An Interview with Lois Winston

a_stitch_to_die_for_x664What genre(s) do you write in and why?

I started out writing heart-tugging, angst-filled romance and romantic suspense. When the chick lit craze hit, I decided to try my hand at writing that genre and realized very quickly that I enjoyed writing humorous first person books. Then one day an editor told my agent she was looking for a crafting mystery series. I’d worked for many years as a crafts designer for book and magazine publishers and kit manufacturers. My agent thought I should try my hand at writing a mystery series. The rest is history.

In addition, I’ve also published a children’s chapter book, edited a multi-author combination advice/cookbook, contributed to an anthology about the TV show “House,” and written a book on writing. 

Tell us about your current series.

I currently write the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. To date there are five full-length books (Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, Death by Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, Decoupage Can Be Deadly, and A Stitch to Die For) as well as three mini-mysteries (Crewel Intentions, Mosaic Mayhem, and Patchwork Peril.)

Anastasia Pollack is a wife, mother, and crafts editor for a women’s magazine. Her comfortable middle-class life comes crashing down around her when her husband, Karl Marx Pollack, dies suddenly, and she discovers his well-hidden gambling addiction. Karl leaves her with two teenage sons, no savings, enormous debt, and Lucille, the communist mother-in-law from Hell. While attempting to dig her way out of debt, Anastasia gets caught up in a murder that forces her to become a reluctant amateur sleuth.

Give us an elevator pitch for your book.

A Stitch to Die For is the newest book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series: Ever since her husband died and left her in debt equal to the gross national product of Uzbekistan, magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack has stumbled across one dead body after another—but always in work-related settings. When a killer targets the elderly nasty neighbor who lives across the street from her, murder strikes too close to home. Couple that with a series of unsettling events days before Halloween, and Anastasia begins to wonder if someone is sending her a deadly message. 

Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

I get most of my plot ideas from the news. In A Stitch to Die For I’ve incorporated several recent news stories, including the proliferation of swatting incidents that have been cropping up around the country. 

Do you have critique partners?

I’ve had a series of excellent critique partners over the years. For the last several years I’ve work with suspense author Donnell Ann Bell. 

How likely are people you meet to end up in your next book?

I have a shirt that states, “Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel.” It’s the absolute truth. Lucille, Anastasia’s belligerent communist mother-in-law, is patterned after my own mother-in-law. I consider it payback for all the years of nastiness she directed toward me while she was alive. 

Was your road to publication fraught with peril or a walk in the park?

How I wish it had been a walk in the park! It took me 10 years, nearly to the day I first sat down to write, to sell a book. I had the worst luck. Every time I was close to receiving an offer of publication, something would prevent it from happening. Editors left; lines folded; publishers merged—all putting the brakes on impending contract offers. 

Tell us about your heroine.  Give us one of her strengths and one of her weaknesses.

Working mom Anastasia Pollack was leading a typical middle-class life in the suburbs until she found herself one step away from living in a cardboard box on the street, thanks to her Dead Louse of a Spouse. As if that weren’t enough, she’s got both her communist mother-in-law and her Russian princess mother living with her—along with a menagerie that includes an inherited Shakespeare-quoting parrot.

Anastasia’s strength is her capacity to make the best of the rotten hand she’s been dealt. It helps that she has both a sense of humor and the support of photojournalist (and possible spy) Zachary Barnes, the hunky guy who’s rented the apartment above her garage.

Her weakness is any form of baked goods, especially ones that contain chocolate. 

What did you want to be when you were a child?  Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was eight years old, I decided I wanted to be an astronaut—until I discovered in ninth grade that NASA isn’t interested in vertically challenged astronauts prone to motion sickness.

Writing was something that came much later in my life, after a story one day popped into my head. Countless revisions and many years passed before that story became my second published book.

Do you have any rejection stories to share?

