Cozies, She Wrote
Showcase interviews Linda O. Johnston
Linda O. Johnston recently appeared at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books for signings in three booths, with Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Mystery Ink. She additionally volunteered at the Romance Writers of America booth. Her first published fiction, in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for Best First Mystery Short Story of the Year. Although she authors four popular series – The Superstition Mysteries from Midnight Ink, The Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries from Midnight Ink, Alpha Force paranormal romances for Harlequin Nocturne, and Identity Division romantic suspense novels for Harlequin Romantic Suspense – we focused on talking to her about cozies.
Showcase: Do you write in all three genres – cozies, paranormal romances, and romantic suspense – concurrently?
Johnston: Yes, I’ve done that — although it’s about to stop since the paranormal romance line I’ve been writing for, Harlequin Nocturne, is ending after 2018.
Showcase: Does it get confusing?
Johnston: Not really, since I became used to it. And I developed ways to keep track of the characters, settings and other important matters in the various series, mostly by starting online folders for each. That helps a lot!
Showcase: Which came first for you?
Johnston: That depends on how you define “first”! My first published fiction, as you mention in my bio, was a mystery short story in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. However, my first published novels were time travel romances. Since then, all of my romances contain some elements of mystery or suspense, and all of my mysteries include a romantic interest.
Showcase: What makes a cozy?
Johnston: A cozy is a mystery, usually in a series, where the protagonist is an amateur sleuth who often happens into solving murders by accident. Cozies tend to have no gore or explicit sex, though they do have dead bodies and love interests. Cozies often have themes as well. All of mine have themes involving dogs, but others involve cooking, needlework, professions, and other ideas that engross the readers –
and the authors! And yes, my current Barkery & Biscuits Mystery series involves both dogs and cooking.
Showcase: Are there pitfalls to avoid?
Johnston: Sure. One would be to make sure that your take on a particular theme is different from other authors who use similar ideas. Another is to give your readers credit for being smart and, hopefully, reading your earlier books in a series, but be sure to write each one in a way that gives enough background to keep someone reading even if they haven’t read the earlier ones.
Showcase: Who are some of the top cozies authors?
Johnston: I particularly admire some of the other authors I blog with at Killer Hobbies and Killer Characters. There are too many to list, so I’d suggest you check out the blog sites. I’ve also been impressed with those other Midnight Ink authors who write cozies, although my current publisher also publishes non-cozy mystery and suspense.
Showcase: That puts you in good company. Thanks for the pointers.