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Q&A: Her Alpha wolves practice safe sex April 14, 2009

Posted by Diana McCabe in Authors.

Yup — you can tell that Linda O. Johnston is a mystery writer without even looking at her credentials. Her latest novel alphawolf200ALPHA WOLF is a mix of shapeshifter lore, Military macho, romance and whodunit! Her first story was published in “Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine,” and she has won awards for her mystery stories. And she’s written many romance novels. ALPHA WOLF (also available as an ebook) is not her first paranormal, though. She’s penned novels about time travel and romance.

I asked Linda about moving back into the paranormal romance genre — and why she chose shapeshifters! And why her weres practice safe sex … (Look for part 2 of the interview, which is geared at aspiring writers, toward the end of the week.)

Q. For the last couple of years, you’ve successfully written the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mystery series. What made you switch back to paranormal romance?

A. It’s not really a switch, since I’m doing both! I adore Kendra and her adventures, but her love life isn’t a true romance, and I enjoy the romance genre, too. As I do in the Pet-Sitter mysteries, I also incorporate animals into my Silhouette Nocturnes. Many are about Alpha Force, my covert military unit of shapeshifters, including ALPHA WOLF and the Nocturne Bites that was also released in January, CLAWS OF THE LYNX. My upcoming Nocturne BACK TO LIFE is about a woman with Valkyrie powers who can bring the dying back to life, and she happens to be a K-9 cop.

Q. There are so many shapeshifter novels out there, so why did you decide to dive into their world?

lindalexieA. Because I love animals! In fact, I think I’m becoming more obsessed with them the older I get. Right now, as I respond to this question, my younger Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Mystie has levitated onto my lap and her head is on my arm, bouncing around as I type. I don’t actually know any shapeshifters, though. On the other hand, I used to own some property that once belonged to Lon Chaney Jr., the original movie Wolfman, and it’s just down the street from where I live now. Maybe he’s somehow communicating with me…

Q. Your werewolves are different than what we might read in other novels. There was no fighting among the shifters for supremacy. They seem almost like normal people. Why did you take that route?

A. I love stories of the paranormal, and my favorites are those that take place in the real world — as close to real as possible, considering the paranormal elements. As a result, my characters are in many ways normal and live their lives more or less like regular people, except when they shift or otherwise do something that most people don’t think of as being real.

Q. Is there an Alpha wolf among the squad (because I know there is more than one book!) or will that change depending on the situation?

A. In some ways the hero of ALPHA WOLF, Major Drew Connell, is the Alpha-est of the group, since Alpha Force is a military organization and he is the commanding officer, although he reports to a general who knows all about Alpha Force but is not himself a shapeshifter. Other Alpha Force members often report directly to Drew in upcoming stories.

Q. You weave town lore into your story — much as any small town might have its own legends. What was the inspiration for that?

A. To me, location can become almost like a character in a story. It at least helps to set the mood and that’s what I wanted with Mary Glen, Maryland. It needed to be remote, out of the mainstream, a place where legends can come true. I’ve visited Maryland’s Eastern Shore and thought a fictionalized version was a good fit.

Q. Why did you pair the shifters with a companion animal?

A. Since Alpha Force is a covert military unit, I figured its members would need additional cover in the event they were spotted while they were shifted form. As a result, they each have an animal as a pet and cover animal that they can point to if someone sees them while shifted and claim that the spotter saw the real animal instead of them.

Q. Melanie is the brainy woman who is immediately attracted to Drew. I thought they’d get physically involved fast but you really draw out the romance. (In fact, I thought they’d never get together!) Did you and your editor discuss how to pace the romance or did you want to write it this way first?

A. The pacing of the romance is my own. I like to have as much sexual tension as possible, as long as it fits with the rest of the story. And then when they finally get together I want them really together–despite whatever conflict remains between them.

Q. Ummmm — Drew practices safe sex. That was a pretty funny scene. How did you arrive at that?

A. As I said, I like stories that mirror the real world as much as possible. Safe sex is a way of life today, or at least it should be! Plus, in my world shifters and regular people sometimes mate for life and have kids, and Drew wouldn’t want to have an accidental little shifter out there…

Q. Do you know how many novels you might write about the unit? (And will we see Drew and Melanie in any of them?)

A. I’m not sure now how many sequels there will be to ALPHA WOLF but there will be at least one–the story about Patrick, who is introduced in ALPHA WOLF. Drew is Patrick’s commanding officer, and Melanie might drop in sometime, too.

Q. What’s the next book and can you give us a hint about the story? backtolife

A. My next Silhouette Nocturne is BACK TO LIFE. It’s not a sequel to ALPHA WOLF, but is about a K-9 cop who has limited Valkyrie powers, including bringing some dying people back to life. Near the beginning, the hero is badly wounded… that’s enough of a hint!

Q. OK — and tell us about the Alpha Wolf cover. Everyone on the boards loves it. Was he the first pick?

A. I adore the cover, too! Although I had input into the cover copy, the hero just appeared there… and I think he’s perfect!

For more on Linda O and ALPHA WOLF, check out her Web site HERE

Also, check back here at the end of the week for Linda’s tips for writers!!!!

LIKE THIS FEATURE? I have more authors coming. Go to ASK AN AUTHOR at the top of the page for the list and let me know who you’d like me to interview next or what questions you have for them. Also — suggestions for the Web site? You can simply leave requests and suggestions as a comment. Thanks! — Diana


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