Monday, January 14, 2013

Guest Blog: Lois Winston

Today, I'm fortunate enough to be hosting the fantastic writer behind the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery  series and fellow MInker, Lois Winston.  Lois is going to give us a very insightful look at where plot and characters come from. Take is away, Lois!

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, visit Emma at, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers character blog,


  1. This looks like a great read!! Enjoyed the interview.

  2. Thanks, Barb! I hope you'll enjoy it if you give it a try. Glad you enjoyed the blog post.

  3. Such a cute idea, Lois. Your crafty books remind me of Miss Marple. :)


  4. Can't wait to pick this one up!
    Thank you for sharing!

  5. I read somewhere that the most important question a writer can ask is "what if?" Great to see it reinforced here. That one question lets the mind wander into all sorts of places.

  6. Wonderful interview to read. Thanks so much for sharing your point of view and knowledge :)

  7. Thanks so much, Rose. My amateur sleuth is a bit more a Jersey girl than an English villager, though. ;-)

    Thanks, Matsa! Hope you enjoy it.

    "What if" is a writer's best friend, Susan.

    Thanks for stopping by, Confab. Glad you enjoyed it.

  8. Lois,
    I play the What-If game, too! Can hear your voice even in a blog post. Love your Crafty Corpse cover, too! : )
    Jenna Blue

  9. Cute post, Lois. It's always fun to find info that supports the idea of oldsters having sex. Everything I've read health wise says, do it if you want to live longer. LOL I'll be sure to check out the book. Laughter also adds to our life. :)

  10. LOVE it!!! I can't wait to pick up your books. I absolutely LOVE the idea of a Shakespeare spouting parrot! So unique and fresh. Thanks for a great post. Your advice is perfect.

  11. Great post--it's good to hear reinforcement that we don't ALWAYS have to "write what you know"! My life is so limited--I've never really traveled much and I don't have any Russians or talking parrots in my family either! From just this post, your books sound fun and refreshing. I love reading about writers. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Thanks so much, Mary. Hope you enjoy the books.

    Holly, that "write what you know" advice hampers a lot of writers. Think about it: if writers only wrote what they know, we'd never have most of the great books that have been written throughout the ages.

  13. Enjoyed reading the post, Lois. It's always good to see another writer's process.
    Some of my characters are composites or become composites as they evolve.
    Thanks for sharing,

  14. Thanks, Mitzi! Glad you enjoyed the post.

  15. Thank you to everyone for stopping by and to Lois for such an insightful post!

  16. Lois, I'm catching up on my favorite blogs, so sorry my comment is so late! Your post made me smile. I am looking forward to meeting Lyndella's Romanov mother-in-law and erudite parrot. And who knew about nursing home lechery? Thanks for taking the time to pen the post.