Spotlight on Linda S. Browning
Linda S. Browning had to wait for retirement to start writing novels, but she is making up for lost time with eleven well-received books under her belt to date. Her mysterious plots are enlivened by a host of memorable characters, including nutty older women—some of whom, she is the first to admit, are based on herself—and troubled spirits who haven’t quite crossed over. It was our pleasure to interview her for our Spotlight feature.
Did your pre-retirement career prepare you for the books you’re now writing?
I’ve basically had two careers. I worked for twenty years for the Department of Mental Health in Michigan, where I held various positions in office administration. After my husband and I moved to Tennessee (husband’s employment opportunity), I worked until retirement as a social worker in a variety of milieus: a nursing home, home health, assisted living facility, and a contracted role with the State of Tennessee. Therefore, the answer to your question is a big YES.
Did you always know you would write one day?
Again, that would be a big YES. I did a lot of creative writing as a teenager. Torchy poems and short stories with subjects I had no idea about. Definitely creative, creative writing. After my adolescent years, my working life got in the way of writing. Upon retirement I was sort of at a loss to fill up the hours of each day. Following the tragic and sudden death of my stepson, I returned to writing as a way to manage grief. I wrote a short mystery story in 2013 and won first place in a small publishing house contest. This led to a three e-book contract. When the publishing house went out of business, I started to self-publish. I was hooked.
What drew you to the cozy mystery genre?
This was accidental. The short story I wrote that won first place in the contest lent itself to the cozy mystery genre—and Leslie & Belinda Mysteries were born.
The Leslie & Belinda Mysteries series is one of two that you have written. Tell us how the series are alike and how they are different.
Leslie & Belinda Mysteries is LOL sort of nonsense. The main character, Leslie, is based on my own personality and the personality of my mother. My mother was forever peering through drapes on dark nights mumbling, “Something funny is going on across the street.” There never really was anything going on, but my mother always went to investigate with her trusty flashlight, leaving my father grumbling in his recliner. Leslie’s best friend, Belinda, is based on my best friend since the summer before eighth grade. We were always a great team.
Parlor Game Mysteries are basically whodunnits with ghosts. Although I have labeled the series as paranormal cozy mysteries, it kind of reaches beyond the cozy mystery genre. A swear word here or there has been known to occur. I’ve always loved spooky movies and stories. My ghosts are never malevolent, however. They are spirits who got turned around somehow after death and couldn’t locate the ultimate exit. There is always a reason for their confusion and reticence to fully leave their lives. The reason could be the need to punish their murderer, or they simply might need a human helping hand to turn their spirit in the right direction. My main character for the Parlor Game Series, Olivia Jane Honeycutt, discovers a latent talent in the spook realm.
I like the surname Honeycutt. Not sure why. In Leslie and Belinda, Belinda’s last name is also Honeycutt.
Can you talk about the balance between humor and mystery and how you maintain it once the components of the mystery begin to darken?
I was an overly dramatic teen and young adult. Once I became more seasoned in adulthood, and had my share of life experiences, humor became my salvation. My father loved puns. He was a very funny guy. Unfortunately, my father died suddenly when I had just turned twenty. Seeing the funny in everything became my coping mechanism.
It is easy to maintain the humor when writing Leslie & Belinda because those characters freely fall out of my head. Leslie has no idea what she is doing, but somehow manages to solve mysteries … even if they aren’t always the mysteries she was actually chasing. The main character in Parlor Game Mysteries is in her middle thirties. This series also grew from a contest-winning short story. The humor isn’t LOL but definitely used as a tool to cope with sad endings that weren’t necessary or fair. I just realized the death of my stepson fell into this category. Huh … kind of weird.
Which of your books would make the best cable TV series? And if you want to do some fantasy casting too, go for it.
Oh, boy. I fantasize about Leslie & Belinda on the Hallmark Channel. I can see Sally Fields as Leslie. I don’t know who would play Belinda. I will leave the casting of Belinda to my real-life best friend.
Upon retirement Linda S. Browning and her husband moved from Michigan to a retirement/resort community in Eastern Tennessee. Since she doesn’t join social clubs, she was soon bored with the scenery. Her creative juices were flowing, though, and she discovered acrylic painting—and got to be quite good at it. Eventually she ran out of people eager to accept her paintings—more likely because of her antisocial nature than any lack of talent. She simply had not collected enough people, and canvases began to stack up in closets.
Parme Mysteries are basically a whodunnits with ghosts. Although I have labeled the series as a paranormal cozy mystery, it kind of reaches beyond the cozy mystery genre. A swear word here or there has been known to occur. I’ve always loved spooky movies and stories. My ghosts are never malevolent, however. They are spirits who got turned around somehow after death and couldn’t locate the ultimate exit. There is always a reason for their confusion and reticence to fully leave their lives. The reason could be the need to punish their murderer, or they simply might need a human helping hand to turn their spirit in the right direction. My main character for the Parlor Game Series, Olivia Jane Honeycutt, discovers a latent talent in the spook realm.
After receiving a laptop as a Christmas present in 2011, Linda rediscovered her love of creative writing. This creative outlet has proven to be a keeper. Now her creative masterpieces fit on a little bitty flash drive thingy.
Linda wrote short stories during high school, but her love of writing took a backseat to salaried jobs for more than forty-two years. She has a lot of writing to make up for and is not even close to running out of words. She is the author of two cozy mystery series and two stand-alone novels. One of the novels, a psychological thriller, is written under the penname Sharon Erwin. Her newest novel, It Otter Be A Crime (another Leslie & Belinda Mystery), will release on June 1, 2021.
Linda and her husband share their home with a thirty-four-year-old Amazon parrot and a five-year-old puppy dog.