Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lois Winston's Anastasia Pollack Mysteries--Interview


Lois Winston's newest craft mystery.

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1.  When did you begin writing?  Why?

I wasn’t one of those authors who knew from an early age that I wanted to write novels. I had always enjoyed writing when I was in school but hadn’t written any fiction since my mandatory Freshman Comp class back in college. Then one day about twenty years ago I had a dream that unfolded each night like the chapters of a book. I decided to write down the dream. Before I knew it, I’d written a fifty thousand word romance. Those fifty thousand words, after many years and countless revisions, became Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, a romantic suspense and the second book I sold.

2.  When and why did you begin writing mysteries?

About ten years ago my agent was speaking with an editor at one of the Big 5 (then the Big 6.) The editor said she was looking for a crafting mystery series. Knowing my background as a craft designer and editor, my agent thought I’d be the perfect person to write such a series. Anastasia popped into my head immediately, and within a few months I had the first draft of Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun




3.  Are you writing a series or a stand-alone?  Explain your basic idea for your series.

Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun was the first book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. When her husband permanently cashes in his chips at a roulette table in Las Vegas, Anastasia’s comfortable middle-class life craps out. She’s left with two teenage sons, a mountain of debt, and her cane-wielding Communist mother-in-law. Not to mention stunned disbelief over her late husband’s secret gambling addiction, and the loan shark who’s demanding fifty thousand dollars.

Anastasia’s job as crafts editor at American Woman magazine proves no respite when she discovers a dead body glued to her desk chair. The victim, fashion editor Marlys Vandenburg, collected enemies and ex-lovers like Jimmy Choos. But when evidence surfaces of an illicit affair between Marlys and Anastasia’s husband, Anastasia becomes the prime suspect.

Subsequent books find Anastasia moonlighting at various jobs to stay one step ahead of the bill collectors, but dead bodies keep getting in her way.

4.  Tell us about your journey to publication with this book.

The editor who requested the crafting mystery loved Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun. Unfortunately, she left the publishing house within weeks of the manuscript being sent to her. Shortly after that, the traditional mystery market crashed, lines folded, and many established authors found themselves orphaned. It took several years before the market turned around and we were able to sell the series.

5.  Why did you choose to write about the topic, community, issues you chose?

As I mentioned above, my background as a craft designer and editor made me a perfect candidate for writing such a series, but I chose to draw upon other experiences as well. Lucille, Anastasia’s communist mother-in-law, is based on my own communist mother-in-law. But I didn’t stop there. I gave Anastasia a mother who’s a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and who also claims to descend from Russian royalty. Both women live with Anastasia and are forced to share a bedroom. Conflict, conflict, conflict! Did I mention this is a humorous mystery series?

6.  How have you found it to be published?  Share that experience.

Loaded question. Let’s just say that after traditionally publishing the first three books in the series, I walked away from a contract for more Anastasia books, as well as for a new series, and am now independently publishing my books. 

7.  Do you have comments from readers or reviewers you’d like to share?

No matter who you are or what you write, some people will love your books; others won’t. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had more positive comments about my series than negative ones. Most people write to tell me how much I made them laugh. Lucille pushes a lot of buttons. She’s the character readers love to hate. Some want me to kill her off; others would be horrified if I did. Lucille is here to stay. 

The negative comments I’ve received about my books mostly are due to the language I occasionally use. Although my publisher marketed the books as cozy mysteries, they’re not cozies because I do occasionally use four-letter words. That bothers some people. That’s why I prefer to refer to my series as “amateur sleuth” rather than “cozy.” However, I don’t use foul language gratuitously, only when it’s appropriate to the character. As I tell people who ask me to remove the curse words, my Mafia loan shark is not going to say, “Gosh darn it!” I want my dialogue to be true to the characters. However, when one reader complained of my constant use of the F-word, I searched through the manuscript and discovered the word appeared all of eight times out of 75,000 words. Trust me, I’m not writing Beverly Hills Cops.

8.  What other books have you published and where, when?

Talk Gertie to Me, humorous women’s fiction with a romantic subplot, was published in 2006, followed the next year by Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception. After being out of print for several years, both books are now available as ebooks. In additon, I’ve published one chick lit novel and four romances under my Emma Carlyle pen name. There are now four Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries and two Anastasia Pollack Mini-Mysteries. I’ve also published a book of short romance stories and been included in several anthologies and boxed sets. You can find all my books on my website: www.loiswinston.com.



Here's one of Lois's mini-mysteries--longer than a short story, shorter than a novella.  They are very inexpensive.

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9.  Do you have a work in progress now?  Is it part of a series?

