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 upcoming May release is her 45th published novel, with more to come.
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I’m writer, and I assume that’s true of many people who read The Writers in Residence blog posts. I’ve been doing this for quite a while, and it dawned on me long ago that I could, and do, use many aspects of my life as research for what I’m writing: what I read, what I accomplish, in effect nearly everything!
For one thing, I love to incorporate dogs in my stories. I’ve been owned by Cavalier King Charles Spaniels for many years, and most of my friends, neighbors and relatives own dogs. Plus, I’ve been able to observe a lot of dog training and other events involving dogs–and often what I see and experience shows up in what I write.
I’m not much of a cook, yet one of my mystery series, the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries, includes not only dogs but the protagonist, Carrie Kennersly, owns both a human bakery and a barkery where she sells dog treats. Some of the barkery material is derived from my visits to local shops in Los Angeles where dog food and treats are cooked and sold–so just visiting there, even if I’m hoping to buy things for my own dogs, is research.
Carrie is also a veterinary technician, so when I take my own dogs to the vet I’m also doing research.
I’ve also written Superstition Mysteries, and there are a lot of superstitions out there. While I’m walking I’ve watched strangers stoop to pick up “lucky” pennies–and I do too, just in case. Others cross their fingers while saying something, or knock on wood. I’ve heard a lot of people extol their black cats and say they’re lucky, no matter what the superstition says. Of course black cats being unlucky is a U.S. superstition; in other countries they’re considered lucky.
I haven’t run into real shapeshifters yet, I’m sorry to say–I think–but it’s fun researching the legends about them for my Alpha Force paranormal romance stories for Harlequin Nocturne about a covert military force of shapeshifters.
Just walking out the front door of my house provides me with ideas and research for some stories. At the moment all my neighbors are good, but we’ve had some bad ones who, at least, give me story ideas as well as providing research regarding attitudes of some of today’s mostly younger folks. I also derive ideas and research from some of the things picked up on the security cameras my husband mounted as a result of some of those bad neighbors, as well as from thieves and vagrants who’ve visited our street. Do we live in an awful, rundown area? No, just the opposite. Our neighborhood is great, which may be why it attracts these kinds of issues. Not fun in reality–but research!
Then there’s a new idea I’m working on now that was created after I went on a holiday outing to an interesting area–and my mind just took off on what kinds of mysteries could evolve around there. Of course I’ve been doing additional research on that area. Don’t know if this idea will go anywhere, but I’m certainly having fun working with it.
And meeting with other writers? Everyone’s outlook on things is different, even if they’re writing in similar genres, so just talking about life and writing can also be considered a kind of research.
So here I am, writing this–and wondering what the next piece of research I’ll pick up will be, and how I’ll incorporate it into a story!
How about you? What is the most fun or helpful kind of research you’ve happened into in your life?