Tag Archive for: Anastasia Pollack Mystery Series

Interview with Stiletto Gang Member Lois Winston

 When Stiletto Gang Blog
members suggested interviewing fellow blog members, it only made sense for me
to partner with author
Lois Winston. After all, as
critique partners, we know where 

Author Lois Winston

the bodies are buried (so to speak).  I feel fortunate to have Lois as a
critique partner. She has an outstanding brain, is well read, and knows the
publishing industry. Do I take everything she suggests? Absolutely not, and vice
versa. But the fact that we brainstorm, mull over plots, word choice, grammar,
goal, motivation, and conflict is worth all the gold in Fort Knox.  (All right, maybe not ALL the gold).

With that, let’s get to know author
Lois Winston better.

 Donnell:  Lois, you recently moved to Tennessee from
New Jersey to be closer to family.  How
many months has it been and how has the New Jersey girl transitioned to living
in the South?  What is your favorite
thing so far about Tennessee? And what do you miss most about New Jersey?

 Lois: We’ve been here since
the end of June but in our new home since the middle of July. It’s been a
difficult transition for me. Up until now I had lived my entire life in either
metro New York City or metro Philadelphia—and I don’t mean Philadelphia,
Mississippi! Moving during a pandemic has made the transition even more
difficult. However, I do like the milder winters.

 What I miss most about
New Jersey is no longer being within a short train ride into Manhattan. I’m
going through massive theater and museum withdrawal, and it isn’t pretty! Just
ask my husband!

Manhattan skyline

Donnell:  The beauty of writing the Anastasia Pollack
series is that you can visit New Jersey any time you wish. How many books have
you written now surrounding Westfield and the state of New Jersey?

 Lois: Getting back to New
Jersey isn’t that easy. It requires me to either hop on a plane or drive
thirteen hours, which I can’t do in one day. Would you believe there are no
trains that go from Nashville to New York?

No trains, so a plane will have to do…

Both my Anastasia
Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, of which there are currently ten novels and
three novellas, and my two Empty Nest Mysteries are set in Westfield. In
addition, Westfield is part of the setting for Moms in Black, the first
Mom Squad Caper; my contemporary romance, Finding Hope; and my middle
school novel, The Magic Paintbrush. My other books have been set in two
other New Jersey towns, New York, and Philadelphia.

Donnell:  Reviewers have compared your protagonist
Anastasia Pollack to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum. Did you have that in
mind when you started writing the series? Do you feel your protagonist after 10
books and 3 novellas has formed an identity of her own? How many more books do
you plan for this series?

 Lois: I didn’t consciously
have the Stephanie Plum books in mind when I wrote the first Anastasia book,
but I’ve always enjoyed Evanovich’s humor. Kirkus Reviews called Anastasia
“North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum,” and I think that’s true.
Stephanie doesn’t have to worry about anyone but herself. Anastasia is a more
realistic character. She’s juggling widowhood while raising two teenagers and
dealing with the debt her husband left her. She’s also permanently stuck with
her communist mother-in-law. Stephanie works in a profession that has her
dealing with criminals daily. Anastasia is the crafts editor at a women’s
magazine. Murder and mayhem aren’t part of her job description, yet circumstances
beyond her control force her into becoming a reluctant amateur sleuth.

As for how many more
books I’ll write in the series, I’ll keep writing about Anastasia as long as
she’ll let me.

Donnell: As a graphic artist and
former craft editor, you and your protagonist are closely related. At the back
of your books, you always have craft projects and ideas for readers. Do you
find that an advantage of writing this series? Do you have an avid “craft”

Lois: When I was asked to
write the series, it was understood that craft projects would be included, just
as recipes are included in culinary mysteries. The difference, though, is that
I’m limited in the type of projects I can feature. I can’t include patterns,
only written directions or tips, due to the limitations of size in a printed
book and the fact that there would be no way for someone reading an ebook to
print or download a pattern.

 Back when I was a
full-time designer, I had a sizable following. This was before the Internet
really took off, but I still hear from crafters from time to time. In 1996 I
designed a 3-D cross stitched Nativity set that was featured in Women’s
. I still receive emails from a few crafters each year, usually
because they want to stitch another set and have lost the patterns.

Donnell:  At one time, you wrote romantic suspense, do
you think you’ll ever write another romantic suspense?

Lois: I’ve learned never to
say never, but it won’t happen anytime soon. My romantic suspense novels were
quite dark. With everything going on in the world, I’d rather write humorous
cozy mysteries. We all need to laugh more these days.

Donnell:  Speaking of romance, you have one in your
Anastasia Pollack series. After being widowed from the louse of a spouse,
Anastasia has found happiness with photojournalist Zack Barnes. In a recent
book Anastasia and Zack became engaged. Have readers commented on their
engagement—are they excited about their upcoming nuptials? Any hints at whether
this will be a long engagement or a sudden elopement?

Lois: I’ve heard from many
readers who want to know when Anastasia and Zack will marry. Zack proposed in Handmade
Ho-Ho Homicide
, the eight book in the series. I didn’t want the wedding to
occur in the next book, and it didn’t work for the plot I wanted to write for
the last book. I’m currently working on the eleventh book in the series, and
I’m thinking this might be the book that will include a wedding. We’ll see…

Donnell:  One thing, I don’t think readers and writers
know about you is that you’re a former literary agent and are extremely generous
with your industry colleagues, published and unpublished alike. I have
benefitted firsthand by knowing you for so many years. If you were the Dear
Abby of Publishing, what advice would you give to published authors? Then, turn
this, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Lois: The best writing advice
I ever received was from the owner of the agency that represented me and
employed me for ten years. He said that every scene in a book and all dialogue
needs to do one of two things—either advance the plot or tell the reader
something he or she needs to know about the point of view character at that
. If it doesn’t, it’s filler and should be cut. This advice applies
to both published and unpublished writers.

As for aspiring
authors, my best advice is to remember that the road to publication is a
marathon, not a sprint. Take the time to learn your craft and grow a thick skin
to deal with the inevitable rejections you’ll receive along the way. Very few
authors have ever sold their first attempt immediately after completion—if
ever. There are thousands of first manuscripts cavorting with the dust bunnies
under beds throughout the world. Those who have been lucky enough to sell their
first book usually did so only after many revisions over several years.

Donnell: Thanks, Lois! To say
I’m grateful for your friendship is putting it mildly. Thank you for always
picking up the phone.

Lois: Ditto, Donnell!

Want to learn more about prolific author Lois Winston? Check out her website at: