No, it’s not Thanksgiving yet. But in publishing terms, it’s already the homicide, and Lois Winston‘s latest sweet and funny crafting cozy, Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide will come out tomorrow. Lois’s Anastasia Pollack mysteries are always good fun, so this eighth outing should be a hoot. I’m thrilled to welcome her today.

How does a book start for you?

Since I write a crafting mystery series where a different craft is featured in each book, I usually begin a new book by deciding on a craft I haven’t yet featured. Then, because the series is humorous, I play around with words until I find an appropriate title that either features the craft I’ve chosen or crafting in general, and I often incorporate alliteration.

Once the craft and title are in place, I start thinking about the murder that will occur—Who’s the victim? Why is he/she killed? How? By whom? I’m usually inspired by news stories and current events for most of my plot ideas.

Who in your latest book has surprised you most – and why?

In Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, the third book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, I introduced Anastasia’s half-brother-in-law Ira Pollack. Ira is a widower with three extremely spoiled kids who manipulate him into giving them whatever they want. This is partly out of guilt and partly because Ira is a man who thinks every problem can be solved if you just throw enough money at it.

In Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide, the eighth and latest book in the series, Anastasia, who usually tries for a diplomatic solution when it comes to family drama, has gotten so fed up with Ira that she takes matters into her own hands. The results are quite interesting. For this to happen, I brought back a character I introduced in Decoupage Can Be Deadly, the fourth book in the series. The idea came about when a reader wrote to me and asked if this particular character, one of her favorites, would ever make a return appearance.

When and/or where is your latest book set and is there a story behind that setting?

Anastasia lives in a real New Jersey town. With the exception of two of the three mini-mystery novellas that are companions to the series, all the books are set in New Jersey and New York City. I find it much easier to keep track of the settings when I can refer to actual places rather than creating fictitious ones. I do, however, occasionally create imaginary settings within the real community when it becomes necessary for the plot. For instance, in Revenge of the Crafty Corpsea murder occurs in an assisted living and rehab center. That particular establishment is purely a figment of my imagination.

What are you working on now?

Mostly writing guest posts for my virtual book tour to promote Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide. However, once I wrap those up, I’ll be starting on the ninth book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. Unlike the previous books in the series, this one will take place somewhere completely different. If you read Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide, you’ll get a clue as to where I plan to take Anastasia and her family.

Which question didn’t I ask you that I should have?

Since you didn’t ask me about the premise for my series and some of your readers may not be familiar with it, I’ll offer an overview:

Crafts and murder don’t normally go hand-in-hand, but normaldeserted magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack’s world the day her husband permanently cashed in his chips in Las Vegas and her comfortable middle-class life crapped out. Now she’s dealing with debt greater than the GNP of Uzbekistan. She’s also stuck with her semi-invalid communist mother-in-law and her much-married, self-proclaimed Russian princess mother whenever she’s between husbands.

Anastasia’s two teenage sons (Alex and Nick—notnamed for Russian czars, contrary to what her mother-in-law believes), her mother’s white Persian cat (Catherine the Great), her mother-in-law’s French bulldog (Manifesto), and Ralph, the Shakespeare-quoting parrot, all vie for space and attention in Anastasia’s cramped suburban New Jersey home. 

And then there are the dead bodies that keep showing up as Anastasia tries to stave off the bill collectors, forcing her to become a reluctant amateur sleuth. The one bright spot in her life is photojournalist Zack Barnes, who rents out the apartment above Anastasia’s garage—except Anastasia suspects he just might be a spy. 

USA Todaybestselling 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 Reviewsdubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and 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.