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Mystery Girl

By France Griggs Sloat

In her very first story, Laura Bradford used crayons to make a picture book about a gnome who created his own little town that had a “moleway” instead of a subway. It took her one rainy afternoon when she was 10 years old.

“I knew from that moment on that it was all I wanted to do,” she says. “I realize now that I’m an introvert, and writing is a way to be heard.”

Today, Bradford is being heard loud and clear by an audience of readers who gobble up mystery and romance novels faster than you can say Fabio. She has a contract with Berkley publishing to produce six mystery novels in three years and with Harlequin—yes, Harlequin—for three romance novels in one year. She cranks them out every four to six months.
[Check out a list of Laura’s books, see photos and get her latest news.]
It wasn’t so easy at first. After working as a journalist, Bradford, a 1989 communications graduate, stayed home with her two daughters and decided to try writing a mystery novel like the ones she loves to read. She dug into her childhood vacations on the Jersey shore and wrote a story about tourists who visit a fortune teller on the boardwalk but wind up dead within an hour of their visit. It took about five years to complete.

After only one rewrite, however, A Jury of One was published in 2005 by a small independent press. It came out with a hideous pink cover and a small fee for Bradford, but that was okay. Bradford was finally a published novelist. Then Harlequin bought the rights to the book, reissued it with a new cover and sold 26,000 copies. It was the first in a series that Bradford titled the Jenkins and Burns Mysteries.

Her career was snowballing. In 2008, Berkley Prime Crime, an imprint of Penguin publishers, hired her to write three books for the Southern Sewing Circle mysteries. The first installments—Sew Deadly, released in August 2009, and Death Threads in May 2010—sold so well that they extended her to six books. She wrote these under her pen name, Elizabeth Lynn Casey.

In the meantime, Bradford heard a news story on the radio about a missing letter from the 1940s, discovered behind a U.S. Post Office desk, and wrote a multigenerational romance story based on the letter. Harlequin snatched it up, and Kayla’s Daddy was published in January this year. Then they hired her to write two more.

“Since 2007, I’ve been contracted for nine books,” she says. “I’ve enjoyed the romances more than I expected, but I think I’m still a mystery girl.”

Along the way, Bradford was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Though she’s making a living with her books, it’s tight. Divorced, she’s raising her daughters alone and paying for insurance that covers her monthly prescriptions.

Bradford also keeps up two websites and wants to keep writing as her focus. She’s considering taking a job to increase her income and provide health benefits, but she’ll never stop writing her books, because the ideas that began when she was 10 just keep coming.

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