Lois Winston on the Mystery of Crafts

Lois Winston

My guest post today, Lois Wilson, writes one of the funniest series out there, featuring amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, a craft editor at a major magazine. If you’ve ever thought that a mystery with crafts or recipes had to be tooth-achingly twee, come meet Anastasia. Trust me, it takes real talent to mix mop dolls and scrapbooking with gangsters, communists, and spies – and those are the good guys! 

I started my career as a romance author, but in my day job I’m a designer. For several decades (more than I’m willing to admit at this stage in my life!), I’ve designed needlework for kit manufacturers, magazines, book publishers, and the world’s leading producer of embroidery floss. One day about twelve years ago an editor told my agent she was looking for crafting mysteries. My agent immediately thought of me and asked if I’d be interested in trying my hand at writing one. I jumped at the challenge, and the rest is history.

First, I did a bit of research to see what types of crafting mysteries were being published. I discovered all of them featured one particular craft and most took place in craft shops or a crafter’s studio. With just about every craft already covered and many crafts represented in multiple series (yarn and knitting mysteries galore!), I decided to break from the pack. I came up with Anastasia Pollack, the crafts editor at a women’s magazine. That way, rather than my mystery centering round a single type of craft, I could feature different crafts in each book. No other crafting mystery author had done that.

When you write a crafting mystery series, readers expect you to include craft projects, just as authors who write culinary mysteries are expected to include recipes. Recipes are easier. They don’t require charts or diagrams or step-by-step how-to photos the way many crafts do.

Right off the bat I was presented with a dilemma. Knowing the chances of a publisher agreeing to include photos in the books were slim to none, I had to come up with crafts that could be made with only written directions. This is easy if the craft is knitting or crochet. It’s far more difficult for other crafts.

For Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, I chose to feature general crafts. Anastasia is working on two different magazine features in this book, one for June weddings and one for Fourth of July celebrations. I included directions for appliqué embellished bridal tennis shoes and birdseed roses for the wedding crafts. For the Fourth of July crafts I featured recycled jeans placemats, clay pot candles, and a decoupaged flag tray.

After the first book, I settled on one type of craft for each book. Death by Killer Mop Doll includes directions for making mop dolls and string doll ornaments. Revenge of the Crafty Corpse features projects made with fabric yo-yos, and Decoupage Can Be Deadly includes (what else?) decoupage crafts. In A Stitch to Die For I went with knit and crocheted baby blankets. Scrapbook of Murder is the newest book in the series. For this book, rather than include a specific craft project, I’ve featured a series of scrapbooking tips.

Now I have to start thinking about a plot and a craft for the next book in the series. Any suggestions?

You can find out more about Lois Winston at her website, www.loiswinston.com or read Anastasia’s blog. You can find Scrapbook For Murder at Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Amazon.

Anne Louise Bannon

6 Comments

    • You’re so very welcome, Lois. You’ve been very generous to me in letting me post on your blog. Happy to return the favor.

  1. Great suggestion, Kathleen! I could do woodworking. My husband owns just about every woodworking tool known to man or woman. You wouldn’t believe the sawdust and wood chips that accumulate in his workshop! All I can say is it’s a good thing he also owns a shop vac! My one hesitation is wondering how many women who buy the magazine where Anastasia works would be interested in or have the means to do woodworking. So maybe that would have to be a craft that doesn’t wind up in the pages of American Woman.

  2. How about papier-mâché? From bracelets, earrings to pinatas, furniture and other objects of art. One very popular thing is a Yarn bowl. A bowl to keep ones yarn from escaping while crocheting. Or knitting.

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