You’ve probably seen Lois Winston’s Anastasia Pollack series around. But did you know there’s another Lois Winston series out there? There hasn’t been a new book in the series since 2016, but it turns out that there is always hope! Lois was kind enough to chat with me a little about her Empty Nest series.
- Tell us about the Empty Nest Mysteries. What was the premise? Who was the protagonist?
About ten years ago I fell in love with the classic Thin Man movies starring Myrna Loy and William Power, mostly because of the humorous repartee between the two characters. It got me thinking about the possibility of writing a cozy mystery homage but with a modern-day twist–I’d make the wife my amateur sleuth.
Around the same time I was reading a biography of George Burns and Gracie Allen. Few people know that Gracie Allen was both an incredibly brilliant woman and savvy businesswoman, given the ditzy dame she played in the movies and on their iconic 1950s TV show. I decided I wanted to create a character that was one part Nora Charles, one part Gracie Allen.
Thus was born empty nesters Gracie Elliott and her college professor husband Blake. Gracie is a wannabe romance author whose career as a fabric designer was outsourced to Asia. In her quest to find another job that allows her time to write, Gracie opens her own business and stumbles—literally—upon her first dead body. She immediately sets out to find the killer before his next victim is her new enterprise. Knowing his wife dances to the tune of her own off-key drummer, Blake tags along to try to keep her out of trouble. He doesn’t always succeed.
- Why did it end?
At the time I was under a 3-book contract for the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. I pitched my new idea as The Empty Nest Mystery Series and was offered a 2-book contract, along with a second contract for the fourth and fifth books in the Anastasia series.
Unfortunately, contract negotiations hit a major roadblock when the publisher insisted on changing a few previously agreed upon clauses, most notably the arbitration clause. Red flags started whipping about at Category 5 speeds. My agent and I agreed it was time to walk.
So The Empty Nest Mysteries were never traditionally published. I was able to get the rights back to the first three books of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries and decided to go indie with them and the Empty Nest books, Definitely Dead and Literally Dead.
- Would you ever resurrect the series?
The Empty Nest Mysteries are still alive but on hiatus, primarily because the books don’t sell as well as my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. I’m not the fastest of writers; it takes me anywhere from six to nine months to write a book, and I realized early into entering the world of indie publishing that my time was better spent writing more Anastasia books. I love Gracie, though, and have every intention of writing more books about her at some point in the future. Whether it will be near or distance future is uncertain at this time.
- What are you working on these days?
Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide, the eighth book of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, was released last month. I’m currently working on the ninth book in the series.
Two and a half weeks ago magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack arrived home to find Ira Pollack, her half-brother-in-law, had blinged out her home with enough Christmas lights to rival Rockefeller Center. Now he’s crammed her small yard with enormous cavorting inflatable characters. She and photojournalist boyfriend and possible spy Zack Barnes pack up the unwanted lawn decorations to return to Ira. They arrive to find his yard the scene of an over-the-top Christmas extravaganza. His neighbors are not happy with the animatronics, laser light show, and blaring music creating traffic jams on their normally quiet street. One of them expresses his displeasure with his fists before running off.
In the excitement, the deflated lawn ornaments are never returned to Ira. The next morning Anastasia once again heads to his house before work to drop them off. When she arrives, she discovers Ira’s attacker dead in Santa’s sleigh. Ira becomes the prime suspect in the man’s murder and begs Anastasia to help clear his name. But Anastasia has promised her sons she’ll keep her nose out of police business. What’s a reluctant amateur sleuth to do?
USA Today bestselling 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 Reviews dubbed 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.
Are you Team Anastasia or Team Gracie? Do you also love the ‘sneak peeks’ we get into publishing during these interviews? Are you eagerly awaiting Gracie’s return? Let me know!