An Interview with Lois Winston

Please help me welcome Lois Winston, writing as Emma Carlyle, to my blog today. Lois will be giving away a paperback copy of her book Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, so be sure and leave her a comment to be entered into the drawing. Also for the month of August she will donate $500 to breast cancer research for every 1000 Emma Carlyle books sold.

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

I write romance, chick lit, romantic suspense, women’s fiction, and mystery. The first book I sold, Talk Gertie To Me, was humorous women’s fiction. The next book, Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, was a romantic suspense. Then I switched gears and began writing the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun and Death By Killer Mop Doll are the first two books in the series. Revenge of the Crafty Corpse will be out in January with at least two more books to follow. And now I’ve also embarked on an indie career, publishing some of my older romance, romantic suspense, and chick lit books that won awards but for one reason or another, never sold. Why I write in all these genres? Simple. I write in the genres I love to read.

How much time do you spend promoting your books? What works best for you?

I’ve never put a stop watch to the amount of time I spend doing promo, but like most authors, I’d really rather spend the time writing. Unfortunately, we all have to get the word out about our books because if we don’t, no one will know they exist.

That said, because I’m so new to indie publishing, I can’t say what works best for me. I’m trying to do lots of guest blogs. I also use Twitter. I don’t do Facebook. I know some of you will gasp at that, but it’s the rebel in me. I don’t like FB’s tactics of switching privacy setting without telling people, and I don’t like that it’s so easy for hackers to access what’s supposed to be protected information. I also don’t like the fact that FB has become a haven for bullies and sexual predators. So I’ve vowed to become the last person on the planet not on FB. Will it hurt my sales? Nothing I’ve seen (and I’ve done quite a bit of research about this) indicates that authors on FB sell more books than authors not on FB.

How has your experience with self-publishing been?

I’m relatively new to the world of indie publishing and am publishing under the pen name Emma Carlyle. I released my first indie book, Hooking Mr. Right, the end of June. Finding Hope followed a week later. Both are romances, and both were RWA Golden Heart finalists back before I sold my first book. I’ve since also released Four Uncles and a Wedding, which is chick lit, and Lost in Manhattan and Someone To Watch Over Me, both romantic suspense.

I decided to indie publish because…well, why not? So many other authors were publishing books that NY didn’t want for one reason or another, and they were finding an audience for those books. Just because no NY publisher is interested in a book, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the book. In traditional publishing there are many factors that come to bear on whether or not a manuscript will be bought. Often the reasons for rejecting a manuscript have nothing to do with the quality of the writing or the story and everything to do with the bottom line. Publishers buy books they think will make them a profit.

Am I making tons of money? No. I’ve been told that it takes several months and quite a few books. However, I have seen a steady increase in sales. Hopefully, both time and word-of-mouth will eventually increase sales even more.
Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
Most of my story ideas come from either news stories, observation, or both. I’m a total news junkie. I read two newspapers a day and watch the news in the morning and evening. When I’m in the car, I usually listen to the all-news station.

The idea for Hooking Mr. Right came to me after a friend divorced her husband. Remember The Rules? That book became her bible in her search to land a new husband. One day I went to the bookstore with her, and she spent over $200 on a stack of how-to-catch-a-man books. My head began spinning with ideas.

Finding Hope came about from a combination of my cousin’s unsuccessful attempts with in vitro fertilization and a story in the news about a fertility doctor who was using his own sperm to fertilize his patients’ eggs.

I got the idea for Four Uncles and a Wedding after seeing a news story about speed dating. One very funny scene in the book is based on a German study from several years ago that said men who ogle women’s breasts live longer. Another is based on an ad I saw at the back of a car magazine. (I was desperate for something to read while waiting for a doctor appointment and had forgotten to bring a book. I had my choice of outdated copies of Car & Driver or Sports Illustrated. The doctor was running way behind, so I wound up flipping through all of them. You never know where you’ll find inspiration!)

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

Depends on the person. ;-D Some of the characters in my books are based either in part on someone I’ve known or a combination of people I’ve known. In my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, Anastasia’s mother-in-law is based almost entirely on my own mother-in-law. I’m sure that’s why some of my husband’s family no longer speaks to me. However, in my defense, my sister-in-law loves the books and thinks Lucille is hilarious.