For nearly 10 years I’ve worked as an associate at the agency that represents me. After reading countless queries and manuscripts, I realized that most manuscripts are rejected for one or more of only a handful of reasons. I started giving writing workshops where I outlined these reasons. Many writers who took the workshop urged me to write a book on the subject. That book is Top Ten Reasons Your Novel is Rejected and is available in both paperback and as an ebook.

A Stitch to Die For-excerpt

 After nearly an hour of battling rush hour traffic, I finally arrived home, relieved to find neither Ira’s van nor Lawrence’s car parked at the curb. After last night’s chaos, I looked forward to a relatively peaceful dinner—relatively being the operative word. After all, I never knew what to expect from my mother-in-law.

However, as I turned to head into the house, an unexpected shaft of bright light caught my eye. Across the street, Betty Bentworth’s door stood half ajar, the glow from her foyer chandelier spilling out onto her front porch.

Betty—otherwise known as Batty Bentworth—spent her life seated in front of her living room window where she spied on her neighbors. She kept the Westfield police on speed dial, often calling multiple times a day to complain about anything and everything, once even demanding the arrest of her six-year-old next-door neighbor for vandalism. The child’s crime? She’d drawn a chalk hopscotch board on the sidewalk in front of Betty’s house.

Batty Bentworth was not someone who left her front door open—especially after dark.

Like everyone else in the neighborhood, I kept my distance from Mrs. Bentworth. You never knew what would set her off, and it was best not to get on her bad side. Not that she had a good side from what I knew of her.

Still, I couldn’t ignore that open door. Rather than head across the street, I decided to call her. Maybe she’d gone out earlier to retrieve her mail, and the door hadn’t latched completely when she returned. The stiff October breeze blowing down the street may have pushed the door open.

I whipped out my cell phone, scrolled to her number, and placed the call. The phone rang. And rang. And rang. After a dozen rings I hung up, sighed, and reluctantly crossed the street.

“Hello? Mrs. Bentworth?” I called through the open door. No answer. I shouted her name. “Mrs. Bentworth!” Only the sound of the six o’clock news blaring from her television greeted me.

I stepped inside and shouted above the Eyewitness News reporter. “Mrs. Bentworth! It’s Anastasia Pollack. Your front door is open.”

A sense of déjà vu washed over me. Less than two weeks earlier I’d discovered Rosalie Schneider, another elderly neighbor, unconscious at the bottom of her basement stairs. I took a few steps into the foyer and turned toward the dimly lit living room. Batty Bentworth sat on her sofa, a multi-colored crocheted granny square afghan draped across her lap, her gaze fixated on the news broadcasting from an old black and white console television set.

“Mrs. Bentworth, didn’t you hear me?”

When she didn’t respond, I stepped between her and the television. She continued to ignore me, but now I knew why. Batty Bentworth was dead—but not from natural causes.

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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 non-fiction 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 and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, Follow everyone on Tsu at, on Pinterest at, and onTwitter @anasleuth. Sign up for her newsletter at

17 thoughts on “An Interview with Lois Winston

  1. Great interview, Lois. I loved the bit about the mother-in-law. Anastasia sounds like my sort of person, so this book has gone straight on my to read list.

  2. I love the How I Got Started post, Lois. As a crafty girl too, I really appreciate your take. Many congratulations on your work.

    • Thanks, Melissa! I’ve always loved puns and word play. When I began writing, I found myself incorporated them into my books, and it seemed natural to do so for the titles as well.

  3. Hi Lois, I love funny female sleuths. It’s amazing how many people have horrible MILs and I wonder how they raise sons that women want to marry. Luckily for me I have a great MIL. But the nasty MIL makes for better copy. 🙂

    • Hi Carly! I never thought about that, but my MIL managed to raise three great kids. I guess they all took their cues from being the opposite kind of person that she was. Since you love funny female sleuths, I hope you’ll give mine a try. 😉

  4. Loved the excerpt, Lois. I look forward to reading the entire book. Best wishes for continued success.

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