|The Original John Wanamakers, Center City Philadelphia|
How Two Former Careers Gave Birth to a Mystery Series
Author Lois Winston has had really rotten luck throughout her career. She’s a Modern-day Typhoid Mary of industry, and she’s making me pay for it. I suppose I should clarify that. She’s not spreading around Covid-19. She’s practicing social distancing, staying at house nearly 24/7 (spending her time finding ways to put my life in jeopardy), and wearing a mask whenever she ventures out to the supermarket.
|Wanamaker's Grand Court|
After college Lois went to work as a layout artist for Wanamaker’s. If you’ve never heard of Wanamaker’s, John Wanamaker basically created the concept of the modern-day department store in the United States when he opened his first store in 1875 in Philadelphia. (Lois wasn’t working for him back then. She’s not quite that old!)
Anyway, have you noticed what’s happened to department stores over the last few decades? Every time you turn around, another chain is going the way of the dodo. If you’ve read any of the books Lois has penned about me, you know my mother has had an ongoing affair with Mr. Lord and Mr. Taylor. Wait until she hears her local L&T is about to close its doors. It won’t be pretty.
When Lois was in college, she taught herself embroidery and needlepoint. Because she was majoring in graphic design and illustration, she designed her own projects rather than buying kits, which were also too expensive for someone putting herself through school on scholarships, student loans, and various part-time jobs. She even incorporated needlework into her junior year end-of-term project in her photography class.
After her career at Wanamaker’s ended, she freelanced as a graphic designer. One day she was in a needlework shop and overheard a conversation between the shop owner and a customer. The customer mentioned having sold some designs to a needlework company located nearby. Lois called the company and set up an appointment to show her designs. A week later she walked out of that initial meeting with an assignment to design a line of counted cross stitch kits.
That assignment led to many more for that company and other kit manufacturers, as well as designing for various craft and needlework magazines, women’s magazines, and book publishers. Over the years she worked as a craft book editor, a design coordinator, and the head designer for several needlework and craft companies. She also traveled the country working trade and consumer shows.
Then in the late nineties, craft and needlework magazines began to fold and kit manufacturers began filing for bankruptcy. The personal computer was slowly killing the crafts industry. Instead of sitting at home crafting in their leisure, people were sitting at their computers, surfing the ‘net and playing video games. An industry that once was so large only a handful of convention centers across the country were big enough to hold their annual trade show, was quickly vanishing. In the 1970’s most department stores featured needlework departments. In the 1980’s many towns across the United States had at least one needlework shop. Most are now long-gone. Last year Lois was forced into retirement as a needlework designer due to a lack of work.
Luckily for her, about twenty-five years ago she caught the writing bug and penned several romances and romantic suspense novels. One day her agent called to tell her she’d spoken to an editor who was looking for a crafting mystery series. Given Lois’s background, her agent thought she’d be the perfect person to write one.
Crafting mysteries? At the time Lois had no idea there was such a thing. After doing a bit of research. she discovered that most crafting mysteries featured an amateur sleuth who either owned a specialty craft shop or was a crafter of one specific craft, such as candle-making, pottery, knitting, doll-making, etc. She decided to do something a bit different. Tapping into her background as a crafts editor, she created a sleuth who works as the crafts editor at a women’s magazine.
And that’s how I came to be. Lois has now tormented me in the eight books and three novellas of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. I hear Book Nine, A Sew Deadly Cruise will be available in a few months.
I just hope she doesn’t give me seasickness, along with the dead bodies, in that one.