Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lois Winston - Guest Author

We had scheduled this post for yesterday -- except Lois's internet was toast. So being flexible, we postponed until today. ~ Jim

Lois Winston describes herself as a vertically challenged, right-brained coffee addict. Despite that she writes humorous mysteries and romances that are award-winning bestsellers. Without further ado, here's.......Lois.

You have a table for four at your favorite restaurant and can invite any three people, living, dead or fictional. Who are your guests (and why) and where are you eating (and why)?

It’s not my favorite restaurant because I’ve never eaten there, but I always wanted to dine at The Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center. I could have. My husband surprised me with dinner reservations when I turned {{{cough-cough}}} (You didn’t really think I’d tell you which birthday, do you?) However, when I realized how much the prix-fixe dinner (the only type offered) would cost, I made him cancel the reservation. Yes, I’m too damned practical for my own good.

But since cost isn’t a factor in this instance, my guests and I are dining at The Rainbow Room. The three people I’d invite are Andrea Bocelli, Alan Alda, and Superman. I’m inviting Andrea because I love his voice. He’d have to sing for his supper, though. Alan is invited to provide conversation that is both entertaining and stimulating. I love both his sense of humor and his intelligence. And Superman? He’s going to provide the after-dinner entertainment by taking my on a flight over Manhattan and beyond. Ever since I was a little kid and first saw Peter Pan, I’ve always wanted to be able to fly.

Describe your most productive writing venue. What makes it best for you?

I need silence to write. I never write on the weekends because just knowing my husband is somewhere in the house keeps me from getting into my writing zone. I don’t know how people who write in coffee shops do it. All that chatter going on around me would drive me crazy. As long as I’m in a place free of distractions and noise, I can write. Usually that’s my office, but it doesn’t have to be. Any totally silent place will do. Have laptop, will travel!

What is your most productive time of the day (and do you need caffeine)?

Oh boy do I need caffeine! As a matter of fact, hold that thought a moment. I’ll be right back. Just typing this has made me crave a cup. Ever see those beer can hats with the straws? I need one of those filled with a constant supply of hot java!

I don’t know that I have a most productive time of day. I usually spend my mornings running errands and begin writing after lunch, but that’s only because the supermarket is less crowded first thing in the morning, and it’s easier to get a parking space downtown when I need to go to the bank, post office, cleaners, etc.

Name three not well-known authors you would recommend and tell us what you like about their writing.

A few years ago I fell in love with Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of the Art of Death mystery series. The four books take place in the time of Henry II. Adelia, the protagonist, is a medieval Temperance Brennan, not as far-fetched as it sounds, given that she grew up in Salerno during the short period of time when that city was a progressive beacon of light in a Dark Ages world. The author also wrote City of Shadows, which takes place in Berlin between the wars and is a fictional account of a woman who claimed to be the Russian princess Anastasia Romanov. I loved this book as well. The author had a way of both weaving a captivating story and making history come alive. I say “had” because she died a few years ago before finishing the fifth book in her mystery series. She also penned a series of three historical novels that take place during the American and French Revolutions under her real name, Diana Norman. 

Howard Odentz is a fairly new author who writes YA horror, not a genre I generally read, but the author has a fabulous sense of humor, and I love books that make me laugh. His humorous zombie apocalypse novel, Dead (a Lot), had me laughing out loud. 

Judith Viorst is an author of both children’s books and non-fiction. Her children’s books are brilliant. You may have heard of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day from the recent movie of the same name. Skip the movie (which looked positively dreadful in the previews and had nothing to do with the book other than the title.) Do read the book. Viorst has a way of capturing the trials and tribulations of childhood that are spot on. Her non-fiction books include a series of anthologies of essays, one for each decade of her adult life, beginning with When Did I Stop Being Twenty. Her latest is Unexpectedly Eighty. Every time I’ve entered a new decade of my life, one of the first things I do is buy the book that corresponds to that decade. I laugh so hard it almost makes me forget how old I’m getting.

What themes do you regularly employ in your writing?

Mostly humor, humor, and more humor. Plus, a scattering of dead bodies.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

My most recent mystery is Definitely Dead, the first book in my new Empty Nest Mystery series. I came up with the idea after reading a biography of George Burns. His wife, Gracie Allen, always played a very ditzy character who saw the world in quite a unique way. However, Gracie Allen in real life was brilliant and a very astute businesswoman. Around the same time I was watching a Thin Man movie marathon on AMC. I began to play around with the idea of combining the characters of Nick and Nora Charles with Gracie Allen. In my modern-day homage to the Thin Man series, the wife is the sleuth with a Gracie Allen sensibility, and her husband tags along to try to keep her out of trouble. He doesn’t always succeed.

What motivates your protagonist (if not a series, then use the protagonist of your most recent novel)? What influenced who they are today?

In my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries (currently four full-length novels and three novellas) the motivating factor is money. Anastasia was a typical middle-class, working mother of two teenagers when her husband dropped dead in Las Vegas. That’s when she learned of his secret gambling addiction and that he’s lost all their savings, leaving her with a mountain of debt and a loan shark breathing down her neck. In each book in the series Anastasia is looking for ways to whittle down that debt and keep her family from having to move from a 1950’s era rancher in the suburbs to a cardboard box on the street. Unfortunately, she keeps tripping over dead bodies, forcing her to become a reluctant amateur sleuth.

