Saturday, August 23, 2014
Interview of Author Lois Winston
Latest Book: My very latest book is The Magic Paintbrush, a children’s chapter book, but that’s probably not what most people on RomanceBooks4Us want to read, right? (Although, if you have young children or grandchildren, you might want to check it out.) The release prior to that was Definitely Dead, the first book in my new Empty Nest Mystery series. Again, not exactly romance blog appropriate. So what I’d like to talk about today is Romance Super Bundle II: Second Chances, a boxed set of 11 romances by 11 authors. It released July 1st and made the USA Today bestseller list on July 24th. And it’s currently available for only 99 cents!
Amazon Nook iTunes Smashwords Kobo ARe
USA Today bestselling author and award-winner Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s fiction, and non-fiction 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.”
Q: What is the most important thing you do for your career now, as compared to when you first started writing?
A: Promotion. People need to know about your books in order to buy them. Before I sold a book, all I had to do was write. Once I sold, I had to deal with the reality of publishers expecting their authors to do most of the work the publishing houses used to do for their authors. Sometimes it feels like I spend more time promoting than writing the next book. And every year the promotion takes up more and more time, especially now that I’ve gone indie.
Q: How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?
A: Quite a bit. I guess I’m basically lazy. It’s easier to write about what I know rather than spend time researching things I don’t know. So with only a few exceptions, most of my heroines are involved in some sort of artistic or literary career. They also have my taste in music, clothes, food, etc. And all my heroes look like guys I’d want to date if I were single.
Q: If you could change something about your first book, what would it be?
A: I already did. Even though I remember checking the Atlas as I was writing, I made a geographical error in Talk Gertie to Me. No one caught it—not my critique partners, my agent, my editor, the copy editor, or the line editor. It wasn’t until the book was out for about a week that a reader emailed me to tell me I’d put the Mississippi River on the wrong side of Iowa. At first I didn’t believe it because I remember checking the map, but sure enough, when I went back and looked, I’d goofed—big time. When I got my rights to the book back, I corrected the error before putting it up as an ebook.
Q: Do you eat comfort food/listen to music when writing?
A: Comfort food for me is chocolate, but it’s way too messy to eat and type at the same time. My laptop would constantly be in for repairs. I usually have a cup of coffee within arm’s reach, though.
I prefer to write in total silence. I’m in awe of J.K. Rowling writing the Harry Potter series in a coffee shop. I’d never be able to concentrate with all that noise going on around me.
Q: How do you choose names for your characters?
A: I find I can’t begin writing until I have the perfect names for my characters. I know some authors use placeholder names, but that doesn’t work for me. I guess I’m just too anal. The name has to be right for the character before the character comes to life. I have a baby-naming book I always keep handy and have spent many hours reading through it.
Q: Covers. Ever get one you wish you could change?
A: I loved the covers of my first two books, Talk Gertie to Me (women’s fiction) and Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception (romantic suspense.) Then I switched publishers and was horrified by the cover the publisher proposed for the first book in my mystery series. It might have worked if my series was about a cake decorator, but my protagonist wasn’t a cake decorator. First, I cried. Then I got angry. Finally, I sat down and wrote an email to my editor, explaining that I didn’t want to be a troublemaker, but…THE COVER WAS TOTALLY WRONG! I emphasized my background in graphic design to back up my opinion of their choice. (What were they thinking?) She sent another cover they’d mocked up, one that they’d decided against using because everyone on the committee loved the one I hated. Well, guess what? The cover they didn’t want to use was perfect for the book! The cover gods must have returned from their coffee break right about then, because I got my way—until the second cover in the series…but that’s another story.
Q: Give one advice tip to an aspiring author.
A: Learn how to write right. Too many writers either never paid attention in English class or forgot everything they learned about grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation. If you’re one of them, don’t make the mistake of thinking the editor will fix all your mistakes. She won’t. She’ll buy someone else’s book and send you a form rejection letter.
Q: If you could give a younger version of yourself advice, what would it be?
A: Major in something where you have a decent chance of securing a well-paying job with benefits after you graduate. Very few art majors are able to support themselves with their art. No one ever told me that when I was in school and had high expectations of becoming a female version of Milton Glaser or Seymour Chwast. Instead, the art college I attended happily took students’ tuition money and never told us the harsh realities of life in the art world.
Q: What genre would you like to try writing that you haven’t yet tried?
