Interview: Lois Winston

Please welcome Lois Winston, author of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, the Empty Nest Mystery series, and other works.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
A perfect day would be any day that fills me with happiness, no matter what I’m doing or with whom.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
A Stitch to Die For-200x300I wear a lot of black because it’s great for hiding the muffin top. I pair just about everything with my red patent leather Coach bag because it’s large enough to hold everything from my iPad to a bottle of water. I don’t wear perfume, but I do use vanilla or peppermint scented body lotion.

As for food, just about anything with chocolate, although I draw the line at those new chocolate drizzled French Fries McDonald’s introduced. Even I have a limit as to what I’ll combine with chocolate!

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
My Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series has been compared to the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich. I take that as high praise since I consider Stephanie my guilty pleasure. She never fails to make me laugh, and I love books that make me laugh. There’s too much in this world working against laughter. I want escape from the world when I read, not books that increase my fears and anxiety.

My Empty Nest Mystery series is also humorous. For that one I was inspired by the classic Nick and Nora Charles Thin Man movies as well as the comedies of George Burns and Gracie Allen.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Not when I’m writing; I find it too distracting. However, I do listen to music while I’m on my plotting walks.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Probably a bark made from a combination of milk and dark chocolate with sour cherries and pistachios because my characters are both sweet and sassy with a lot of spunk, a bit unconventional, and somewhat nutty.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I like to incorporate actual events and things I’ve read about in my books. In A Stitch to Die For, the fifth full-length book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, I incorporated information I’d gleaned from a couple of trials where the same defense had been used to try to prove the innocence of the accused women.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I’m a Jersey girl with a grandfather responsible for the capture of many big-time gangsters from the twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties. I grew up hearing lots of Mafia stories, went to school with Mafia sons and daughters, and even had a great-uncle who was a bootlegger in Atlantic City during the reign of Nucky Johnson (the basis for Nucky Thompson from Boardwalk Empire.) So organized crime has always been a thread that runs through many of my mysteries.

Tell us about your main character.
Anastasia Pollack’s comfortable middle-class life comes crashing down around her when her husband, Karl Marx Pollack, drops dead in Las Vegas. That’s when she discovers his secret life and well-hidden gambling addiction. Karl leaves her with two teenage sons, no savings, and enormous debt—not to mention Lucille, the semi-invalid communist mother-in-law from Hell, and a loan shark demanding $50,000. Adding to the chaos, Anastasia’s much-married mother has a habit of dropping in unannounced for extended visits whenever she’s between husbands.

In each book Anastasia attempts to dig her way out of debt by moonlighting at various craft-related jobs while juggling her full-time position as crafts editor at a women’s magazine. Unfortunately, she keeps stumbling over dead bodies, forcing her to become a reluctant amateur sleuth. The one bright light in her life becomes photojournalist (and possible government spy) Zack Barnes, who rents the apartment above her garage.

Each book also features craft projects that relate in some way to the plot.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Kirkus Reviews dubbed Anastasia, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum,” which totally thrilled me. I like to think of Anastasia as one part Stephanie Plum, one part Tina Fey, and one part Alicia Florrick.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
If I could host a mystery-author dinner party, I’d invite Agatha Christie, Janet Evanovich, Kathy Reichs, Patricia Highsmith, Parnell Hall, and Chris Grabbenstein. Can you imagine the conversation at the table with such an eclectic group of authors? Not to mention the laughs induced by Parnell and Chris!

What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on the second book in my Empty Nest Mystery series, which will be available this summer. In May, Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries will be released. This ebook boxed set will feature the first books in ten established multi-book series by the contributing authors.


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. 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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17 thoughts on “Interview: Lois Winston”

  1. Your answer to the perfect day is – perfect! Chocolate-covered french fries? I’m suspicious and on the other hand kind of want to try just so I can say I did. Growing up so close to the mobster life must be have been fascinating, at least in retrospect. I bet you have some great stories.


  2. I, too, perked up at the idea of chocolate french fries because as far as I’m concerned, the only way to eat fries is to dip them in a chocolate shake.
    Your books are on my list, Lois! Can’t wait to read them.


  3. Welcome, Lois! I love the sound of your books. There are a lot of women who could relate to Anastasia. Re chocoolate: my only concern is that McDonalds would use inferior chocolate.


  4. Can we invite Lois back and interview her about the mafia history? I’m fascinated by this. My grandma claims her aunt had a connection to Murder inc but I’ve never been able to confirm this.


  5. Ooh, your dinner party sounds fantastic (and that is an amazing chocolate answer too)! < Looks like I may be hungry. 🙂

    Both of your series have fascinating elements–congratulations on your success and thanks so much for visiting us!


  6. Welcome, Lois, and wonderful interview! I so appreciate reading books that make me laugh and both of your series sound like they’ll do just that 🙂 Love how your family history influences your writing themes–very cool!


  7. Thank you, everyone! I popped over early this morning before there were any comments. I’m not sure where the morning has gone!

    As for those chocolate-covered French fries, those of you who want to try them will have to fly to Japan. However, if they’re successful there, I’m sure they’ll be here eventually. I doubt they’ll use good chocolate, though. After all, it is McDonald’s. I have had chocolate-covered potato chips, though, and really liked them. So maybe if Godiva or Ghirardelli’s ever decided to cover fries in chocolate, I might be tempted to give them a try.

    TracyGee, you’d be amazed at how little I paid for that red Coach patent leather bag. Nothing beats the Coach outlet when they’re having a sale!

    And I forgot to mention one other quasi-Mafia connection. My son worked CGI post-production on Boardwalk Empire. He’s even got the jacket to prove it!


  8. Lois! I smiled the minute I saw your name. So good to see you here! I’m with Tracy Gee on that coach bag… and I can totally relate to plotting walks. The problem is that often I get to the corner and have it figured out. Then what? Keep walking or get back to the words?

    Continued to success to you!


  9. Thanks, Peg! I keep walking. Got to get those 10K steps in a day! However, I always have my iPhone with me. It’s got a recorder app. So I can walk and talk. When I get home, I start transcribing.


  10. I would also love to hear more about the mafia history! Atlantic City was a fun vacation destination for my family back in the day. Can’t wait to check out your books!


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