One of the great things about writing fiction is that instead of getting mad, you can get even, literarily if not literally. Have a nasty neighbor whose dogs are constantly soiling your yard? Kill her off in your next book! It’s quite cathartic!

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

Neither. It was fraught with frustration. I wrote for ten years before I sold my first book. During most of that time my pile of rejection letters more often than not contained the phrase, “love the story/voice but…” On too many occasions, I was the victim of either editors leaving, lines folding, or marketing not knowing how to sell the book. Traditional publishing is all about the right book landing on the right editor’s desk on the right day. For me, it often turned out to be the right book and the right editor but the wrong day.

What do you have planned for the future?

I’m contracted right now for a total of 5 books in my mystery series. I’m currently writing the fourth book. I’ll also be writing at least one 10,000 word short between releases of the series books. These are stories connected to the series but will only come out as ebooks and sell for $1.99. The first, Crewel Intentions, will be out October 1st.

With my indie career, I have several other books to finish editing and release. My goal is to have them all available by the end of the summer.

I have the rights back to Talk Gertie To Me and Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception. They’ll be coming out as ebooks soon, along with an original novella that’s a sequel to Talk Gertie To Me.

I also have ideas for other books, and at this point I’m not sure whether they will be Emma Carlyle books or Lois Winston books. So much is happening so fast in publishing that I’m not quite sure whether or not I want to bother submitting these books to NY. I’m taking it one day at a time and keeping my options open.

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

I wanted to be an astronaut — the first woman astronaut in NASA. The problem, though, is that I suffer severe motion sickness, and NASA wasn’t interested in astronauts who toss their cookies at the least sign of turbulence!

Writing came to me much later in life. I always enjoyed writing while in school, but the last piece of fiction I wrote was for Freshman Comp in college — until about 17 years ago. I was on a business trip, and although I rarely remember my dreams, one night I had a quite vivid dream that stayed with me.

The story unfolded over consecutive nights. I wasn’t part of the dream, nor did I know any of the people in the dream. It was like watching scenes from a movie. I started thinking about these people during the day. They wouldn’t go away! Finally, I decided maybe if I wrote the story down, I’d get it out of my system.

It didn’t work. I’d been bitten by the writing bug and couldn’t stop writing from that point on. By the way, that first story, after many revisions and eleven years later, became Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, the second book I sold.

Amazon Buy Link:

One lucky commenter will receive a paperback copy of Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception. So be sure to leave a comment.

Once upon a time there was an author who began writing romance. She won awards for her unpublished manuscripts and eventually sold two romances, both of which also won awards. Life was all hearts and flowers and hunky heroes until one day she was attacked by a glue gun wielding amateur sleuth who forced the romance author to write her story. Thus, author Lois Winston turned her attentions from romance to mystery, writing the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. However, Lois found she had more romance stories to tell. So she decided to split her personality, remaining Lois Winston for mystery, becoming Emma Carlyle for romance, and diving into the digital publishing revolution. Visit Emma at and visit Lois at

