Linda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, currently writes two mystery series for Midnight Ink involving dogs: the Barkery and Biscuits Mysteries, and the Superstition Mysteries. She has also written the Pet Rescue Mystery Series, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime and also currently writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries about shapeshifters for Harlequin Nocturne. Her most recent release is her 44th published novel, with more to come.
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I learned last week that my 50th novel will be published in 2018.
Oh, I knew it would be published soon, since I’m well aware of my various deadlines and have met a bunch recently. I’m currently working on that 50th, my last Harlequin Nocturne which will be the ninth in my Alpha Force miniseries about a covert military unit of shapeshifters. But also next year two stories in my K-9 Ranch Rescue miniseries for Harlequin Romantic Suspense will be published. I wasn’t sure when the second one would come out since the first is in March, but it’ll be an October release. Plus, the fourth in my Barkery & Biscuits mystery series for Midnight Ink will be published in May. Yes, I’ll have four novels out next year, ending with that 50th one.
I recognize that’s a lot of books, but they won’t be my last. I’m under contract for another one, in 2019, and hope to add more to that as well.
People ask me often where I get my ideas. My answer? Everywhere! And all the time, even when I’m not searching for new ideas.
The thing is, everything around you can be used as an idea for a story. People you love; people you hate. Stories you hear about in the media. Stories you hear about from friends or acquaintances. Things that happen to you in real life. Things you wish would happen in real life. Things you wish hadn’t happened to you in real life. They’re all fodder for fiction!
How? Use your imagination. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it before here, but my favorite quote is: “Reality is only for those who lack imagination.”
Now, I’ve not experienced most of what I’ve written about–hardly any of it. My first published novels, for example, were time travel romances, and I haven’t left the world of today to research them–whatever moment that today happened to be. Those stories were published quite a while in the past from today’s today.
The stories that in a way came closest to being part of my reality were my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries. Kendra was a lawyer who lived in the Hollywood Hills with her tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Lexie. At the time, I was a practicing lawyer who lived in the Hollywood Hills with two Cavaliers, and the tricolor was my sweet Lexie. But fortunately, I was never accused of an ethics violations, which Kendra was–and that made her turn to pet-sitting to earn a living. Nor do I, or my friends and acquaintances, stumble over dead bodies. And unfortunately, we lost our Lexie a while ago.
But I still write mysteries, including the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries that feature a veterinary technician who bakes and sells some of the healthy treats she developed as a vet tech in one of the two bakeries she owns–one of which is a barkery for dog treats. I have little in common with her but our love for dogs and feeding them right, but I got that idea and had to run with it.
I never met any shapeshifters, but my Alpha Force stories for Harlequin have been fun. And I always like to include elements of both romance and suspense in all of my stories, so writing romantic suspense feels natural. My mind is always spinning around what stories can be told about any situation. In fact, I’ve a proposal out there involving one idea I had recently, and while I was traveling earlier this month another idea started shoving itself into my mind that evolved from a very normal travel situation. I’ll eventually work on a proposal for that one, too.
So go with it. Think about… whatever’s around you, whatever isn’t around you, whatever you’d like to be around you.
It can all create ideas for a story.