A: I’ve never written a YA, but I’ve been toying with a few ideas for one. All I need is the time to write it, but there are so many other books I need to write first. Someday…
Q: Have you ever used an incident from your real life in one of your books?
A: All the time! I wrote Hooking Mr. Right after a trip to the bookstore with a recently divorced friend. She’d become obsessed with finding a replacement husband. She practically bought out the store’s inventory of dating advice books. The Rules became her bible, and her exploits supplied me with much fodder for my novel.
Q: What is your favorite holiday and why?
A: Christmas! I love having my entire family together. And I’m really just a kid at heart. I love the festivities, the carols, the holiday movies (my favorites are White Christmas and A Christmas Story,) the cookie baking, decorating the tree…need I go on?
Q: What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
A: I hate both peanut butter and reality TV.
Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: An astronaut. Unfortunately, NASA wasn’t interested in astronauts who suffer from motion sickness. There was also the problem of my total lack of a left brain. Math was never my strong suit.
Q: Favorite food.
A: Crème brûlée.
Q: Favorite happy memory.
A: Time spent with my grandfather.
Q: Favorite drink.
A: Vanilla lattes, but really, any coffee. I can’t survive without my coffee. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll take a break right now and make myself a cup.
Q: Hot summer days or chilly winter nights?
A: Neither, really. I much prefer spring and autumn, but if I had to choose, I’d rather be chilly than too hot. I can always add another layer to warm up. Stripping off layers in public can be problematic, especially since I don’t wear many to begin with in summer.
Q: What is the top thing on your bucket list?
A: I would love to go to China to walk the Great Wall and see the Terra Cotta Warriors. Unfortunately, between the air pollution and so much cigarette-smoking, that will probably never happen. My lungs couldn’t take it.
Q: If you could have a super power, what would it be?
A: Invisibility. There are so many times when I’ve wished I were that spider under the table or fly on the wall.
Tell us where to find you:
USA Today bestseller Super Bundle II: Second Chances features eleven romances from eleven New York Times, USA Today and bestselling, award-winning authors. In it you’ll find a lonesome cowboy, a spurned bride-to-be, a heartbroken widower and an unexpected pregnancy, along with a tasty smattering of intrigue, murder and suspense. Almost half a million words and two thousand pages of strong heroes and daring heroines who'll do anything for a second chance at love.
The book I have featured in the boxed set is Hooking Mr. Right, originally published under my Emma Carlyle pen name:
Can a butt-ugly alley cat named Cupid bring together two people driven apart by secrets and lies?
After writing a doctoral thesis that exposed fraud in the pop-psychology genre, thirty-two year old professor Althea Chandler has to sacrifice her professional integrity to save her family from financial disaster. She secretly becomes bestselling romance guru Dr. Trulee Lovejoy, a self-proclaimed expert on how to catch a man, even though Thea’s a miserable failure when it comes to relationships—especially those with the opposite sex.
Burned by a failed marriage, Luke Bennett finds himself pursued by Dr. Lovejoy toting women after a gossip columnist dubs him New York’s most eligible bachelor. When he at first mistakes Thea for one of the women out to snare him, sparks fly, but the two soon find themselves battling sparks of a less hostile nature, thanks in part to an alley cat named Cupid.
Luke believes he’s finally found an honest woman. Unfortunately, Thea is anything but honest. She’s got more secrets than the CIA and a desperate gossip columnist out to expose her. Cupid definitely has his work cut out for him.
“The trouble lies in the Y chromosome.” Thea took a sip of her coffee and glared across the black Formica-topped desk at her editor, waiting to pounce on Grace if she challenged her statement.
“How so?” Grace leaned back in her chair and sipped her own coffee. Over the rim of the cup an amused expression played across her face.
“Simple genetics, really. Women have two X chromosomes. Men have an X and a Y. Do you know what the definition of Y is?”
Grace set her coffee cup on her desk and raised her eyebrows. “No, but I suppose you’re about to tell me.”
“Y is an X with a broken leg.”
Grace stared at her as if Thea had lost more than a suitcase in her recent, abrupt move from San Francisco to New York. “And your point?”
“Broken! Don’t you get it? Defective!” Thea slammed her hand onto a pile of unread manuscripts teetering on the corner of her editor’s desk, nearly toppling the unwieldy stack onto the floor.
Grace grabbed for her cup, barely averting a brown tidal wave.
