Interview: Sybil Johnson

Please welcome Sybil Johnson, author of Fatal Brushstroke.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
It’s 70 degrees and sunny, not too dry, not too humid with a breeze blowing in from the ocean. After eating breakfast and reading the two papers we receive, I’d write an entire FATAL BRUSHSTROKE cover_200chapter on my WIP with plenty of time for other things. I’d spend some time with my husband. We’d have lunch and walk down to the beach to check out the waves. I’d work on a tole painting project, do a little reading, a little research, and watch some TV. Just generally a peaceful, productive day.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I love making cheesecakes—trying out recipes, modifying recipes, creating new ones. That means whenever I see an interesting flavor of cheesecake in a restaurant, I must order it. Purely for research purposes, of course.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Agatha Christie. Such a prolific writer and interesting person.
Helen Keller. Her life reminds me obstacles can be overcome.
Eleanor Roosevelt. Two things she said speak to me: “You must do the things you think you cannot do.” and “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I try to take those to heart.

Do you listen to music when you write?
I generally like it quiet, but every once in a while I’ll listen to instrumental music. Usually, it’s something like harp music or smooth jazz. I can’t write when people are singing. The only exceptions to that are Gregorian chants and the Hawaiian singer Keali’i Reichel (when he’s singing in Hawaiian.)

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Milk chocolate because it’s on the cozy end of the spectrum.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I woke up one morning with an idea that wouldn’t go away—a young woman finds the body of her tole painting teacher in her garden.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Things aren’t always as they seem. Everyone can be driven to murder given the right circumstances. Even a person most people would consider “bad” has a good side.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Rory had a happy childhood. She knew she was adopted, but knew nothing about her birth parents. When she and her parents moved back to Vista Beach, she found out her birth parents were criminals. That was a punch to her gut. She’s still dealing with that.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
This has turned out to be a remarkably difficult question. Rory Anderson has Elizabeth Taylor’s blue eyes, the accident-proneness of actress Jennifer Lawrence, and the intelligence and analytical thinking of Abby from NCIS.

If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Agatha Christie, Elizabeth Peters, Jane Austen, Patricia Wentworth, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain

What’s next for you?
I’m finishing up book #2 in the Aurora Anderson Mystery Series and starting to think about book #3.


Sybil Johnson’s love affair with reading began in kindergarten with “The Three Little Pigs.” Visits to the library introduced her to Encyclopedia Brown, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and a host of other characters. Fast forward to college where she continued reading while studying Computer Science. After a rewarding career in the computer industry, Sybil decided to try her hand at writing mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Mysterical-E and Spinetingler Magazine, among others. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in Southern California where she enjoys tole painting, studying ancient languages and spending time with friends and family.

Twitter: @sybiljohnson19
Henery Press:



9 thoughts on “Interview: Sybil Johnson”

  1. Hi Sybil wonderful interview. Your two Eleanor Roosevelt quotes resonated with me as well. I had forgotten the one about “Do one thing every day that scares you.” That’s going on my quote board.


  2. Great interview, Sybil! Am intrigued by the “bad” person being “good” idea. Would love to be at that dinner party.

    Looking very much forward to reading your book ASAP (am so glad I bought it at Bouchercon and put it on the top of my TBR pile, where I can see the beautiful cover…also so glad I had a chance to meet you in person there…you are a delight).


  3. Thanks, everyone. These were all very interesting questions. Took me a bit to figure out halfway intelligent answers to them!

    Eleanor Roosevelt really intrigues me. The recent Ken Burns’ documentary, ‘The Roosevelts’ was very good. So much I didn’t know about Teddy, FDR and Eleanor.

    And, Cynthia, ’twas very nice meeting you at Bouchercon. Hope you enjoy the book.


  4. I’m late to the party, too, but just wanted to add how interesting your character sounds. Love the quotes, too. Looking forward to checking out your book!


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