A new crafting mystery and author interview: Scrapbook of Murder by Lois Winston
Crafts and murder don’t normally go hand-in-hand, but “normal” deserted craft editor Anastasia Pollack’s world nearly a year ago. Now, tripping over dead bodies seems to be the “new normal” for this reluctant amateur sleuth.
When the daughter of a murdered neighbor asks Anastasia to create a family scrapbook from old photographs and memorabilia discovered in a battered suitcase, she agrees—not only out of friendship but also from a sense of guilt over the older woman’s death. However, as Anastasia begins sorting through the contents of the suitcase, she discovers a letter revealing a fifty-year-old secret, one that unearths a long-buried scandal and unleashes a killer. Suddenly Anastasia is back in sleuthing mode as she races to prevent a suitcase full of trouble from leading to more deaths.
Interview with Lois Winston
Lois, welcome back to Island Confidential! Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Anastasia?
Anastasia Pollack, a widowed suburban mom with two teenage sons, is the crafts editor of a woman’s magazine. She lived a blissfully normal life until the day her husband dropped dead at a roulette table in Las Vegas. That’s when she learned the truth about her husband, forever now referred to as Dead Louse of a Spouse. Not only has his secret gambling addiction resulted in Anastasia coping with massive debt, she’s also permanently stuck with her semi-invalid communist mother-in-law. As Anastasia struggles to keep from drowning in bills, she also has to referee the daily battles between her mother-in-law and her mother, a woman who claims to descend from Russian nobility. Then there’s her mother-in-law’s dog, her mother’s cat, and a Shakespeare-quoting parrot. You’d think that would be enough stress for any woman, but then the dead bodies start piling up.
How would you feel about Anastasia if you met her in real life? Do you think you have much in common with her?
If I were to meet Anastasia in real life, I think we’d become very good friends. We both have art backgrounds. I’ve worked for years as a crafts designer and editor for manufacturers, publishers, and magazines. We also both have two sons, although mine are well passed their teen years at this point. We’re both Jersey girls with the same sense of humor that comes from being a Jersey girl. And I did have a communist mother-in-law who was the model for Anastasia’s mother-in-law. That’s where the similarities end. My husband, thankfully, is still very much alive, and his gambling is limited to buying an occasional lottery ticket when the jackpot reaches astronomical heights. Unfortunately, so far we haven’t won more than $2.00.
Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?
When Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, opens, Anastasia has just buried her husband. As a way to save money, she’s decided to rent out the apartment over her garage that she’d used as her studio. Zack Barnes, her new tenant, is a photojournalist looking for a quiet place to live and work. As the series progresses, so does their relationship, moving well beyond landlord and tenant.
Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?
Not only have I thought of it, I’ve done it. More often, though, I make these people the villains in my stories rather than the victims. It’s far more satisfying. However, I never use their real names, and I make enough changes to the character that no one but me would be able to figure out whom they represent. As long as I know, that’s all that matters. Getting even with bullies in print is quite satisfying, and I don’t have to worry about getting caught and winding up in prison.
I like your style! So how realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?
I base The Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries in an actual New Jersey town, and all scenes in my books take place in real places in New Jersey and New York City.
When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?
Tina Fey would be perfect for Anastasia. Publishers Weekly even compared Anastasia quite favorably to Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon character from 30 Rock in their starred review of the first book in the series. I’d want either Hugh Jackman or Patrick Dempsey to play Zack.
What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received as an author?
The best advice I ever heard is that every scene and all dialogue need to do one of two things—either advance the story or tell the reader something she needs to know at that moment about the character. If the scene or dialogue do neither, they’re filler and don’t belong in the book.
The worst advice I ever heard was that all five senses have to be included in every scene. That’s ridiculous. You should only include in any scene what’s important to the scene. Padding scenes kills pacing.
About The Author
USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston 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. 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 www.loiswinston.com