Where Characters and Plots Are Born
“Where do you get your story ideas?”
“Are any of your characters based on yourself or people you know?”
The above are the two most frequently asked questions I hear from readers. There’s a writing axiom that states, write what you know. To some extent this is sound advice, but it’s also extremely limiting advice. I have a good friend who writes stories populated with vampires, werewolves, selkies, and other assorted weird creatures of the paranormal world. My friend is neither a vampire, a werewolf, nor a selkie, and I have it on good authority that she’s never met any such creatures. So obviously she’s not writing what she knows from first-hand experience.
In my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series my amateur sleuth protagonist is a debt-ridden, recently widowed magazine editor whose home is populated by her two teenage sons, her “Russian princess” mother, a cantankerous communist mother-in-law, and a menagerie of pets, including a Shakespeare spouting parrot. Much of her problems stem from having believed a man who turned out to be a lying louse of a spouse.
Write what you know?
To some extent. I have designed needlework and other crafts for various magazines, and I did work as a craft book editor for some years. My two sons were once teenagers. And I was saddled with a cantankerous communist mother-in-law. However, that’s where the similarities between me and Anastasia end.
My husband is a nice guy who is still very much alive. My mother, although half Russian, never claimed to descend from the Romanov dynasty, and due to allergies, we have no pets. I’ve never even come across a Shakespeare spouting parrot. Most of all, though, I don’t constantly stumble across dead bodies. And if I did, I’d leave the investigating to the police.
So where do I get the ideas for the stories I write? From the world around me. I’m a die-hard news junkie who has always believed that truth is stranger than fiction. That belief is reaffirmed every time I pick up a newspaper or turn on the evening news. I’ll hear a news byte or read an article, then give the event a “what if” spin. The voices in my head take over from there, and the next thing I know, I’ve got the plot for another book.
The plot for Revenge of the Crafty Corpse came about after I read an article on a nursing home murder involving two ninety-something roommates. A lover’s triangle caused one woman to permanently dispatch her rival. I was well aware of mercy killings in nursing homes, but one resident killing another seemed quite rare to me. Upon further research, I discovered not only wasn’t it all that uncommon, but the motive for such murders often had something to do with romantic jealousy.
Who knew nonagenarians still had sex? That one article planted the seeds for both a plot and a murder victim. I created Lyndella Wegner, a ninety-eight year old know-it-all with a penchant for scandalous craft projects and even more scandalous behavior. When she turns up dead, Anastasia’s mother-in-law becomes the prime suspect. Of course, Anastasia being Anastasia, she can’t leave the investigating to the police. As much as she dislikes her mother-in-law, she knows the woman isn’t a killer. So Anastasia sets out to find the real killer, hopefully before she crosses paths with any more dead bodies. Or becomes one herself.
To buy Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, go to:
Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus Reviews dubbed it, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” The series also includesDeath By Killer Mop DollandCrewel Intentions, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mystery.Revenge of the Crafty Corpse is a January 2013 release.
Lois is also published in women’s fiction, romance, romantic suspense, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. In addition, she’s an award-winning crafts and needlework designer and an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. She’s also the author of the recently released Top Ten Reasons Your Novel is Rejected. Visit Lois at http://www.loiswinston.com, visit Emma at http://www.emmacarlyle.com, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers character blog, www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com.