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..