Thursday, April 17, 2014


Linda Townsdin, the author of FOCUSED ON MURDER (published in February), has been a dear friend and constant inspiration for many years. We grew up together in small towns in Northern Minnesota where we attended the same junior-senior high school. For years we’ve visited as often as we’re able, sometimes taking long road trips from our homes in California back to Minnesota. And in between visits we kept up a written correspondence that has now morphed into daily emails. She’s my first and last reader (of everything I write). And although our work paths appear somewhat different on the surface, our creative lives have run parallel, intersected, and hop-scotched in the most delightful ways for all these many (many) years. FOCUSED ON MURDER is a fast-paced, exciting mystery with an engaging protagonist, the first in a series featuring the adventures of photojournalist Britt Johansson. I’m pleased to have Linda as a guest blogger this week.
Linda and Julie on a road trip

What drew you to writing and publishing murder mysteries? 

I love reading stories about Northern Minnesota. I’m attracted to the small communities, lakes, weather and American Indian spiritual philosophy. I wanted to create my own story world and now that I’ve done it, I love it. It’s like reading a book and writing it at the same time. So satisfying!
What is your process?

I’m writing a mystery series and my primary cast of characters will always make an appearance. My story idea is usually based on a social issue that haunts me, and then I have a rough idea of what’s going to happen. The first scene often comes to me in a flash, and sometimes the end materializes the same way. But I never know which new characters will pop up, or what twists and turns are coming, and that discovery is the most fun.

Is your protagonist like you?

When I first imagined Britt, I thought I was creating someone almost the opposite of me. She’s 34, tall and athletic, a photojournalist willing to make people uncomfortable to get her photos, blurts out whatever she’s feeling or thinking, and doesn’t like to delve too deeply into her own psyche.

I would have made a terrible journalist because I wouldn’t be able to ask hard questions and put people on the spot. I’m deliberate where’s she’s spontaneous, and I’m a ruminator. 

And yet, I wonder if there isn’t a shadow side of me that harbors some of those characteristics. Why do writers choose a certain type of protagonist and subject matter?

In addition to following the murder of a local coed, and getting involved in a dangerous high-stakes crime that requires every ounce of her strength and skill to make it out alive, at the core of my story is Britt’s decision whether to stay in Spirit Lake or go.

I’ve moved quite a bit in my life—my grandmother used to say I had wandering feet. I don’t wander that much anymore, but the desire is still there, and I still feel the loss that happens when you give up something to get something else. 

So I created a character who longs to go and longs to stay and through following her adventures, I get to explore some of my own feelings about what that has meant to my own life.

And, since writing about Britt, I’ve become much more physically active, and I take more risks. Not Britt’s kind of risks, but the kind that build confidence in small ways every day. Is there a connection? Has my inspiration inspired me? I hope so. I look forward to how else Britt might inspire me in her next adventure.

[Thanks to Donald Maass, for his thoughtful blog post on April 2, 2014 that prompted me to think about why I chose certain characteristics for Britt Johansson, my protagonist in Focused on Murder—A Spirit Lake Mystery.]

Linda Townsdin worked for years in communications for nonprofit and corporate organizations, most recently as writer/editor for a national criminal justice consortium. Her work included editorial and marketing assistance in projects involving cybercrime, tribal justice and other public safety issues. Her short fiction has been published in several anthologies, including the 2013 Capitol Crimes Anthology. She lives in California with her husband, and wouldn’t trade her childhood in Northern Minnesota for anything.

You can get a copy of FOCUSED ON MURDER on at

To keep informed on Linda’s work, check out her blog at 
And/or you can follow her on her Facebook author page: