|Who would have thought this cute baby would grow up to inspire the character readers love to hate?|
Monday marks the official release for Drop Dead Ornaments, the seventh book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, the series author Lois Winston writes about me, her reluctant amateur sleuth. Readers often ask Lois where she gets the ideas for the characters in the series—yours truly and the others. So today I thought I’d divulge a few not-so-secret secrets.
To begin, you need to know the idea for the series came about from a combination of events in Lois’s life. First and foremost, an editor told Lois’s agent that she was looking for a crafting mystery series. Knowing Lois was a designer of needlework kits and projects for various companies and publishers, Lois’s agent thought she’d be the perfect person to write such a series, even though Lois was a romance author at the time. However, since her agent had faith in her, Lois decided she was up for the challenge.
At the same time, Lois’s husband had recently lost his job, and although he’s nothing like my Dead Louse of a Spouse, it sent her into a tailspin of worry regarding money. On top of that, she was also dealing with escalating mother-in-law problems. And finally, when Lois first started contemplating the series, The Sopranos was still airing on HBO. Lois is a Jersey girl. How could she not set a mystery in her home state and involve the Mafia in some way? (Of course, she didn’t consider me in her decision!) Anyway, all of these elements came together to form the basis for Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries.
The premise for the series, as many of you know, is that when my gambling-addicted husband permanently cashes in his chips in Las Vegas, my life craps out. I’m left with two teenage sons, a mountain of debt, and a loan shark demanding fifty thousand dollars. Over the course of the series, I’ve looked for ways to whittle down that massive debt, a task made more difficult by my spend-thrift mother, a self-proclaimed descendant of Russian nobility, and my curmudgeon mother-in-law, a card-carrying communist, both of whom lived with me for the first few books in the series. Mama is now settled in her own condo, but you’d never know it since she’s always at my house—especially at mealtime.
And then there are the dead bodies—lots of dead bodies! It’s not like I work in law enforcement. However, since my husband’s death, I keep stumbling across murder victims, hardly something any magazine crafts editor should have to deal with.
According to Lois, she’s always been drawn to quirky characters. They make her laugh. It’s the reason she write humorous amateur sleuth mysteries rather than traditional cozy mysteries. She thinks we need more laughter in the world because there’s enough that keeps us from laughing in real life. I get it, considering I haven’t had much to laugh about since she took over my life. I just wish she’d chosen someone else as her protagonist, rather than picking on me. However, aside from the dead husband with a penchant for gambling and all those dead bodies, Lois based much of my life on her own. (Disclaimer: Her husband has never been to a casino, and she’s never tripped over a dead body.)
As for the rest of the characters in the series, most are based in part on people Lois has known. She takes traits from various people, exaggerates them (Let’s face it, most people aren’t as quirky in real life as they are in fiction), and blends them together to create unique characters.
The exception is Lucille, my mother-in-law. With a few minor exceptions, Lucille’s personality (along with her communist leanings) mirrors that of Lois’s now deceased mother-in-law. Poor girl. Once I learned this, I completely understood her need for a little cathartic retribution via fiction. Her mother-in-law made the Wicked Witch of the West look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms. And that’s not just Lois’s opinion. Many others felt the same way, but Lois received the brunt of her venom.
Some readers have suggested Lois kill off Lucille; others love her, probably because they see some of their own mothers-in-law in her. After all, misery does love company. As for some of the other recurring characters in the series, I’ll leave them to a future blog post.
Drop Dead Ornaments
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 7
Anastasia Pollack’s son Alex is dating Sophie Lambert, the new kid in town. For their community service project, the high school seniors have chosen to raise money for the county food bank. Anastasia taps her craft industry contacts to donate materials for the students to make Christmas ornaments they’ll sell at the town’s annual Holiday Crafts Fair.
At the fair Anastasia meets Sophie’s father, Shane Lambert, who strikes her as a man with secrets. She also notices a woman eavesdropping on their conversation. Later that evening when the woman turns up dead, Sophie’s father is arrested for her murder.
Alex and Sophie beg Anastasia to find the real killer, but Anastasia has had her fill of dead bodies. She’s also not convinced of Shane’s innocence. Besides, she’s promised younger son Nick she’ll stop risking her life. But how can she say no to Alex?
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