I’m always fascinated by how gifted fiction authors who didn’t plan to become writers discover this is something they’re meant to do. In her guest blog, Lois Winston, author of the newly released Guilty as Framed, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, shares her story and offers a valuable piece of writing advice.
Welcome to my Clueless Life
By Lois Winston
When I was twelve years old, I wanted to be an astronaut. I could think of nothing I wanted to do more than travel among the stars—until the stark reality of cause and effect smacked me upside the head. You see, I’m one of those people who gets more than a little queasy if I ride in the back seat of a car. Because G-force and I would not get along, my astronaut career died before it ever got off the ground—pun intended.
I then turned to my next love—Broadway theater—but once again, reality sucker-punched me. Broadway isn’t interested in singers who can’t sing, dancers who can’t dance, and actors who can’t act. Scratch another career path.
As I got older, I became more realistic about my options and eventually went to art school. After graduating, I carved out a successful career as a writer, editor, and designer for magazines, book publishers, and manufacturers in the consumer crafts industry.
Then, one day I got the urge to write fiction. Over the course of three weeks one Spring, I wrote a 50,000-word romance that spanned thirty-five years. Needless to say, the publishing world didn’t buy into my attempt at The Great American Novel—literally. I’d gone from Clueless Wannabe Astronaut to Clueless Wannabe Broadway Star to Clueless Wannabe Author.
This time, though, there was one huge difference: I got a clue. I realized that A) I really enjoyed writing, B) I had many more stories to tell, and C) I had a lot to learn about the craft of writing.
Over the next few years, I worked at honing my writing skills. I joined several writing organizations, enrolled in workshops, and attended writing conferences. Finally, my perseverance paid off. Nearly 10 years to the day that I first sat down to pen what turned out to be The Great American Drivel, I sold my first novel.
One lesson I learned early on was Write What You Know. This doesn’t mean an author should only write about personal experience. If you can’t write what you know, you learn about what you don’t know through research. So far, I haven’t had any astronauts, singers, dancers, or actors as protagonists in my books. Having never traveled to the stars or been one, I’d first have to immerse myself in research beyond the knowledge I had of those careers back when I was a starry-eyed kid.
What I do know is crafts, which have played a role in many of my books, beginning with the first book I sold. Talk Gertie to Me, women’s fiction about the relationship between a mother and daughter, featured a kinder, gentler Martha Stewart-type character (minus the prison stint.) My second book, Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, was a romantic suspense with a doll and needlework artist as the heroine. Even though she briefly wound up in prison, I didn’t write that from personal experience. I relied on the expertise of a police officer friend.
After the release of my second book, my agent called one day to say she’d had a conversation with an editor looking for a craft-themed mystery series. Given my background, my agent thought I’d be the perfect person to write such a series. Tapping into my own career experiences, I created an amateur sleuth who works as a crafts editor at a women’s magazine. Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in my humorous Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, debuted in 2011. Guilty as Framed, the eleventh book in the series was recently released.
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 11
When an elderly man shows up at the home of reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, she’s drawn into the unsolved mystery of the greatest art heist in history.
Boston mob boss Cormac Murphy has recently been released from prison. He doesn’t believe Anastasia’s assertion that the man he’s looking for doesn’t live at her address and attempts to muscle his way into her home. His efforts are thwarted by Anastasia’s fiancé Zack Barnes.
A week later, a stolen SUV containing a dead body appears in Anastasia’s driveway. Anastasia believes Murphy is sending her a message. It’s only the first in a series of alarming incidents, including a mugging, a break-in, another murder, and the discovery of a cache of jewelry and an etching from the largest museum burglary in history.
But will Anastasia solve the mystery behind these shocking events before she falls victim to a couple of desperate thugs who will stop at nothing to get what they want?
USA Today and Amazon 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 a former literary agent and 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. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website www.loiswinston.com where you can also sign up for her newsletter and follow her on various social media sites.