Tag Archive for: interview

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: 


Interview with Kathryn Lane

 by Bethany Maines

Today I’m interviewing fellow Stiletto Gang member Kathryn Lane. Kathryn enjoyed a two-decade career in international finance with Johnson & Johnson before taking an early retirement from corporate life to follow her passion to write fiction. So today we’re finding out more about her writing and what inspires her.  From growing up in Mexico to traveling the globe, and splitting time between Texas and New Mexico Kathryn’s journey into writing has been unique.  

Q: What do you write?

I’m enamored with the mystery genre.
During my corporate career, I traveled all over the world. Before a long flight
to Japan, I purchased a Harlan Coben paperback at the JFK airport in New York. The
twists and turns in the story slapped me around like a go-kart on uneven
terrain. I was instantly smitten. Now that I’m a novelist, I write mystery and suspense.

Q: What got you excited and started
you on your writing journey?

During my two decades in the corporate world, I always
thought someday I’d return to painting, the object of my natural abilities. Growing
up in Mexico, a country with an abundance of talented singers, I always felt left
out since I could not even carry a tune.

Yet I could draw. And I could paint. By age ten, I sketched
portraits and painted landscapes. Naturally, I thought I’d grow up to be an
artist. Life, or perhaps destiny, had other plans. I had to earn a living, so I
became a CPA and specialized in international finance. Hence my corporate

Before leaving the corporate world,
I analyzed what I really wanted to do. After all the countries I’d visited, it
quickly became obvious I should write rather than paint. It’s exciting to pen
stories set in other lands.

Q: Are you a Plotter or Pantser?

Since I’d written strategic plans, I
thought I’d complete an outline for each story my brain conjured up. After all,
wasn’t it like analyzing the steps in a product launch?

It didn’t work that way – my right
brain took over. As much as I’ve tried to plot, my stories grow organically
every day while I pound away at the keyboard. Even after deliberate attempts to
speed up my writing, I struggle to plot anything. It’s normal for me not to
know from one paragraph to the next what I’ll compose. Stories unfold magically
in my mind like a movie reel.

Q: Who encouraged you to write?

I’m so fortunate, friends, family, and
my husband are all incredibly supportive. I could not do it without the help of
my husband who manages the back office details and takes on household tasks, except
for cooking, to give me time to write.

Q: What secret skill do you have
that our readers might not know about?

I can kill snakes. I’ve lived in
places with deadly snakes, like the Inland Taipan of the Northern Territory of
Australia, considered the most dangerous in the world. (
One 100mg dose of Inland Taipan venom is enough to kill 100 adult humans). I’ve encountered corals and rattlesnakes of the Chihuahua
desert and mountainous terrain, and now the copperheads and cottonmouths of Texas.
Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t like killing snakes, but when it comes to
either them or me, it’s an easy choice.

At our summer cabin in northern New
Mexico, we don’t have snakes. Only bear and mountain lions and I leave them

Q: And of course, I would be remiss
if I didn’t ask… what are your favorite shoes?

Knee-high leather boots with
stiletto heels!

Connect with Kathryn!


Snatch up one of the globe-trotting Nikki Garcia Mysteries:



Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae MysteriesSan Juan Islands MysteriesShark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Interview with Debra Sennefelder

 by Bethany Maines

Bethany Maines

Debra Sennefelder

Part of being a collective blog group is that we have many fantastic members that I’ve never met in person and aside from the sparkling repartee on group email threads (trust me we’re brilliant), we often don’t get a chance to interact with each other.  So this month, I’m taking the opportunity to get to know one of my Stiletto Gang members – Debra Sennefelder. Debra has nicely agreed to sit down and answer a few questions to let us into her writing bubble. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.

Q: What do you write?

I write cozy mysteries. I have two series, The Food Blogger
Mystery series and the Resale Boutique Mystery series both published by
Kensington Publishers.

Q: Plotter or Pantser?

I’m a plotter. I like to have a detailed outline completed
when I sit down to write the first draft. My working outline (it’s not as
pretty as the one I send to my editor) can include snippets of dialogue, a
little description, links for research. While it may be long (sometimes thirty
plus pages), it’s not carved in stone, so changes can happen while I’m writing
the manuscript. Sometimes I find that a scene falls flat and doesn’t move the
story forward, sometimes inspiration sparks and I add or rework scenes,
sometimes I add a new character.

Q: What is your go-to relaxation

My go-to relaxation read is a fashion magazine. Always has

Q: Favorite authors or your most
favorite recent read?

I have way too many favorite authors to list. So, let me tell
you what I just finished reading. It was Three Single Wives by Gina LaManna.

Q: And of course, I would be remiss
if I didn’t ask… what are your favorite shoes?

I bought a pair of Sam Edelman black leather pumps a couple
of years ago and I love them. They’re a classic that pairs perfectly with jeans
or a dress.

Connect with Debra!

Connect with Bethany!


The Deveraux Legacy Series will be on sale Sept. 10 – 17.  Grab Books 1 & 2 and preorder Book 3, The Hardest Hit, for .99 cents! The Hardest Hit will return to full price 24 hours after release day. 
The Deveraux Legacy Series: The Deveraux Family is wealthy, powerful and in a lot of trouble.  Senator Eleanor Deveraux lost her children in a plane crash, but she has a second chance to get her family right with her four grandchildren – Evan, Jackson, Aiden and Dominique. But second chances are hard to seize when politics, mercenaries, and the dark legacy of the Deveraux family keep getting in the way.


Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous
short stories. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some
serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her
daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel.
You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Introducing Lois Winston!

by Bethany Maines

Bethany Maines


Lois Winston

As many of you know, I’m a mom with a full time job as well as an author. And while all of that is challenging enough, the pandemic has brought many fresh and special new problems. To free up some of my time I’m relinquishing one of my Stiletto Gang posting days to the fantastic Lois Winston. Lois is a USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author who writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Lois will be posting on the second Wednesday of the month and I thought I’d sit down and find out a little more about her as she comes on board.

Q: What do you write?
I started out writing romance and romantic suspense and was first published in chick lit with Talk Gertie to Me in 2006. However, back in 2003, while waiting for that first sale, my agent suggested I try writing a crafting mystery. She knew an editor looking for one. With my background as a crafts designer, my agent thought I’d be the perfect person to write such a series, even though I’d never written a mystery. I gave it a try, and in the process discovered my true literary calling. My Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series sold in 2009. Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, came out in 2011. I’ve since published nine books and three novellas in the series, plus two books in my Empty Nest Mystery Series.

Q: What got you excited and
started you on your writing journey?

I’m not someone who always knew she wanted to be an author. In the mid-90’s I was going through an extremely stressful period, taking on as much freelance design work as I could because my husband was out of work for an extended period of time. One night I fell into an exhaustive sleep and had a very strange dream—strange for me because I usually don’t remember my dreams. Also, the people in the dream were all strangers. Weirdly, the dream kept unfolding night after night like chapters in a book. Finally, I decided to write it down. When I finished, I had a 50,000 word romance that spanned thirty-five years!

The writing bug had bitten me. Long story short, I joined some writing organizations, learned what I was doing wrong, honed my craft, and signed with an agent. After many years of rewrites, that totally unpublishable romance transformed into a 90,000 word romantic suspense and became Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, the second book I sold.

Q: Do you solve the
mysteries in novels & movies or do you sit back and enjoy the ride?

I should have had an inkling that I’d eventually wind up writing mysteries because I have an uncanny knack for figuring out whodunit early into most books, movies, or TV episodes. I love when I’m wrong and fall for a red herring, but it doesn’t happen often. My grandfather was the captain of a large county police force and responsible for the apprehension of many gangsters and other bad actors back in the day. I figure I inherited a large dose of his detecting DNA.

Q: And of course, I would
be remiss if I didn’t ask… what are your favorite shoes?

At this point, any that are comfortable! I’m afraid my sexy heels days are over, thanks to foot surgery a few years ago after an injury and arthritis that developed in that foot as a result. So now my shoe closet contains mostly Sketchers with cushioning inner soles.

The 4 Question Interview

Today Bethany Maines uses her blog space to interview first time novelist J.M. Phillippe about her debut novel Perfect Likeness.

Bethany Maines, a native of Tacoma WA, is the author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, and Tales From the City of Destiny. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her fourth degree black belt in karate, she can be found chasing after her daughter, or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video
or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

J.M. Phillippe has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City.  She worked as a freelance journalist before earning a masters’ in social work.  She works as a family therapist in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free-time decorating her tiny apartment to her cat Oscar Wilde’s liking, drinking cider at her favorite British-style pub, and training to be the next Karate Kid, one wax-on at a time.  You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Q1: J.M. Phillippe tells us a little about your book!

A1: My book is about a woman who is not super happy with her everyday life, so she creates a fantasy version of herself and goes off on adventures in her head. But then one day, the fantasy version of herself becomes real — and begins to haunt her. I really wanted to tap into the feeling a lot of people have of not feeling like who they are and the life they live is “good enough.” What would happen if that little voice in your head stepped out of your head and started talking to you as an actual being?

Q2: As a mystery / adventure writer I was intrigued because I felt that the core of Perfect Likeness was Ally’s unraveling the mystery of what was wrong with her, but the book isn’t a traditional mystery. Have you ever written mysteries or were you inspired by mystery novels?
A2: I love mystery novels and have been reading them since I was a kid. My aunt gave me a complete set of Agatha Christie books and that’s what really started it for me. I particularly like mysteries with strong characters and dark themes, like the Dashiell Hammet books or Elmore Leonard books. But I also love a good sense of humor with my mystery like the Janet Evanovich books. I think ultimately every book has a question it poses, and tries to answer, and there is an element of mystery in more books than people realize. Even the Harry Potter series — every book has a different mystery to solve, but it’s not seen as a “mystery series.” But you also can’t beat a classic “whodunit”.

Q3: What is your number one tip for writing?
A3:The number one tip I can give other writers is to not listen to any voice in — or outside — your head telling you that you’re not good enough, or what you are writing is not good enough. Embrace the drafting process and get something completed before you judge it — and then revise, revise, revise.

Q4: What are book are you working on next?
A4: I am actually working on a sort of zombie story, which is very different than Perfect Likeness, although I’m interested in exploring many of the same themes. It’s called “Infected” and is about a woman who is attacked — and doesn’t get away. I’m really enjoying writing the action scenes.