“Ergo,” continued Thea, waving her hand in the air to punctuate her explanation, “there is no doubt that women are superior to men. No defective genes. Obviously, man was a rough prototype. God looked at Adam and said, ‘I can do better than that.’ Then he created Eve.” She placed her cup on the edge of the desk, leaned back in her chair, crossed her arms over her chest, and offered her editor a triumphant smile.
“So this explains why you cancelled your wedding and high-tailed it out of San Francisco? Defective male genes?” Grace shuddered. “Do me a favor, will you, Dr. Love? Keep these newly developed, radical theories to yourself. Unless, of course, you want to go from the New York Times Bestseller List back to an auditorium-size classroom packed with bored freshmen.”
Doctor Love. Thea winced at the nickname the press had dubbed her secret alter ego, Dr. Trulee Lovejoy. In truth, she did wish she could return to the classroom and the comforting monotony of teaching Sociology 101 to less-than-eager first year students. Not that she possessed an all-consuming passion for her chosen career in academia, but with everything she had lost over the past few years, at least she’d still have her integrity. However, she could no more turn back the clock and regain her compromised professional ethics than she could restore her family’s lost fortune. At least her popular how-to guides for finding the perfect mate had kept the collection agencies at bay.
“Some love expert! I couldn’t even keep my own fiancé from sleeping with my sister.” Thea raised her head and challenged Grace. “Now aren’t you glad I chose to publish under a pseudonym? Think of the public relations disaster I’ve averted. News flash: Doctor Love Causes Coitus Interuptus after Catching Sister and Fiancé in Flagrante Delicto on Eve of Wedding. Update at eleven..”
“Too erudite and wordy.” Grace brushed away the imaginary headline with a wave of her hand. “Who’d understand all that Latin?”
Thea grimaced. “I can think of at least two people.” Her brainy, Stanford-educated younger sister came to mind. As did her sister’s equally brainy, MIT-educated research partner who also happened to be Thea’s ex-fiancé. Too late Thea had discovered Steve and Madeline were engaged in far more than metaphysical debates while researching distant solar systems and spatial anomalies.
“Yes, well...” Grace fidgeted in her chair, her gaze dropping to her lap.
“It’s okay, Grace. I’m dealing with it. Putting three thousand miles between myself and them helps.”
“Out of sight, out of mind?” Grace raised her chin and met Thea’s eyes. “Come on, I know you better than that. You’re hurting.”
Thea exhaled a deep sigh and shrugged. “Guilty as charged.” She glanced over at the large scheduling calendar covering half of one wall in Grace’s office and laughed. The sound hung in the room, echoing with pain and resonating with irony.
“Just think, three weeks ago today my biggest concern was that the rehearsal dinner was getting cold because Steve was off in some corner deconstructing the theory of relativity. I used to dream we’d someday travel to Stockholm to pick up his Nobel Prize.” She leaned forward, propped her elbows on the desk and scowled at her nearly empty mug. “It just never occurred to me that the award would be for causing my world to stop spinning on its axis.”
Grace reached across her desk and patted Thea’s hand. “Trust me. You’re better off finding out the truth before the wedding rather than afterwards.”
“Speaking from experience?”
“More than I like to admit. Maybe I should take some of Trulee’s advice.”
“Get real! If you have any sense, Grace, you’ll let me out of my contract and forget about that third book. Finding Mr. Right? Hooking Mr. Right? I’m a fraud. I don’t know the first thing about how to get a man and keep him. I’m a thirty-two year old sociologist with a lousy track record when it comes to the male species. How can you trust me to write credible books on the subject when I can’t even trust my own judgment where men are concerned?”
Grace shrugged. “Maybe we both need to follow your advice. Others do and swear by your books. Besides, I’m not letting you out of your contract. Trulee Lovejoy is the best thing to happen to this company in years.”
“Trulee Lovejoy.” Thea shook her head. “What was I thinking? How did I ever let you talk me into that awful pseudonym?”
“If I remember correctly, I had a little help from a lady named Margarita. Several ladies named Margarita, actually. Besides, I’m hurt. You insisted on an alias, and I came up with the perfect nom de plume for you. After all, who would you believe when it came to matters of the heart, Dr. Trulee Lovejoy or Dr. Althea Chandler?”
Thea scowled. “Right now I’d suggest you might have better luck with Lassie."
Anything else you’d like to add?
Finding Mr. Right, a short story sequel to Hooking Mr. Right is featured in Love, Valentine Style, a boxed set collection of six romances by six authors.