The Practice of Creativity

Introducing Suspense Writer, Linda Johnson

Posted on: December 31, 2011

Looking for a new suspense writer to fall in love with? Look no further than Linda Johnson. Linda’s just published two compelling novels. One is A Tangled Web, a black widow suspense drama, and Trail of Destruction, a political thriller. For many years Linda worked in advertising. When the cold and gray of her native Chicago got to be too much, she and her husband, Brian, packed up their dogs and horses and relocated to sunny and warm North Carolina. After working for several years as the owner and manager of a hunter/jumper equestrian facility, Linda decided to trade riding for writing.

I know Linda through our monthly writers’ group and have enjoyed the way she creates smart, psychopathic villains. She’s produced several suspense novels and short stories. I recently sat down with this productive writer to learn more about her writing practice.

1) Where did the ideas for your novels come from?

Both of my suspense novels were inspired by real life situations. A Tangled Web was inspired by a murder that took place in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I was intrigued by the case which involved a young wife and mother who opted to murder her husband rather than divorce him. I couldn’t understand why she would go down that path and I felt it was an intriguing story worth exploring. What’s great about writing fiction is the flexibility to use an idea as a launching pad and then take it in many unique and interesting directions: narcissism, greed, blackmail, betrayal, and murder.

My second novel, Trail of Destruction, was motivated by news stories of various politicians who have affairs at great risk to their careers. Many politicians have tremendous egos which feed into their desire to be with multiple women and can lead to a sense of invulnerability. In my novel, I explored the idea of a candidate running for president who gets his lover pregnant and then has her murdered to cover up the scandal. In an interesting twist, the politician’s younger brother is a journalist covering the candidate’s quest for the White House. He eventually unearths his brother’s actions and is faced with the decision whether to protect him or bring him down.

2) What does your writing practice look like?

I think it’s important for a writer to have a dedicated writing space — a place that is removed from other activities and responsibilities. I set my space up in a guest room that we don’t use very often. When we do have visitors, I take a break from writing anyway. I keep my writing and research material in there, but nothing else — no letters, bills, etc. — nothing that can distract me from writing. Most writers I know are excellent procrastinators, and I’m no exception. So the more focused I can be, the more productive I am.

3) What’s the easiest part of writing for you: plot, voice, characterization?

I’m not sure if it’s the easiest, but the one I enjoy the most is characterization. I start with an overall idea for the book. Then I delve into the characters, writing fairly detailed sketches of all of the key players — including childhood, education, career, personality, ambitions, and relationships. Once I have my characters fleshed out, they guide me through plot and voice. They are just like creative partners with minds of their own, so I’ve learned to listen to them.

4) Who is one writer that you’d love to know was reading your work?

Tess Gerritsen, because she is the writer I aspire to become. She’s an excellent role model — the types of novels she writes, her characters, and her writing style. I’m hoping if I keep practicing my craft, I can become as talented a writer as she is.

Find out more about Linda and where to buy her books!

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1 Response to "Introducing Suspense Writer, Linda Johnson"

Both sound like good reads. I do love a good suspense story, the kind where the pages turn without the reader even noticing the clock has gone past midnight. On a side note, I am fascinated by writer’s process, their creativity sparks, we’re all so different. Thanks for the tip, btw.

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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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