Excerpt from Hooking Mr. Right:
“The trouble lies in the Y chromosome.” Thea took a sip of her coffee and glared across the black Formica-topped desk at her editor, waiting to pounce on Grace if she challenged her statement.
“How so?” Grace leaned back in her chair and sipped her own coffee. Over the rim of the cup an amused expression played across her face.
“Simple genetics, really. Women have two X chromosomes. Men have an X and a Y. Do you know what the definition of Y is?”
Grace set her coffee cup on her desk and raised her eyebrows. “No, but I suppose you’re about to tell me.”
“Y is an X with a broken leg.”
Grace stared at her as if Thea had lost more than a suitcase in her recent, abrupt move from San Francisco to New York. “And your point?”
“Broken! Don’t you get it? Defective!” Thea slammed her hand onto a pile of unread manuscripts teetering on the corner of her editor’s desk, nearly toppling the unwieldy stack onto the floor.
Grace grabbed for her cup, barely averting a brown tidal wave.
“Ergo,” continued Thea, waving her hand in the air to punctuate her explanation, “there is no doubt that women are superior to men. No defective genes. Obviously, man was a rough prototype. God looked at Adam and said, ‘I can do better than that.’ Then he created Eve.” She placed her cup on the edge of the desk, leaned back in her chair, crossed her arms over her chest, and offered her editor a triumphant smile.
“So this explains why you cancelled your wedding and high-tailed it out of San Francisco? Defective male genes?” Grace shuddered. “Do me a favor, will you, Dr. Love? Keep these newly developed, radical theories to yourself. Unless, of course, you want to go from the New York Times Bestseller List back to an auditorium-size classroom packed with bored freshmen.”
Doctor Love. Thea winced at the nickname the press had dubbed her secret alter ego, Dr. Trulee Lovejoy. In truth, she did wish she could return to the classroom and the comforting monotony of teaching Sociology 101 to less-than-eager first year students. Not that she possessed an all-consuming passion for her chosen career in academia, but with everything she had lost over the past few years, at least she’d still have her integrity. However, she could no more turn back the clock and regain her compromised professional ethics than she could restore her family’s lost fortune. At least her popular how-to guides for finding the perfect mate had kept the collection agencies at bay.
“Some love expert! I couldn’t even keep my own fiancé from sleeping with my sister.” Thea raised her head and challenged Grace. “Now aren’t you glad I chose to publish under a pseudonym? Think of the public relations disaster I’ve averted. News flash: Doctor Love Causes Coitus Interuptus after Catching Sister and Fiancé in Flagrante Delicto on Eve of Wedding. Update at eleven.”
“Too erudite and wordy.” Grace brushed away the imaginary headline with a wave of her hand. “Who’d understand all that Latin?”
Thea grimaced. “I can think of at least two people.” Her brainy, Stanford-educated younger sister came to mind. As did her sister’s equally brainy, MIT-educated research partner who also happened to be Thea’s ex-fiancé. Too late Thea had discovered Steve and Madeline were engaged in far more than metaphysical debates while researching distant solar systems and spatial anomalies.
“Yes, well…” Grace fidgeted in her chair, her gaze dropping to her lap.
“It’s okay, Grace. I’m dealing with it. Putting three thousand miles between myself and them helps.”
“Out of sight, out of mind?” Grace raised her chin and met Thea’s eyes. “Come on, I know you better than that. You’re hurting.”
Thea exhaled a deep sigh and shrugged. “Guilty as charged.” She glanced over at the large scheduling calendar covering half of one wall in Grace’s office and laughed. The sound hung in the room, echoing with pain and resonating with irony.
“Just think, three weeks ago today my biggest concern was that the rehearsal dinner was getting cold because Steve was off in some corner deconstructing the theory of relativity. I used to dream we’d someday travel to Stockholm to pick up his Nobel Prize.” She leaned forward, propped her elbows on the desk and scowled at her nearly empty mug. “It just never occurred to me that the award would be for causing my world to stop spinning on its axis.”
Grace reached across her desk and patted Thea’s hand. “Trust me. You’re better off finding out the truth before the wedding rather than afterwards.”
“Speaking from experience?”
“More than I like to admit. Maybe I should take some of Trulee’s advice.”
“Get real! If you have any sense, Grace, you’ll let me out of my contract and forget about that third book. Finding Mr. Right? Hooking Mr. Right? I’m a fraud. I don’t know the first thing about how to get a man and keep him. I’m a thirty-two year old sociologist with a lousy track record when it comes to the male species. How can you trust me to write credible books on the subject when I can’t even trust my own judgment where men are concerned?”
Grace shrugged. “Maybe we both need to follow your advice. Others do and swear by your books. Besides, I’m not letting you out of your contract. Trulee Lovejoy is the best thing to happen to this company in years.”
“Trulee Lovejoy.” Thea shook her head. “What was I thinking? How did I ever let you talk me into that awful pseudonym?”
“If I remember correctly, I had a little help from a lady named Margarita. Several ladies named Margarita, actually. Besides, I’m hurt. You insisted on an alias, and I came up with the perfect nom de plume for you. After all, who would you believe when it came to matters of the heart, Dr. Trulee Lovejoy or Dr. Althea Chandler?”
Thea scowled. “Right now I’d suggest you might have better luck with Lassie.”

