Linda O. Johnston’s TEACUP TURBULENCE is the sixth in her Pet Rescue series featuring Los Angeles animal shelter manager Lauren Vancouver, a woman with a soft spot for animals in need—and a keen eye for crime. . .
Thanks to a savvy ad campaign featuring teacup pups sporting HotPets Bling—a new line of faux jewelry dog collars—small dog adoptions have skyrocketed across the city. So when Lauren discovers a shelter in the Midwest with more toy dogs than it can handle, she arranges a private plane to swoop in and fly the pups back to LA.
But Lauren didn’t count on rescue worker Teresa Kantrim coming along for the ride. Teresa has cared for the dogs since they were found and doesn’t trust anyone from La-La Land to take over the job. Her biting comments clearly haven’t earned Teresa any new friends, but when she turns up murdered, it’s time for Lauren to dig into Teresa’s past and find out who wanted her put down.
TEACUP TURBULENCE is the latest in your Pet Rescue series. While many cozies feature pets, this is an interesting take on the subject. Is there a story behind the story?
I’ve had underlying themes to all of my Pet Rescue mysteries. When I heard about people who rescued homeless animals from areas where they’re less likely to find new families and moved them to places where people are seeking that kind of pet, I had to write about it! I interviewed a family connection who has performed such kinds of rescues, and I also did additional enjoyable research. Some people use their own private planes to transport pets, and others use cars. In TEACUP TURBULENCE, a relay of private planes is used to bring small, teacup sized dogs to Los Angeles where they’re suddenly in demand thanks to a special ad campaign conducted by Dante DeFrancisco, the benefactor of HotRescues, the fictional no-kill pet shelter run by my series protagonist Lauren Vancouver.
Two of the books in this series have been chosen for the Read Humane program. Can you tell us more about that?
Read Humane is a very special program created by the Penguin Group, parent company of my publisher Berkley Prime Crime, to help support the Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team. Penguin made a generous donation to the HSUS, and also chose several books for each of the two years of the program’s existence so far that help to demonstrate the human interaction with pets. I was fortunate enough to have two of my Pet Rescue Mysteries chosen for the program, as you mentioned: BEAGLEMANIA and HOUNDS ABOUND. They both were reissued with the special Read Humane seal on the front cover.
During my visit to your website, I noticed you write in several genres. A two-part question—what led you to the multiple genres and do you find your readers “follow” you from cozy to paranormal romance?
I started out writing novels as a romance writer, but my romances always had suspense and/or mystery in them, just as my mystery protagonists also always have a romantic interest. I enjoy reading in both genres, so combining them, and writing in both, seemed natural to me.
I’m actually not sure if my readers follow me from cozy mystery to romance. I am writing now for two Harlequin series. I write the paranormal Alpha Force miniseries for Harlequin Nocturne— romances about a covert military unit of shapeshifters— and I also write for Harlequin Romantic Suspense. My most recent Harlequin release is COVERT ATTRACTION, a Harlequin Romantic Suspense novel that was published in December. My romances tend to have mysteries or suspense in them as well an element of steaminess, but in my cozies any intimacy takes place in the bedroom and off the page. Do my readers read both? I hope so, but I suspect not all of them do.
Do you find your research varies with the different books? How do you approach the research for the plot points in your Pet Rescue stories?
Each story has been different. My research has included observing zip-line training sessions held by the organization that is now called the Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team, which is part of Los Angeles Animal Services. I’ve also had discussions with representatives of the American Humane Association, the only organization that can provide the “No Animals Were Harmed” certification to films and TV shows where animals are part of the cast (for OODLES OF POODLES). I do a lot of reading online and in publications about pet rescue organizations and also volunteer at a really great one, Pet Orphans of Southern California. When I’ve heard about a fun and interesting aspect of pet rescue, I’ve tried to incorporate it into one of my Pet Rescue Mysteries.
What’s the best advice you received when you started writing and what would you pass along to today’s debut authors?
Just do it! Keep on writing, whether or not you sell at first or find an agent. The atmosphere of writing is very different today from when I got started, and there are many more options that include self-publishing. I also always tell new writers to join organizations relevant to the genres they’re writing in and go to meetings and conferences to connect with others who can help you learn what you need to know. And join a critique group, either face-to-face or online.
Could you share one fun fact about yourself that readers may not know?
I recently learned that I am both a cynophilist (dog lover) and a cruciverbalist (crossword puzzle fan).
What’s next for you?
The year 2014 will be a busy one for me. TEACUP TURBULENCE is a January release, to be followed by two of my Alpha Force Harlequin Nocturnes, UNTAMED WOLF and LOYAL WOLF. And in September, the first of my Superstition Mysteries, LOST UNDER A LADDER, will be published by Midnight Ink.
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 35 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!
To learn more about Linda, please visit her website.