Lois Winston | From Heroines To Reluctant Sleuths
February 27, 2011
Hi, everyone (sending a big cyber-wave!) I’m thrilled to be here and want to
thank the Fresh Fiction gang for inviting me. Some of you might recognize me
from the romance community. These days you’ll find my keyboard planted in the
mystery world, thanks to a reluctant amateur sleuth named Anastasia Pollack.
Anastasia took over my life and my writing and hasn’t let go, so I had no other
choice but to write about her. ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE
GUN, which debuted in January, is Anastasia’s story, but because there’s so
much to tell, it’s also the first book in my new Anastasia Pollack Crafting
When I made the move from romance to mystery, I found I had to switch up my
writing style. Romance readers and mystery readers have different expectations
when it comes to their preferred genres. In a romance the story centers around
the hero and heroine, but mysteries don’t have heroes and heroines. They have
protagonists, whether amateur sleuths or law-enforcement professionals, and
those protagonists may or may not have a love interest. If there is a love
interest, the love story is subordinate to the mystery. Usually way subordinate,
often only a tertiary plot. Sometimes the love interest is mostly off-camera,
only referred to occasionally by the protagonist. A mystery is first and
foremost all about the protagonist finding out whodunit.
Another difference between romances and mysteries is that mysteries are plot
driven stories; romances are character driven. Of course, that doesn’t mean that
the characters aren’t fully developed. No one wants to read about cardboard
characters, no matter what genre. It means that the focus of the story is the
plot, not the relationship between the characters.
And boy is there plot in Anastasia’s world! But there’s also a host of very
When Anastasia’s husband permanently cashes in his chips at a roulette table in
Las Vegas, her comfortable middle-class life craps out. Suddenly, she’s juggling
two teenage sons, a mountain of debt, a communist mother-in-law, AND her dead
husband’s loan shark. Add to that a mother who claims she descends from Russian
royalty; Mephisto, the French bulldog from Hades; Catherine the Great Persian
cat; and Ralph, the Shakespeare quoting parrot. Toss them all into one small
suburban ranch house, and you’ve got chaos galore. And that’s before Anastasia
becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a coworker she discovers hot glued to
her office chair.
Did I mention this was a humorous amateur sleuth mystery?
I haven’t completely forsaken my romance roots, though. There is this guy who
enters Anastasia’s life. His name is Zachary Barnes, and he looks like someone
dumped the genetic components of Pierce Brosnan, George Clooney, Patrick
Dempsey, and Antonio Banderas into a pan and baked up the epitome of male
perfection. Do sparks eventually fly between Anastasia and Zack? You’ll have to
wait until January 2012 when MOP DOLL MURDERS, the second book in the
series, comes out to learn the answer to that.
Meanwhile, if you like characters “as deadpan droll as Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon”
(Publishers Weekly) or ones that are a “more mature answer to Stephanie Plum”
(Kirkus Reviews), please consider a visit with Anastasia.
And now for my questions to all of you…for those of you who read mysteries, how
do you feel about a romantic element in your mysteries?
Thanks for stopping by!
ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE
GUN available now
MOP DOLL MURDERS, available January 2012
THE CRAFTY CORPSE (working title), available January 2013
& Crafty Killers (Anastasia’s blog)
WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN video
12 comments posted.
Re: Lois Winston | From Heroines To Reluctant Sleuths
I like a romantic arc throughout a mystery/detective series. The Nora Roberts/JD Robb "In Death" series is a good example of how this can work (although the romance element may be too strong, especially in the first few books, for the more diehard mystery fans). The romance arc can help give more shape to the continuity.
(Carol Drummond 2:18pm February 27, 2011)
Thanks for commenting, Carol. Personally, I like a little bit of romance in just
about any genre. I think relationships in books make the characters come alive
more. Anastasia will have to wait a bit, though, because she's recently widowed.
No romance for her in book 1 of the series, but as I mentioned above, I do
introduce a character with definite romance potential.
(Lois Winston 2:29pm February 27, 2011)
If the mystery is the main part of the book, I don't mind a little romance thrown in. It's when the romance goes "over the top," that it throws the whole book off kilter, and kills everything!! (no pun intended) I enjoyed your blog posting, as well as the way you reason things out, so I can't wait to read your book!! It's on my TBR list. Congratulations!!
(Peggy Roberson 9:44pm February 27, 2011)
Romance makes the mystery all the better. Love the book trailer and how crafty you are to mix hobbies within your novel. I remember a huge table at the Ritz where my friend had a birthday party for her 10 year old. We had to ask for a tablecloth to protect the table from her hot glue gun and it only reached across a bit of that table.
(Alyson Widen 10:00pm February 27, 2011)
Thanks, Peggy! I hope you enjoy ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN.
Glad you liked the book trailer, Alyson! Sounds like that was some birthday
(Lois Winston 10:09pm February 27, 2011)
Hi Lois. This is a great post because I've been analyzing the topic of romance and whether it can be successfully included in a traditional mystery. I admit I personally prefer a book where all three components are there: an intriguing plot, some romantic sparks, and a nice dose of humor. Who doesn't like the on and off again relationship between Stephanie Plum and Joe Morelli?
By the way, I'm halfway through "Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun." What great fun. Thanks for creating Anastasia and her wonderful family.
(Cindy Sample 11:55am February 28, 2011)
Thanks, Cindy! So glad you're enjoying Anastasia and her motley crew.
(Lois Winston 1:07pm February 28, 2011)
Lois--Best wishes selling your book. I really enjoy the IN DEATH series by JD Robb...and romance adds to the mystery.
(Ann Garland 3:09pm February 28, 2011)
I like a touch of romance in my mysteries---and some humor,too---so I'll be looking for your books at the book store.
(Sue Farrell 3:36pm February 28, 2011)
Thanks, Ann and Sue!
(Lois Winston 4:20pm February 28, 2011)
i like, if not over kill with it, lol
(Tasha Tipton 1:51am March 1, 2011)
Meaning you don't like it when the hero and heroine kill too much, Tasha? LOL!
Couldn't resist! Thanks for posting.
(Lois Winston 9:43am March 1, 2011)
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