a day when my dogs–my two adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Lexie and Mystie–are at my feet or on my lap, and I’m writing or editing.  Or, if I need a little inspiration about where the story I’m writing goes next, the dogs and I will take a nioodlesofpoodlesce long walk around our block so my subconscious can get to work.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Regarding colors, I’ve always loved nearly anything purple.
And food?  I love mushrooms, in practically any recipe, better yet stuffed and on their own.
And ice cream.  Chocolate, of course.  Dark chocolate.
Phrase?  Well, my favorite quote–and I don’t know who said it first–is: “Reality is only for those who lack imagination!”

Do you listen to music when you write?
No, I prefer silence–although I seldom get complete silence.  If it’s truly quiet in my house while I’m writing, my dogs will inevitably bark to tell me they want attention–Mystie loves to play with her squeaky balls, and Lexie loves to go on our fenced-in front porch to watch our little corner of the world go by.  Or they’ll want to go outside.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Dark chocolate, because I love it!  But there’d also be a mysterious, delicious additional flavor to it that can only be identified as the bite dissolves slowly in my mouth.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Which story?  I’m currently in the middle of completing three stories under different deadlines.  Two are my Pet Rescue Mysteries, both a full-length book and a novella.  The other one is a Harlequin Romantic Suspense.  I love all of them!  The two Pet Rescue Mysteries are about saving animals, of course–although not so much about saving people, since they are, after all, murder mysteries.  My Harlequin Romantic Suspense story contains a mystery, too–and a highly romantic relationship.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
The background themes to my Pet Rescue Mysteries, and to my Harlequin Nocturne paranormal romances, all involve animals, mostly canines–dogs in the mysteries and werewolves in the Nocturnes.  It does seem strange not writing about animals in my Harlequin Romantic Suspense novels, though.  In case you haven’t guessed, I’m an animal lover–especially dogs.

And the common threads to all of my stories?  All of my romances contain suspense or mystery, and all of my mysteries contain some romance, too.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Let’s jump to my Pet Rescue Mysteries, since this is the Mysteristas blog!  My protagonist is Lauren Vancouver, the chief administrator of the wonderful, fictional HotRescues animal shelter in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley.  Lauren loves animals.  Always has.   She was a veterinary technician before she heard that Dante DeFrancisco, the wealthy benefactor of HotRescues, was going to open a shelter and she applied for the position of running it–which she got.

Lauren likes being in charge.  She tries not to second guess herself but believes in her own intuition and abilities to manage things and, when necessary, to solve mysteries.  She tries to act hard and unyielding–but inside, she’s a softy.  She loves her two college-age kids and her dog Zoey.  And despite not wanting to get involved in a romantic relationship (she was widowed by the loss of her first, wonderful husband, and wound up divorcing the second, a louse, after marrying him to try to give her kids a new dad), she’s very involved with Matt Kingston, who works for L.A. Animal Services.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Hmmm.  How about Nancy Drew, Dr. Doolittle, and Jill Rappaport of the Today Show’s Bow to Wow segment?

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
I’ve given this some thought since other blogs I’ve been on have also asked similar questions.  I’d definitely want to invite the three romantic suspense writers who inspired me, when I was a child, to read and, later, to write:  Mary Stewart, Phyllis A. Whitney, and Victoria Holt.  I’d also love to have Edgar Allan Poe there, just for the fun of it.  And since I need two more, how about Sparkle Abbey?  They’re buddies of mine who also write pet-related mysteries–two writers writing as one, but they don’t live near me:  Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter.

What’s next for you?
I have two books debuting in February: Oodles of Poodles, my fourth Pet Rescue Mystery.  Its background is the film industry and making sure that “No Animals Were Harmed,”™ which is a registered trademark of the American Humane Association.  My mystery protagonist Lauren Vancouver gets involved observing the shooting of a movie about rescued poodles, and then the director is murdered.  Lauren’s best friend Dr. Carlie Stellan is a suspect, so of course Lauren has to help solve the murder.

The other book is Undercover Wolf.  It’s the fourth in my Alpha Force miniseries for Harlequin Nocturne–a paranormal romance about a covert military unit of shapeshifters.  The shifters are mostly wolves, which fits well with my love of canines, both real and fictional.  In Undercover Wolf, Simon and Grace, the protagonists of my last Alpha Force Nocturne, Guardian Wolf, have gotten married–and they’ve disappeared on their honeymoon.  It’s up to Simon’s shapeshifting brother Quinn–who has also joined Alpha Force–and Grace’s non-shifting aide Kristine to find them.


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 has published more short stories, plus 33 romance and mystery novels, including Harlequin Romantic Suspense as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries for Harlequin Nocturne. Linda’s Pet Rescue Mysteries, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime, feature Lauren Vancouver, a determined pet rescuer who runs a no-kill shelter.  In this cozy series, “no-kill”refers to pets, not people!   Vist Linda at her website:, and friend her on Facebook.  Linda also blogs weekly on


6 thoughts on “Interview: Linda O. Johnston”

  1. Hi Linda, Thanks for visiting the Mysteristas and inviting us into your world. Sounds like you’re submerged in canine inspiration all the time! I love that you thought to invite friends to your dinner party. Edgar Allen Poe might be a great guest, but I bet the whole party is more fun for you with your buddies by your side!


  2. Hi Linda, A pet rescue series is a grand idea. Looking forward to checking them all out. I have a friend who works with dog rescue. Her house is always full of her dogs, plus the ones she’s hosting. But then I love wolves, too, so thanks for dropping by and adding to my reading list.


  3. Thanks for visiting, Linda! Adding the Pet Rescues to my to-read list right now. What kinds of research, if any, did you do for the film industry setting? Sounds like you understand the behind-the-scenes/on-set events very well.


  4. Thanks, Cynthia! I live in Hollywood, but I’m not in the film industry. However, I have friends who are, plus I had a lot of fun interviewing the communications director at the American Humane Association.


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