Linda Howard

RWA Lifetime Achievement Award-Winning Suspense Author

Which hero would I pick?

Behind the StoryJulie Trelstad

A few days ago Christian Black asked me which of my book heroes, if they were all standing in front of me, would I pick? That's assuming no hubby, of course. That's an interesting question, and some days my answer would change. I'll mention only the ones who captured my heart. I love all my heroes, in different ways, but some of them stay with me. With a couple, I've fallen so in love with them I couldn't move on to another book for a while. I can tell you that my first heroes, through about the first seven books (I'm guessing as to the number, I didn't count) would never make the cut. Grant, from Midnight Rainbow, would be the first one I'd seriously consider. My writing and characterization were improving by then :-). But then there's Kell Sabin, who was the first character I had to slap down to keep him from taking over the book. Ben Lewis From Heart of Fire was so much fun! So was Sam Donovan, from Mr. Perfect. Then there was John Medina, who wasn't fun but would certainly keep life interesting. Same with Simon, from Death Angel. John Medina was the second character I had to slap down. And, oh, Niall from Son of the Morning! Yum! The Mackenzies: Wolf, Joe, Zane, and Chance, were all men I'd want on my side in a fight, and they were men who appreciated family. So was James Diaz, from Cry No More. In the end, there are two, and they are the two I had to get over before I could write another book: James Diaz and Zane Mackenzie. It's impossible to pick between them, and even if one day I said "Zane," the next day I'd be likely to say "Diaz." Those two characters touched my heart, and to this day sometimes pop back into mind. So, what about y'all? Name any hero you love, not just characters from my books, because otherwise I'd have said Jamie from Outlander :-). 


RecipeJulie Trelstad

There should be a warning label on this cake. Make at your own peril.


  • 1 yellow butter cake mix. The recipe calls for the 18-oz cake mix but you can't find those any more, so I buy two of the 15-ouncers and add a little. The remainder I store in a labeled container. Don't worry; you'll use it up.
  • 1 egg
  • 1 stick butter melted
  • 3/4 cups chopped pecans, optional. I've never used the pecans.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine the cake mix, egg, and melted butter, and mix well with the mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 9X12 pan.


  • 1 8-oz pack of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 16-oz box powdered sugar

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and melted butter; beat together. Add the powdered sugar. Spread over the cake batter, and bake for 40-45 minutes. Don't over-bake; the center should be a little gooey. -- Linda H.

The Dog of Troublemaker

Behind the StoryJulie Trelstad

I put my dogs in "Troublemaker," in the form of the heroine's golden retriever, Tricks. Everything that Tricks does, one of mine has done at one time or another, but a lot of the antics and behaviors belong to Sugar, who was hands (paws?) down the most intelligent dog I've ever seen. And a diva. And she held a grudge. Just ask LJ, who unknowingly committed a grievous sin against her, and Sugar never forgot or forgave. I was the only human she obeyed, because she was so Alpha she figured that if I could get the better of her then I had to be the Most High Goddess of the Universe. She was a connoisseur, choosing the color of ball she wanted (and they say dogs can't distinguish colors. Baloney! Sugar preferred pink, every time), and whenever something was presented to her she wanted options, so she could choose between them. I cut three scenes with Tricks out of the book, but I saved them, and with the book being released in less than a month I figured it was time to start posting them. This one is just a short scene.

"Bo watched as the deputy crossed the street and opened the passenger door of the Jeep, then released Tricks from her harness. He wasn't fast enough to catch her leash, though. Tricks jumped down and immediately trotted to the curb, her expression a little anxious as she searched for Bo. As always, she stopped at the curb and looked both right and left, a trick that delighted all the kids in town whenever they saw her do it, then she dashed across the street, leash trailing, and came straight to the door of the bakery, with the deputy in hot pursuit as he made repeated grabs for her leash. Ignoring any health department regulations about animals in a food establishment, another deputy opened the door and let Tricks in. She darted to Bo, her whole body wagging with joy at being reunited. Bo received a thorough sniffing from her feet up, then a lick on the hand, then she was abandoned because the smells of food took Tricks' interest. Tricks made a beeline for the display cases and stood in front of them, her tail swishing back and forth as she seemed to peruse the baked goods."

Huh. There must have been something in the air last year. Nora Roberts' OBSESSION has a pretty great dog in it. My TROUBLEMAKER has an awesome dog in it :-). Iris Johansen's HIDE AWAY next month has a dog in it. Three writers who have known each other for decades independently write books with dogs in them, that all come out together in a clump. What are the odds? But it happens so often, writers coming up with titles or plot twists or even character names that all of a sudden are everywhere, that you have to believe the universe throws it out there, and the people who are in tune pick up on it. Often when LJ and I are working together, we will independently write the same scene. Once Beverly and I had the same villain in the books we were writing, without us having talked about what we were doing AT ALL. It's just weird, but after all these years in the business, I accept it. The universe is listening. 

It's not about Sarah. It's about Rome.

Julie Trelstad

Every now and then an old book will pop into my mind. At the recent Heart of Dixie Reader's Luncheon (Kristan Higgins will be our speaker next year! So excited!) I was talking -- with someone I won't name because she hasn't given me permission -- about, of all books, Sarah's Child. I think that book is thirty years old, but people still ask me about it. It's one of those polarizing books that people either love or hate. She said she loved Rome Matthews, and again, he's very polarizing. Most people get so angry at him they can't stand it. But you know what? I'll tell you what I told her: the book wasn't about Sarah. It was about Rome. It was Rome's book from start to finish, how a strong man would handle such extreme grief. He lost his entire family, his wife and children -- all of them. That he could function at all was a testimony to his strength, and he fought through the nightmare until he reached the point where he could love again. I don't know if I could be that strong. Sarah was there because she was the one person who, because of the history she had with his family whom she had loved too, could find a chink in his armor. If I didn't write it well enough that people understood the book was Rome's book, then dang, maybe I need to re-write it.

How Rah Rah Boom became TO DIE FOR

Behind the StoryJulie Trelstad

Sometimes book titles are just puzzling. I've posted here before (I think) about book titles, some of which we the writers come up with, and some that are dictated by the publishers' marketing departments. As an example, my very first book (which, if you haven't read, don't bother because it's truly bad!) I titled "The Black Widow." The title was changed to "All That Glitters," which truly had nothing to do with the book, but marketing felt that "The Black Widow" was too something or the other -- and then that very same title was used on another book that the publisher put out a year later, so I guess they changed their minds.

I've noticed over the years that when one book does well, for some reason a bunch of similar titles will pop up on other books, as if the title is why anyone buys a book. I've never bought a book because of the title, have you? But after "Sarah's Child," there were a bunch of books with "Child" in the title. After "Duncan's Bride," there were a thousand "Bride" books. After LJ wrote "Bridger's Last Stand," here came a slew of "Last Stand" books. I have to say that when readers talk to me about specific books, they tend to remember the titles if it's what I've titled them, but forget the more generic titles that marketing departments came up with.

I remember "Cry No More," but I have no idea which of my books has the title "Up Close and Personal" -- at least without looking up the plot. "Rah Rah BOOM" and "The Buick Stops Here" became "To Die For" and "Drop Dead Gorgeous." I admit TDF and DDG are probably better titles, but I enjoyed the whimsy of what I'd named them. This is on my mind because I just read "I've Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm" by Kelly Bowen. I really enjoyed the book, the plot, and the characters. The title completely puzzles me, though; not only does it not fit a Regency, or the plot, the hero isn't a duke! Never was, never will be! So what the heck?????