Sunday, March 30, 2014
Lois Winston's Anastasia Pollack Mysteries--Interview
Lois Winston's newest craft mystery.
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.
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