I’m currently working on Patchwork Peril, the next Anastasia Pollack Mini Mystery. As soon as that’s finished, I plan to complete Definitely Dead, the first book in my Empty Nest Mystery series (the other contract I turned down,) and begin work on the next full-length Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery.

10.  If you belong to Sisters in Crime, and/or the Guppies, has that been helpful?  How?

I belong to both and have been very grateful for the networking opportunities and the friendships I’ve made. Writing is a lonely profession, not to mention one that most of our non-writing friends and relatives don’t understand. It’s important to be able to connect with a group of like-minded people who understand you and support you, who are thrilled by your successes and can commiserate with you when things aren’t going well. Only fellow writers can really do that.

11.  What benefit to you has it been to go to mystery conferences like Malice Domestic?

There’s nothing like being able to connect with fans face-to-face! It’s the ultimate high when a stranger takes the time to tell you how much they love your books. 

12.  What else would you like to say about your books, the next one in your series?

Kirkus Reviews called Anastasia, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum,” and Publishers Weekly compared her to Liz Lemon from 30 Rock. If you like your mysteries dished up with a side of laughter, I hope you’ll give my series a try. I love writing about Anastasia and will continue doing so as long as readers want to read about her and her dysfunctional relatives.






Award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Visit Lois at www.loiswinston.com, visit Emma at www.emmacarlyle.com, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. Follow everyone on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Anasleuth and Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/anasleuth

37 comments:

  1. Thanks for having me on your blog recently Anastasia with my "Immortal Relations" series...I'm glad to read you started writing what you had been dreaming...I was a little concerned I was the only one who did that! LOL

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    1. My pleasure, Vamp Writer! What I've found from speaking with authors over the years is that it's not so unusual for many to start writing after having a vivid dream. Interesting, huh?

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  2. I'm a huge fan of Lois Winston and her Anastasia Pollack series. Funny, suspenseful with loads of hooks and mystery. She creates unforgettable characters who I love to spend time with. Great interview!

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    1. And I didn't pay her to say that, folks! Thanks, Donnell! Luv you, too!

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  3. These sound like wonderful books. I've put them on my TBR pile.

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    1. Thanks so much, Susan! Hope you enjoy them.

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  4. Lois, you have the best book titles! I'm curious how you come up with the titles for your book...

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    1. Hi Angela! Thanks for stopping by. Some of those titles are mine, some are the publisher's, and some are from contests I ran. TALK GERTIE TO ME was originally called RESURRECTING GERTIE. My editor thought it sounded too religious. I ran a contest for a new title, and that was the winner. A month before the book came out Vicki Lewis Thompson came out with TALK NERDY TO ME. And both books had pink covers!

      When I wrote ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN, I actually came up with the title first, then figured out a plot to go with it. I got the idea for the title after I burned myself for the umpteenth time with my own glue gun. (I'm a bit of a klutz!)

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  5. HI Lois, it's so fun to see you here and with such a great interview. I love a good cozy whodunit and that is exactly what you write! They are classics! Are you sure you're not Agatha's daughter?

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  6. Lois, you astound me with all the comments you're gathering. I'm usually lucky to get one or two. That's wonderful that you have so many fans. Judy Hogan

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    1. I played on their sympathies, Judy. I told everyone about my hamstring injury and how I'm laid up on the couch with my leg propped up and iced.

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    2. LOL and it worked!
      Great site, Judy. I spent about 10 years in the ag/hort field writing non-fiction. There's something wonderful about getting really dirty. LOL

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  7. Hmm...Agatha did have that period where she disappeared and no one ever found out where she went or what she did. ;-D Thanks for stopping by, E.!

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  8. I love the image of a dead body glued to to a chair. The question about sharing readers or reviews comments is a good one. I find it interesting to learn what people like or don't like about books. I had a reader, very nice lady, who had all three of my mystery in hand ready to purchase. They were to be a gift for her mother who loves mysteries. Right before I swiped her credit card, she ask if there was a lot of smoking and drinking in the book. Well, yeah; the stories are noir mysteries set in the 1950s. She said her mother would not approve, so she bought them for herself. Whatever works! Great interview!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Kathleen! I learned a long time ago that it's impossible to please everyone. I used to receive rejection letters where the editor would cite a specific reason she was rejecting the book. Then I'd receive a rejection letter from another editor who would cite that as being what she liked most about the book. I

      'm glad that woman did wind up buying your books, though. Some people would have just put the books down and walked away. I've had that happen when I couldn't swear there was no swearing in my books.

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  9. Hope your hamstring gets better. It's nice to know someone besides me could do that simply walking.

