Meet Author Lois Winston

Pens, Paws, and Claws welcomes author, Lois Winston (and Manifesto, Catherine the Great, and Ralph)!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I began my writing career in the romance genre. After I’d sold two books, a women’s fiction and a romantic suspense, my agent mentioned an editor she knew was looking for a crafting mystery series. With my background as a designer and editor in the craft industry, she thought I’d be the perfect author to write such a series, even though I’d never written any mysteries. I decided to give it a try, and the result was the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, a humorous amateur sleuth series with a protagonist who’s the craft editor at a women’s magazine.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

In my twenties my husband and I adopted two orphaned cats. Their mother had wandered onto our friends’ property and given birth to a large litter. Before the kittens were fully weaned, mama cat came out on the losing end of an encounter with a speeding car. We named the kittens Bulldog and Frog (don’t ask; it’s a long story!) Unfortunately, I began developing some severe respiratory problems about two years later, and on my doctor’s orders eventually had to find new homes for the cats. The only pets I’ve had since are the ones that spring from my imagination and wind up in my books.

The pets that populate my books are all figments of my imagination. They’re not based on any real pets that I’ve owned or have known. However, Ralph the Shakespeare-quoting parrot in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, was influenced by a news story I saw about a parrot with a huge vocabulary.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

Anastasia is a young widow with two teenage sons. After her husband’s death, she found herself with her communist mother-in-law as an unwelcome permanent houseguest. Her mother-in-law arrived with her French bulldog Manifesto (named for the communist treatise.) Anastasia’s much-married mother also camps out at Casa Pollack when she’s between husbands. She’s the former social secretary of the Daughters of the American Revolution and claims to descend from Russian nobility. Catherine the Great, her white Persian, accompanies her on her extended visits. She and Anastasia’s mother-in-law are forced to share a bedroom. They get along as well as their pets get along—which is to say, they fight like cats and dogs. Rounding out the menagerie is Ralph, the African Grey parrot Anastasia inherited from her great-aunt, a Shakespearean scholar. Ralph is one very talented bird. After spending decades in his mistress’s classroom, he has an uncanny knack for squawking situation-appropriate quotes from the Bard. The three pets show up in each book.

What are you reading now?

I have very eclectic taste in fiction, alternating between genre fiction and literary fiction. Right now I’m reading March by Geraldine Brooks. It’s the story of the father in Little Women during the time he goes off to serve in the Civil War.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Since Scrapbook of Murder, the sixth book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, was recently published, I’ve been spending most of my time writing guest blogs and answering interview questions to promote the book. I also write another mystery series, The Empty Nest Mysteries, which currently has two books. So I might write one of those next before I write another story about Anastasia. My muse always has the final say.

Who is your favorite author and why?

There’s no way I could narrow this down to one author, but when I need a good laugh, my go-to author is Janet Evanovich and her Stephanie Plum series.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.

Because we lived in apartments in the city until I was in junior high, pets were limited to fish and turtles. (This was back when you could buy small turtles as pets.) My first pets were two goldfish named Selma and Seymour Goldfish. When I was fourteen and living in a home in the suburbs, we adopted a mostly beagle mutt from the pound and named him Snoopy (not a very original name but Happiness is a Warm Puppy was at the top of the bestseller lists at the time.)

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?

Manifesto, Catherine the Great, and Ralph are much more than window-dressing in my series. All three pets play a continuing role, often stealing scenes. Manifesto (dubbed Mephisto the Devil Dog by Anastasia) is even instrumental in saving her life in one of the books. This becomes a turning point in their relationship as well as between the dog and his owner.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Because I write a humorous series, I set out to create characters that would make my readers laugh at their antics. I didn’t limit this to the humans in the stories. Sometimes the animals’ antics are funnier than the humans’ antics.

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?

Do dragons count? Because I really, really love Pete’s Dragon (the original version.) The bond between Pete and Elliot and how protective they are of each other brings me to tears every time I watch it.

If dragons don’t count, I’ll go with any of the Thin Man movies. Asta is a great movie dog. I particularly like the scene in After the Thin Man where Asta returns to California from vacationing in New York with Nick and Nora to find Mrs. Asta has been canoodling with a neighbor dog. Skippy, the canine actor that played Asta, should have received an Oscar for that performance!

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?

Writing wasn’t something I always dreamed of doing. I began my first novel twenty-two years ago when a story popped into my head and took up residence. Finally, I decided to write it down. The next thing I knew, I’d written a romantic suspense novel. That book eventually because Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, the second book I sold. More importantly, by the time I had finished the manuscript, I realized I’d been bitten by the writing bug and had to keep writing.

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why?

Going to see Hamilton on Broadway. I’m obsessed with the music and think Lin-Manuel Miranda is an absolute genius. Unfortunately, this will probably only happen if I win the lottery. (Have you seen the price of those tickets???)

Scrapbook of Murder

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 6

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.

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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.

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