USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston is Anastasia's creator and sometimes Doppelgänger. Along with writing humorous amateur sleuth mysteries, she writes romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website and by following this blog.
Birth of a Sleuth
A few years ago Turner Classic Movies featured all the Thin Man movies, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles. I wound up binge watching the series, fascinated by the chemistry between the two main characters. At the same time I was reading a book about George Burns and Gracie Allen, one of Hollywood’s great love stories.
In the Thin Man movies, Nora is Nick’s anchor, the common sense partner. With George and Gracie, George played the straight man to Gracie’s ditzy personality. However, in real life Gracie Allen was nothing like the ditzy character she played in the movies and on television. She was actually quite brilliant and an astute businesswoman.
Meanwhile, when I wasn’t reading or watching television, I was mulling over ideas for a new mystery series. Mash-ups have been all the rage in music for a few years now, and I began to think about mash-ups in terms of characters. What if I combined the characters of Nora Charles and Gracie Allen?
Thus was born Gracie Elliott, the amateur sleuth of my Empty Nest mystery series. The series is a wink and a nod to the characters of Nick and Nora Charles but with a modern day twist: this time the wife is the sleuth and her husband is her sidekick. On the outside Gracie is a bit of a ditz (okay, maybe more than a bit.) But like the real Gracie Allen, she’s actually quite smart. She just sees the world through her own unique, totally right-brained perspective which always makes perfect sense to her, even if it doesn’t to her college professor husband Blake.
The series is called The Empty Nest Mysteries, and like my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, it’s a humorous amateur sleuth series that takes place in a suburb of New York City. As a matter of fact, I’ve placed Gracie and Blake in the same town where Anastasia lives. Who knows? At some point the two amateur sleuths might even cross paths!
Gracie is a fledgling romance writer, bound and determined to become a bestselling author. She’s absolutely convinced this will happen relatively soon.
In the first book, Definitely Dead, Gracie hadn’t yet completed a manuscript. At the beginning of Literally Dead, the second book in the series and my newest release, Gracie has spent the past year crafting her first novel. Her hard work and determination pay off when her manuscript wins the Cream of the Crop award, a contest for unpublished writers, sponsored by the Society of American Romance Authors. First place entitles her to attend the organization’s annual conference, normally open only to published authors.
With husband Blake in tow, a starry-eyed Gracie experiences the ultimate fan-girl moment upon entering the hotel. Her favorite authors are everywhere. However, within minutes she learns Lovinia Darling, the Queen of Romance, is hardly the embodiment of the sweet heroines she creates. Gracie realizes she’s stepped into a romance vipers’ den of backstabbing, deceit, and plagiarism, but she finds a friend and mentor in bestselling author Paisley Prentiss.
Hours later, when Gracie discovers Lovinia’s body in the hotel stairwell, a victim of an apparent fall, Gracie is not convinced her death was an accident. Too many other authors had reason to want Lovinia dead. Ignoring Blake’s advice to “let the police handle it,” Gracie, aided by Paisley, begins her own investigation into the death. Romance has never been so deadly.
LiterallyDead is currently available for pre-order at Amazon, iTunes, and Kobo. It will be available as a paperback and through Nook October 1st.