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    1. Misery loves company, Susan. I had no idea I could pull a hamstring just by walking.

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  10. I continue to be impressed, Lois. Thank you, everyone. Yes, E, I'm a small farmer, waiting for real spring here in NC. It's late, and my seeds are slow to appear, probably terrified of those Arctic blasts that keep coming. Lois, I didn't know you were laid up. I guess you're getting entertained today by all these comments! Judy Hogan

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    1. Yes, the comments are helping me pass the time. Those and streaming House of Cards, except my cable and Internet went out for several hours. Everything seems to be working again. Fingers crossed they stay that way.

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  11. So, Lois, is a hamstring injury in Anastasia's future? Something with echoes of Rear Window?

    Judy, I'm so glad Lois played on my sympathy to get me here; I love your blog and I love your locavore lifestyle! You say your cookbooks are available by mail from you? Don't be so shy! Slap a big ol' BUY tab on this blog to make it easy to see and buy. lol Yeah, I'm all about the food.

    Lois, I'll see you tomorrow on my blog! ~happy dance~

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    1. Marian, anything is possible. You know how I love getting Anastasia in trouble. ;-D

      See you tomorrow!

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  12. Thanks for your interest, Marian. I may come to investigating a buy tab, but right now, for $13 mailed to POBox 253, Moncure, NC, 27559, I'll be happy to send you my PMZ :Poor Woman's Cookbook. It has healthy lifestyle tips, too. I still have plenty of copies. My blog is based on the idea of a healthy, lively postmenopausal zest phase. I'm enjoying mine. Judy Hogan

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  13. I know I would love your mysteries, Lois. I'm hoping you'll be at Malice so I can buy them and have you sign them. I enjoyed reading about your path to getting published. You're right family and friends who don't write, have no idea what we go through.

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    1. Gloria, I've been to Malice the last three years, but unfortunately, I won't be there this year. I'm sorry we won't get a chance to meet. My books are all available online, though, as ebooks, and many as paperbacks, including all the full-length Anastasia books. You can find links on my website: http://www.loiswinston.com

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  14. Great interview! And I love the name of this blog site!!!
    -Lani

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  15. Lani, I was delighted when I was tryng to learn what to expect about menopause when I learned of the term, which I haven't heard much in recent years. It stands to reason we'd have more zest, and puts a positive light on the 50s and beyond. In Russia, they call the time after a woman has raised her family and/or begun her older age, a baba summer, which is also the term they use for Indian summer. For me the last 27 years have been very good. Judy Hogan

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  16. So nice to get to know you better, Lois. Wonderful interview. I like your insights into amateur sleuth v/s cozy mystery. I never realized something like a sprinkling of dirty language would pull you out of cozy.

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    1. Thanks, Gemma. There are some mystery readers who believe in a strict definition of the cozy mystery, and they get very upset when an author strays from that. Unfortunately, we're at the mercy of the marketing departments. The publisher I wrote for decided my books were cozies and marketed them that way. Had they marketed them as what they really were--amateur sleuth--I don't think I would have received those negative comments about the 4-letter words.

      I ran into the same problem with the first book I sold. TALK GERTIE TO ME was marketed as a romance. There was a romance in the book, but it was more a subplot. The main story was that of the mother/daughter relationship. Then, too, I received some less than flattering comments about how the book wasn't a romance. When reader expectations aren't met, readers often voice their disappointment quite vocally. They don't realize the authors are caught in the middle and have no control over how publishers market our books.

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  17. Great interview! I will add, in addition to her writing, Lois is a wonderful teacher!

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    1. Thanks, Jessie. You've got me blushing!

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  18. I've always said a blog is a good place to showcase your writing and writing style. You've got me hooked. I'm off to order another book. : )
    Marja McGraw

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    1. Thank you so much, Marja! Hope you enjoy it!

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  19. Thanks for commenting, Marja. Lois will probably get back to this blog, but I think she has a blog happening somewhere else today. I'm glad the blog got you interested in her books. Judy Hogan

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    1. Still checking in, Judy. Since I'm confined to the couch with my leg propped up, I indulged in a bit of binge Netflix this afternoon, catching up on the rest of the House of Cards episodes. Yes, I know I should be writing, but I've got the excuse that my leg hurts too much to concentrate on Anastasia's problems right now. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it! ;-)

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  20. Great interview, Lois. Hope the leg heals quickly. BTW, That's my story, and I'm sticking to it is my front license plate on my Explorer.

    SKGarner, writer, copyeditor, proofreader

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    1. Thanks, Sharon. Love the license plate!

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