Today’s exclusive interview is with author and MTW-2017 participant Lois Winston, who lives in my neck of the woods, New York City. Her most recent novel is titled, Literally Dead, An Empty Nest Mystery (Book 2), a cozy mystery available both as a paperback and an e-book.
Here’s the blurb:
After her last disastrous episode as an amateur sleuth, Gracie Elliott is back. The budding romance writer 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 Her hard work and determination pay off when her manuscript wins the Cream of the Crop award, a contest for unpublished writers, sponsored by the Society of American Romance Authors.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.
This sounds like so much fun! Tell us something you didn’t include in the blurb:
The series is my way of paying homage to the William Powell/Myrna Loy Thin Man movies of the 30’s and 40’s but with a modern day twist—my sleuth is the wife.
What was your favorite or most surprising comment/review about the book?
My favorite comment was one that I never get tired of hearing about any of my books. The reviewer said she couldn’t put the book down. That always puts a huge smile on my face, even on the worst days.
If given a chance, which author (living or dead) would you like to meet (have met)?
I would love to meet Agatha Christie and get her to confess to what really happened in December 1926 when she went missing for eleven days. Unfortunately, she took the truth about that mystery to her grave.
If your book was made into a movie, who would you cast as which characters?
Gracie Elliott: Amy Adams
Blake Elliott: Hugh Jackman
What books influenced you growing up?
When I was twelve years old, I read Peyton Place (without parental knowledge.) That’s when I learned that sex wasn’t just something married couples did one time when they wanted to have a baby. I also thought the act was performed standing up, with the husband and wife facing each other, and took all of a second or two. (I was a very precocious child but at the same time quite naïve about some things!)
What gave you the idea to write this book?
Over the years I’ve attended many writing conferences, both as an author and an agent. The stories I could tell! Well, actually I have told many of them in Literally Dead. In some ways the book is a roman a clef. However, my lips are sealed as to which elements are gleaned from real life and which spring from my imagination.
What are you working on next and when do you expect it to be on the shelves?
I’m currently working on the sixth book in my critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, which will be available this summer.
What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of publishing today?
My favorite part of being published is when readers tell me they love my books. It makes all those times I’m ready to bash my head against the keyboard worthwhile.
My least favorite part is promoting my books. Once upon a time publishers promoted their authors. Nowadays, for everyone other then the Stephen Kings, James Pattersons, and Nora Roberts of the world, authors have to promote themselves and their books with little or no help from their publishers. Writers should be writing, not working as unpaid publicists, marketers, and sales people.
Are you traditionally published or self-published and why?
Traditional vs. self-publishing is one of the themes I explore in Literally Dead. First, let me say I prefer the term indie or independently published to self-published, which conjures up a time when vanity presses preyed upon desperate writers.
I was traditionally published for my first five books. For awhile I was considered a hybrid author (both traditionally and indie published.) Now I’m totally indie. Much of it has to do with my answer to the previous question. If publishers expect their authors to take on the responsibility and cost of promotion, why should authors only receive royalties of 10% of the selling price of their books? (BTW, once upon a time royalties were based on the retail price of the book, not the price sold to distributors.) Too often authors have become indentured servants to their publishers. By going indie we take control of our careers.
What advice do you have for other writers based on your experience?
When Grandma Penelope and Great-aunt Martha gush that you’re the best writer they’ve ever read, don’t let it go to your head. Chances are you’re not going to wind up on the NY Times Bestseller List within weeks of submitting your book to a publisher—if ever. There are very few overnight successes. Building a career takes time—often years and years of revisions and rejection letters. If you’re not willing to put in the time or you’re writing because you think it’s a quick way to earn a large amount of money, walk away. Very few authors make enough from their writing to be able to support themselves. (Another theme I explore in Literally Dead.)
Any Upcoming Promotions/Giveaways/Events We Should Know About?
I reward my fans by doing periodic giveaways through my newsletter. Readers can sign up at: https://www.MyAuthorBiz.com/ENewsletter.php?acct=LW2467152513
Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com
Lois was kind enough to share an excerpt with us from Literally Dead:
The wheels of my suitcase couldn’t spin fast enough as I pushed through the revolving door of the Crown Jewel Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Once inside the lobby, I stopped short and gazed awestruck, soaking in the writerly atmosphere. My heart pounded so fast I could hear it reverberating in my ears. Or maybe that was the din of the voices from hundreds of romance authors filling the forty-story marble and glass atrium.
My eyes bugged out as I scoped the room. “Oh my God, Blake!” I reached for my husband’s hand and squeezed it. “That’s Liz Phillips,” I released my grip on my suitcase handle and pointed in the direction of the bar off to my right. “And Elise Robertson.”
“Friends of yours?” asked my husband.
“I wish! They’re two of the most successful romance writers in the world. I can’t believe I’m standing only a few yards away from them!” Talk about a fan girl moment! One more superstar sighting and I just might need a brown paper bag to ward off imminent hyperventilation.
“Hurry!” I pulled him along, nearly tripping over my Kate Spades as I race-walked toward the shortest of several lines that serpentined from the hotel registration desk around the chic silver, white, and gray lobby.
Blake grabbed me, preventing me from executing a face plant. Then he spun me around and settled his hands on my shoulders. Lowering his head until our foreheads nearly touched, he said, “I know you’re excited, Gracie, but take a deep breath. Slow down. The conference doesn’t start for several hours. You’re not going to miss anything.”
I humored him by continuing at a jog instead of a sprint until I reached the back of the line. “I can’t believe I’m here!” I squealed, bouncing on the balls of my feet.
A year of slaving over my manuscript had finally paid off. “Just think, by this time next year I’ll probably be returning as Gracie Elliott, published romance author.”
“Don’t you mean Emma Carlyle?”
“Right. Sorry.” Since Blake didn’t think the stuffy old academics of the university governing board would take too kindly to a faculty wife writing sensuous romances—not that my writing rose anywhere near Fifty Shades level—I’d promised to publish under a pseudonym. Thus, Gracie Elliott would become Emma Carlyle on bookstore shelves.
“Besides, aren’t you forgetting something?”
“You need to sell your book first.”
Leave it to Mr. Logical to burst my bubble. “Yes, of course, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty of offers here at the conference. After all, I’m the winner of the Society of American Romance Author’s Cream of the Crop writing competition. That’s a huge award. You should be excited for me, Blake. And proud of my accomplishment.”
“I am excited for you, sweetheart, and I’ve always been proud of you. You’re the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. You set yourself a goal, and you work until you accomplish it.” He pecked my cheek. “I just don’t want to see you disappointed.”
“Why would I be disappointed? You just said I always accomplish my goals, didn’t you?”
“Yes, but some goals take longer than others. Did winning this contest guarantee you a publishing contract?”
“The win gives you the opportunity to attend this writing conference, nothing more. Let’s keep everything in perspective, okay?”
“Fine. But you’re going to eat those practical words of yours by the end of these three days.”
“I’d love nothing better than to see you prove me wrong.”
We inched our way up in line. “Notice anything odd?” he asked above the cacophony of conversations around us.
I glanced up at my husband, then around the massive lobby. “Odd?” Although this was my first writing conference, I’d attended my share of business conferences and conventions over the years. Prior to the industry downsizing that outsourced my job as a fabric designer overseas and left me jobless and pension-less, I’d spent many hours cooling my Kate Spades and Christian Louboutins in long, slow-moving hotel check-in lines. “Not really.”
“It’s a veritable estrogen brigade here, Gracie!” My normally unflappable husband suddenly looked like the clueless hero of a fish-out-of-water romance novel.
Copyright 2016 Lois Winston. Reprinted with Permission.