Velda Johnston was reared and educated in California. She obtained a degree in English at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Having sold her first story while still in high school, she anticipated immediate financial independence as a writer. “I looked forward to being able to support myself and my mother by dashing off a short story occasionally after school,” Johnston has said. “But I was in my third year at UCLA before I was able to sell my second story. It was really very rough getting started.” Eventually, she was able to publish not only romantic suspense novels but also nonfictional articles on subjects ranging from the artificial heart to migrant workers in New Jersey.
Even as a child, Johnston enjoyed reading mysteries. Inspiration for her own writing came from the English writer Mary Stewart, whose romantic suspense novels she admired very much. “I’ve always loved history, especially English history,” said Johnston. Johnston has explained that for her, mysteries are, in a way, easier to write than other types of fiction:In a mystery, you don’t have to depend just on character. You can offer the reader a double pleasure—interesting characters and the puzzle as well. What I like to stress in my novels, which are often read by young women, are education, using one’s intelligence, and having courage—not just sitting around waiting for Mr. Right.