17 thoughts on “An Interview with Lois Winston

  1. I love the mother-in-law character bit! I can’t even begin to mention the number of times where I’ve read one of my characters and been like, “hey, that reminds me of…” I do it unintentional. I mean, we are writers, usually write what we know. *shrugs* That is awesome that you’re donating to breast cancer research. I’m wishing you LOTS of sales!

  2. I love the Y/X chromosome dialogue exchange. I used to teach a genetics lesson and used a similar explanation and the kids loved it. Glad to see you put it to use, too, Lois. Great interview.

  3. The Y/X chromosome dialogue exchange is so witty! I used to teach a genetics lesson and used a similar explanation and the kids loved it. Glad to see you put it to use, too, Lois. Great interview.

  4. Jesse, I think as writers we often subconsciously write about people who have left an impression on us one way or another. With Anastasia’s MIL, though, there was nothing subconscious about it! 😉

    Cindy, thanks so much for inviting me to visit with your readers today.

    Kathleen, I wrote that scene a long time ago and am so glad I finally have the opportunity to share it with readers.

  5. I too have had dreams that were series of events. Almost like a life of someone else. But I was in them. Sounds like a great story.

  6. Hi Lois. I find it’s interesting that while you are continuing to write your mystery series, you are also indie publishing other works that were languishing in your drawer. I may be doing the same thing soon after I finish my current obligations.

  7. I’d enjoy reading your books as your sense of humor comes through and I like to have some chuckles every day even when I’m home alone 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement to other writers. All the best with whatever way publishing goes. I have a Nook Simple Touch, but I love the feel of a real book and a colorful cover.

  8. Love this post, Lois. I really enjoyed learning more about you and finding out you have also done chick-lit and humorous. My work-in-progress is such a mystery, and it’s inspired by my love of those, especially Kyra Davis’s Sex, Lies, and a Double Latte. I learned later that she was inspired some by Janet Evanovich. I’m also a quilter, so I do enjoy all of the quilting mysteries, from Jennifer Chiaverini’s to Earlene Fowler’s and would love to read how you use your hot glue gun. Glad you did this post and shared so much.

  9. Great post, Lois! That’s great that you’re doing so well with self-pubbing. I recently tried the self-pub waters with an anthology story I got the rights back to, but I’m still not ready to go full speed ahead. I’ve found a home with an e-publisher for my Civil War romances. New York publishers wouldn’t touch them. I’ll stay the course with them, at least for now.

  10. Mary, you should write those dreams down. They could turn into a book or two or more.

    Nancy, it was my ‘why not?’ moment. I have published friends who are declining offers from NY because they’re doing so well on their own. I may never have the kind of sales they’re having, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give indie publishing a try.

    Linda, Glad you enjoyed the excerpt. To answer your question, I have one more complete ms. That needs updating. That’s next on my agenda. After that, there are several I never finished and may go back to.

    Thank you, Judy. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the books you’ve read. If you like my humorous voice, you should try both Hooking Mr. Right and Four Uncles and a Wedding. The latter is available on Nook now. Hooking Mr. Right will come off Kindle Select next month and will go up on Nook then.

    Thanks, Diane. I hope you’ll give my mystery series a try.

    Susan, good luck with your Civil War series.

  11. Welcome to the wacky world of indie publishing, Lois. I’ve been in it for 3 years now and every day is a new adventure. I’m betting you’re gonna be a super star under any name you choose! Good luck!

  12. I feel exactly as you do about FB Lois, and yet I stay
    on it. It’s definitely a love/hate relationship.
    I live out here in Silicon Valley and I almost bought
    some FB shares when they went public. So glad I
    didn’t, they’re struggling to find their way in the
    investor world.

    I love writing b/c ideas come at us from just about
    anywhere. I keep a fragment file where I put random
    ideas, then every once in a while, I go through all the ideas, putting similar ones into one pile. You almost have a story already written right there
    in front of you!

    I’m Indie publishing my second book
    Squinting Over Water – Stories. It’s been so much
    fun creating the book, organizing stories, buying
    a fab photo for the cover, getting back cover
    reviews. Can’t wait to hold the book in my hands.
    Great interview…

  13. Thanks, Susan! I hope you win that bet! 😉

    Mary, I keep a 3-ring binder filled with clippings and ideas. Whenever I get stuck, I turned to that binder. Good luck with your book of stories!

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