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received and why was it so valuable?

Every scene needs to serve a purpose, and the only two purposes for a scene are to advance the plot or tell the reader something she needs to know about the point of view character AT THAT MOMENT. Anything else is filler and doesn’t belong in your book. This is the most valuable writing lesson I’ve ever learned because the biggest mistake most writers make when starting out is dumping all sorts of unnecessary back-story, description, chitchat dialogue, and other filler into their books. Knowing what not to write is often more important than knowing what to write.
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Definitely Dead
Book One in the Empty Nest Mystery series

When her career is outsourced to Asia, fledgling romance author and empty-nester Gracie Elliott wants a job that will allow her time to write. So she opens Relatively Speaking, becoming a wing woman to the senior set. Since her clients need several hours each morning to find their teeth, lube their creaky joints, and deal with lower GI necessities, and they always turn in after the early bird specials, she has plenty of time to pen her future bestsellers. 

Gracie deliberately avoids mentioning her new business venture to husband Blake until after she signs her first client. Blake joins the company as a not-so-silent partner, tagging along to make sure Gracie doesn’t cause a septuagenarian uprising. When Client #13 is found murdered in the parking lot behind the Moose Lodge, Gracie knows, no matter how much Blake protests otherwise, she can’t wait around for the police to find the killer if she wants to save her livelihood.
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For more information about Lois and her books visit her website at http://www.loiswinston.com and her Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog at http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. She can also be found on Tsu at http://www.tsu.co/loiswinston, on Pinterest at pinterest.com/Anasleuth/, and on Twitter @anasleuth. 




22 comments:

  1. Lois -- I loved your choice of dinner companions and that you would put them to work. You mentioned three more authors I do not know!

    Lois and the Internet are having issues and so she may not be able to respond to comments until late in the day. It's not that she doesn't want to, but tin cans and string aren't a good substitute for an internet connection.

    ~ Jim

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    1. Thanks for inviting me to guest on your blog today, Jim. I'm thinking tin cans and string might be more reliable than Verizon FIOS. And what's the point of surge protectors if they don't protect your stuff from surges caused by power outages? I'm currently writing this at my local Barnes & Noble, thanks to their free wifi. Fingers crossed that Verizon shows up later to replace my equipment.

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  2. What great dinner companions! I could listen to Andrea all night.

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  3. What great dinner companions! I could listen to Andrea all night.

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  4. Super interview. Lois, your sense of humor shines through every sentence!

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  5. Thanks for stopping by Lynn and Judy. Glad you enjoyed the post. Now I'd better head home to wait for the repair guy.

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  6. Great interview and I'm down with you and your need for coffee! The luxury of quiet in which to write is a gift to be treasured...how one can write in the noise of a store is beyond me as well! Best of luck with your latest endeavor!

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    1. Thanks, Vamp Writer! And I'm thrilled to say I'm back in the 21st century. Internet has been restored. Yay!

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  7. I'm so with you, Lois, on that total quiet. I might listen to music to help set a mood before I write, but when I write, I want dead quiet.

    I haven't read a Judith Viorst in ages. Must go find her again! Funny woman.

    Great post!

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    1. E., do get back to reading Judith Viorst. She has an uncanny knack for letting us know we're not alone in life.

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  8. Cute cover, Lois! About optimum writing atmosphere, I like having the radio play in the background, while the hubbie is away at work two days a week. The other days, we tend to schedule stuff, like shopping, which breaks up my concentration time.

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    1. Morgan, I think what I hate most is when the words are coming fast furiously, but I'm forced to stop typing because life interrupts.

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  9. Nice interview, Lois. I also need quiet to write - and coffee. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day was published as the youngest of my four children reached the age to enjoy it. I've read it to my grandchildren and even to my third graders who still found it enjoyable and I often had them write about their own or a fictitous story based on it. I love Andrea's voice also.

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  10. Thanks, Gloria! My kids grew up with Viorst's kids books. We loved all of them, but Alexander is by far our favorite because it resonates so with both the kids and us parents.

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  11. Funny interview! When you took a break to get your coffee, did you see me running after you? You made me want a cup...but I am currently 34 days caffeine free! (sigh) Oh, and I loved hearing about how you came up with your idea for your new series.

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    1. 34 days without caffeine? Kelly, I go into withdrawal if I have to give coffee up for a day! I think I'd have a headache for 34 days!

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  12. I enjoyed the interview, Lois and Jim. I can sympathize with your technical problems, Lois. My lovely printer quit on me this afternoon PLUS I wasn't allowed to drink coffee today! I love your mysteries; they're delightfully funny!

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    1. Thanks, Kathleen! I've found printers only last so long these days, and the cost to repair them is often more than buying a new one.

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  13. Alan Alda is someone I hadn't thought about! What a fun dinner companion he would be! Thanks for sharing those new to me authors!

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  14. Great interview, Lois. And, I like your choice of restaurant and dinner companions!

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  15. Thanks, Angela! Nice to see you here.

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