Monday, February 13, 2012


 We're happy to welcome Lois Winston to our blog. She's an award-winning author of romantic suspense, humorous women's fiction, and mystery.

I write humorous amateur sleuth murder mysteries. Some people think that’s an oxymoron. Mysteries are all about finding the heinous people who commit murder and mayhem and bringing them to justice. Serious business, right? Definitely not something to laugh at.

I don’t disagree. However, the classic “fish out of water” story by its very nature is humorous. And what is an amateur sleuth mystery if not a fish out of water story? In my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, my protagonist is the crafts editor for a women’s magazine. She doesn’t know the first thing about murder and mayhem, yet she finds herself plopped down right in the middle of both. If she were in law enforcement, she’d have a Glock or a .357 Magnum on hand, but as a crafts editor, her tools of the trade include pompoms, felt squares, and chenille stems. Not exactly your average deadly weapons!

The humor in my mysteries comes from how my characters cope with life. I’ve dumped a heap of trouble on Anastasia. In Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, she’s just discovered her recently deceased husband gambled away their life’s savings, leaving her deeply in debt with a loan shark breathing down her neck. She’s also stuck with her mother, a woman who believes she descends from Russian royalty, and her curmudgeonly communist mother-in-law, a woman incapable of a kind word for anyone, especially Anastasia. They’re both living under Anastasia’s roof, along with Anastasia’s two teenage sons, a Shakespeare quoting parrot, Catherine the Great Persian cat, and a French bulldog named Manifesto (after the communist treatise of the same name.) Taking polar opposites and throwing them together creates conflict. Zany characters + conflict = humor.

I find it usually helps to have a sense of humor to get through much of what life throws at you, and I try to convey that in the ways my characters approach life. I also prefer to read books that make me laugh, rather than have me constantly checking the locks on all my windows and doors! So when I began writing mysteries, I knew I wanted to write humorous amateur sleuth mysteries, not police procedurals or dark, gritty serial killer fare. I get enough of that reading my daily newspaper and watching the evening news.

Because I believe in the power of laughter, I like making my readers laugh, even if they’re reading about a murder investigation. That’s why when I killed off the fashion editor in Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, I did so with (duh!) a hot glue gun. My weapon of choice in Death By Killer Mop Doll? A knitting needle. After all, anyone can kill with a Glock or a switchblade. It takes a crafty killer to use a glue gun or a knitting needle.

The problem with writing humor, though, is that you never know if your readership will “get” it. For me, writing humor is the second hardest part of writing a mystery. The first part is creating a story where you keep your reader guessing as to the identity of the villain.

Come back on Friday  and read an excerpt of DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL.

And in the meantime, please leave Lois a comment..


Ruby Johnson said...

Some people can tell a joke or write comedy really well. Then there's some of us poor smucks who can't. I think it has to do with timing and of course remembering the words leading up to the punch line! Thanks so much for posting with us.

Lois Winston said...

Ruby, I'm terrible at remembering jokes or even telling them. Writing funny is much easier for me because I have time to think about what I want to say and the best way to say it. I'm not being put on the spot in front of people. If someone doesn't think my writing is funny, I'll never know about it, and there's no awkward silence following a joke that bombs.

Ladson D. said...

I think some authors are just good at making the ordinary funny. One of my favorite show is Justified and I love the writing in that show. The one-line quips, the characters who aren't trying to be funny but are. Looking forward to your book.

jeff7salter said...

I love humor in mysteries, incl. those which feature murder(s).
Bob Hope did a lot of movies in which dead bodies continued to appear. Many of my favorite screwball films from the 1930s and early 40s were like that.
Of course, that's movies.
It takes quite a bit more skill to handle it in a novel, because you don't have the visual components working for you. I mean if you describe it well enough, a reader can visualize it, but that's not the same as actually SEEING it on screen.
So, it's tougher to create "humorous murders' in writing, but I love reading it.

Thorne Anderson said...

I agree with Jeff. Almost all comedy involves reversal and an element of suprise. An example, one of my favorites, comes from Billy Mernit's book-"Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas.How he got into my pajamas I'll never know."

Lois Winston said...

Ladson, we try. Hope you enjoy my book.

Jeff, your comment brought to mind The Thin Man. Dashell Hammett's book wasn't a comedy, but the way the story was handled in the movie turned it into a comedy, as were the subsequent movies based on the characters. If you haven't seen them, you should.

Thorne, that quote was by Groucho Marx from ANIMAL CRACKERS.

George said...

"I've dumped a heap of trouble on Anastasia." Jeepers -- you hit the nail on the doorknob -- that's how characters can effectively cope with life.

"The problem with writing humor, though, is that you never know if your readership will 'get it.'"

Something tells me your readership always 'gets it.'

Thank you for coming to the GFWWG blog. I'm going to sleep with one eye open until I read one of your excerpts.

Lois Winston said...

Thanks, George. It would be wonderful if everyone who reads my books "gets it," but that's truly wishful thinking. I just hope more people "get it" than don't.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Lois, I enjoyed ASSUALT WITH A KILLER GLUE GUN and look forward to DEATH BY A KILLER MOP. Your writing is clever and fun.

Lois Winston said...

Thanks so much, Caroline!

Earl Staggs said...

Hi, Lois. I started Assault With A Deadly Glue Gun, loved it, and am anxious to get back to it. After only a few chapters, though, I reached a conclusion: You're not just good at writing humor, you're good at writing, period.

Lois Winston said...

Oh, Earl, that's the best Valentine a girl could possibly get! Thank you so much!

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