I know you write in more than one category. Do you have a preference of one over the others?
I started out writing romantic suspense, but I really found my voice when I switched over to writing humorous first-person novels—initially in chick lit, then in amateur sleuth mysteries. I’m not a funny person by nature. I either forget or mess up the punch line of any joke I’ve ever tried to tell, but I discovered I have a talent for writing funny. Of course, humor is very subjective, so not everyone “gets” my sense of humor, but that’s true of most things in life, isn’t it? Some people “get” you; others don’t.
What inspired you to begin your writing career?
As cliché as it sounds, it was a dream. I usually don’t remember my dreams, but one night I experienced a very vivid one that stayed with me. Every night for over a week the dream continued, unfolding like the chapters of a book. I finally decided I needed to write down the story, mostly to get it out of my system. When I had finished, I realized I wanted to keep writing. By the way, that initial story, after years of revisions, became Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, the second book I sold.
Characters and plots—are any of yours based on real people or real situations? Does reality ever spark a creative leap?
Most of my plots are born from actual events I’ve read about in the newspaper or watched on the news. I’m a total news junkie. A Stitch to Die For, my latest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, incorporates several news stories that have appeared over the past year—swatting incidents that are occurring across the country and a couple of court cases where children died from salt poisoning.
In addition, some of my characters have been based on people I’ve known. Lucille, Anastasia’s communist mother-in-law, is based on my own communist mother-in-law. The woman put me through years of hell. I’m now getting even. Lucille has become the character readers love to hate.
Now let’s talk about your new book, A Stitch To Die For. I love the cover for your new Anastasia Pollack mystery. Will you reveal a bit of a teaser? Or more?
Thanks! I’m really thrilled with the cover, too!
The adventures of reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack continue in A Stitch to Die For, the 5th book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series.
Ever since her husband died and left her in debt equal to the gross national product of Uzbekistan, magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack has stumbled across one dead body after another—but always in work-related settings. When a killer targets the elderly nasty neighbor who lives across the street from her, murder strikes too close to home. Couple that with a series of unsettling events days before Halloween, and Anastasia begins to wonder if someone is sending her a deadly message.
Two weeks ago my mother, Flora Sudberry Periwinkle Ramirez Scoffield Goldberg O’Keefe, took her sixth trip down the aisle to become Flora Sudberry Periwinkle Ramirez Scoffield Goldberg O’Keefe Tuttnauer. The groom’s daughter was a no-show. At the time of the ceremony her body was being fished out of the Delaware and Raritan Canal in Lambertville, New Jersey.
Ira Pollack, my stepbrother-in-law and the groom’s son-in-law, had just finished a toast to Mama and Lawrence Tuttnauer when two men in dark suits entered the backyard catering tent and headed straight toward him. Given all my dealings with the police over the last few months, I easily made them for detectives, a suspicion confirmed when I spotted them flashing their badges. Ira nodded and followed them out of the tent.
I followed Ira.
He and the two men made their way to the patio at the back of his house. I stopped at the entrance to the tent. The men stood with their backs to me, Ira facing me. From my vantage point I couldn’t hear their words over the conversations and music going on behind me, but I saw the color drain from Ira’s face. He shook his head violently and yelled, “No!” loud enough for me to hear.
I raced across the lawn as fast as I could in three-inch heels. Once at the patio, I placed my hand on Ira’s arm. In a voice that trembled as much as his body, he said, “Cynthia. They found her floating in the canal.”
I gasped, then led Ira over to one of the patio lounge chairs. He collapsed onto the cushion and buried his head in his hands as he choked out huge sobs.
I turned to the detectives, waiting for more of an explanation, but both ignored Ira’s grief to fixate on the party across the lawn. “What’s going on here?” one of them asked.
“A wedding,” I said.
“Ira’s father-in-law married my mother.”
Both detectives knit their brows together and glared at Ira. “Your wife doesn’t show for her father’s wedding, and you’re not worried?” asked the older and taller of the two men.
Ira tried speaking between sobs. His mouth opened and closed several times, but no words came out. I answered for him. “Cynthia didn’t approve of her father marrying my mother.”
“And you are?” asked the second detective, whipping out a notepad and pencil.
“Anastasia Pollack. I’m also Ira’s stepsister-in-law.”
Both detectives repeated the twin eyebrow knit, but neither said anything. Also, up to this point I had no idea how Cynthia had died, so I asked, “What happened to Cynthia?”
“The medical examiner will have to determine cause of death,” said the older detective. “We’re waiting on an autopsy.”
“Do you suspect foul play?”
“Why would you suggest that?” he asked.
I shrugged. “I can’t imagine how Cynthia would land in the canal on her own. She isn’t…wasn’t the canal-strolling type.” Dirt and extremely expensive designer duds don’t mix.
“What type was she?” asked the younger detective.
Cynthia the Trophy Wife was more the spend-all-day-spending-Ira’s-money type. I thought for a moment, not wanting to say anything that might be misconstrued. If Cynthia hadn’t died of natural causes, Ira would wind up at the top of the suspect list. “I only met her once,” I said, “but I’d describe her as someone more interested in indoor activities than communing with nature.”
The spouse is always the prime suspect, but Ira was no killer. The man didn’t even have the backbone to discipline his bratty kids. If Cynthia had met with foul play, my money was on the pool boy she’d run off with weeks earlier. “Ira, you have to tell the detectives what happened with Cynthia.”
(Other books in the series include Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, Death by Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, Decoupage Can Be Deadly, and three mini-mysteries: Crewel Intentions, Mosaic Mayhem, and Patchwork Peril.)
Bio: USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” 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/Emma at her website and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog. Follow everyone on Tsu, on Pinterest, and on Twitter @anasleuth. Sign up for her newsletter here.