featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Monday, July 10, 2017

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--HOW IT ALL BEGAN

The Glue Gun That Started It All
We all know where babies come from, but many people don’t know how a book is conceived and born. Today author Lois Winston takes over the blog to tell you how she gave birth to me.

Life in the Crafts Lane

When my agent suggested to me that I try my hand at writing a crafting mystery, it seemed like a perfect fit. Here I was, a crafts designer by profession. I wouldn’t even have to do any research. I could draw on plenty of my own experiences in the industry. I’ve worked consumer and trade shows; designed for magazines, book publishers, and kit manufacturers; even spent several years as an editor of craft books for two different publishers.

The big question was: What sort of crafting mystery should I write? Although I’ve done just about every craft imaginable, my specialty is needlework, primarily counted cross stitch. However, I knew Monica Ferris already had that crafting branch covered. She’d even mentioned me in A Murderous Yarn. (How cool is that?)

Other writers were already penning mysteries about other needle arts and soft crafts. Same with the hard crafts. I didn’t want my books to be derivative of another author’s work, so what could I do that hadn’t already been done?

Inspiration struck when I realized the common thread that linked all of the crafting mysteries being published. They all featured women (or the occasional man) who owned or worked in crafts shops or sold their own handmade crafts. No one had written about an amateur sleuth who was a crafts editor. In addition, no one had written about general crafts. Every series I came across was craft-specific -- stained glass, crochet, scrapbooking, miniatures, knitting, quilting, etc.

So now I had a unique profession for my amateur sleuth, but I still didn’t know who she was or what her back-story would be. Then one day I burned my finger (for the gazillionth time!) while using a hot glue gun. As I iced my injury and cursed my glue gun for assaulting me, a title popped into my head -- Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun.

After a bit more pondering, I came up with Anastasia Pollack, the crafts editor at what she fondly refers to as a “second-rate general women’s magazine sold at supermarket check-out lines.” And of course, I gave her a personal life filled with conflicts and crazy relatives just because I could. Besides, who wants to read about a protagonist with a perfect life? We’d all want to kill her, and I couldn’t exactly see any editor buying a series where readers were rooting for the amateur sleuth protagonist to become the next dead body.

I faced a bigger challenge in coming up with craft projects to incorporate into my book. I’m used to writing directions, but I’m also used to relying on charts, patterns, and diagrams. I can’t simple say, “Cast on 42 stitches. Work in stockinette stitch for 3-inches.” That works great for knitting but wasn’t going to work for me. However, graphics add expense to a book’s production costs, and as an author trying to break into a new genre, I didn’t want to give a potential editor an excuse for rejecting my series.

Writing directions is a lot like writing a mystery. As an author, I have to know whodunit from the beginning, but I want to surprise my readers at the climax of the story. Did I leave enough clues to keep them guessing or too many that they figured out whodunit by chapter three?

When writing directions, I have to make sure that each step makes sense to the crafter. Even if it makes perfect sense to me, it might not to someone else. Can the crafter move easily from Step 1 to Step 2 to Step 3? Are my directions concise and easy to follow or confusing and frustrating? Simple enough to understand or overly complex and complicated?

Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun eventually sold and became the first book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series. The book features a variety of craft projects for weddings and the 4th of July. Four more full length novels and three mini-mysteries featuring Anastasia have followed. I’m currently working on the sixth full-length book in the series.

For the subsequent novels I decided to pick a specific craft for each book. Death By Killer Mop Doll features (what else?) mop dolls. In Revenge of the Crafty Corpse I introduced readers to yoyo crafts. Decoupage Can Be Deadly showcases a variety of decoupage crafts. A Stitch to Die For has several knitting and crochet baby blanket patterns. Scrapbooking with be the featured craft in the book I’m currently writing.

Check out all the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries and the mini-mysteries here
~*~
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. 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 her website. You can also follow her on Twitter and Pinterest. Sign up for her newsletter for special subscriber-only giveaways. 

9 comments:

Angela Adams said...

A great walk down Memory Lane!

Lois Winston said...

Thanks, Angela!

Loretta said...

I love it! I've always thought any type of defense with a glue gun would be horribly painful. Something the villain deserves...hopefully not the victims. Ouch! I've blistered myself many times with these glorious little miracle workers and can speak to their deadly pain. Not to mention the "hide" removal if you don't peel that glue off well cooled by water.

Love the concept! Great plotting and a lethal weapons technique I'm sure many of us crafty women come writers have often eyed with speculation :) Lo

Judy Alter said...

Love your explanation that parts of the whole came slowly and then it all came together. Anastasia Pollock is a wonderful name. How did you come up with it?

Lois Winston said...

Thank you, Loretta and Judy!

Loretta, in Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun the victim suffers a horrible death, but she wasn't a very nice person. No one shed a single tear at her demise. ;-)

Judy, sometimes I stress over names and do quite a bit of research to discover the perfect one for a character. This was not the case with Anastasia. The name just popped into my head. And because I wanted her to irritate her communist mother-in-law on so many different levels, giving her the name of a dead Russian princess seemed practically perfect in every way. (to quote Mary Poppins!)

Liz Boeger said...

Great article to start my writing week. I am always curious about how other writers work through the book-birthing process, given that labor can last several years! Looking forward to the next book in the series.

Lois Winston said...

Thanks, Liz! The next book should be out by the end of the summer.

Ellen Byron said...

What a great post! Having burned myself with a couple of glue guns, I appreciate their deadly nature. And as both a crafter and a journalist who's written for a lot of second-rate women's mags, I love Anastasia's background.

Lois Winston said...

Thanks for stopping by, Ellen. It seems you, Anastasia, and I have much in common.