Saturday, June 9, 2007

Love, Double-Shots, and Lois Winston

Today, I'm talking to Lois Winston, a fairly new author (her second book, Love, Lies, & a Double-Shot of Deception is a June release from Dorchester), about humor and her venture into publishing.

Lois's first book was Talk Gertie To Me (Dorchester, April 2006) a combination chick lit/hen lit/romantic comedy with a touch of the paranormal, and has won several awards and received nominations for plenty more.

JA: Your books have fun titles, great humor, and thoughtfulness. Why were you drawn to writing these particular kind of books? What about the subgenre do you like?

Lois: I don’t know who first coined the saying, “Laughter is the best medicine,” but I’ve found it to be very true. We’re bombarded each day by television, radio, and print news containing horrific stories -- murder, rape, war, famine, poverty, disease. When I pick up a book, I don’t want to read more of the same. I want an escape. That’s why I love romance and novels with romantic elements. I know I’ll always be guaranteed a happy ending, or at least a rich, satisfying ending. Same goes for the movies I watch. You’ll never catch me at a horror flick or an art film where everyone dies at the end. I want to be entertained at the movies, not scared to death or depressed.

Because my favorite books are the ones that make me laugh, I suppose it was only natural that my writing traveled down that path. I get a tremendous amount of pleasure each time someone tells me they laughed out loud while reading one of my books. So even when I write romantic suspense, I don’t write dark, gritty, violent romantic suspense. I don’t want to be responsible for someone’s nightmares. I’d rather be responsible for that embarrassing moment when they laughed out loud while reading one of my books on a train or bus.

I have to give chick lit credit for developing my comedic voice. Even though I don’t write straight chick lit, my voice is a direct result of the chick lit influence. My characters -- no matter their age -- are infused with that wry sensibility often found in chick lit. It’s either that or my New York attitude. Or maybe a combination of both. You can exile the city girl to the suburbs, but she’ll always be a city girl at heart.

JA: Do you have any advice for writers trying to get past the “gate” and into publication?

Lois: Write the best damn book you can. Then make it even better. Voice is key. The market is so tough that it’s not good enough to have a wonderful story. It has to be a wonderful story told in a unique, engaging voice. You need to hook an editor with your very first sentence and keep her hooked through 300 - 400 pages. With so many manuscripts vying for a limited number of slots, you don’t want to give an editor any excuse to put your manuscript down. You want to be responsible for keeping her up all night because she just had to finish that manuscript.

JA: What has been your best experience about getting published? Your worst?

Lois: The best experience? I don’t know that I can winnow it down to one. Knowing that I accomplished what I set out to do is certainly high up on the list. There’s no experience like the first time you walk into a bookstore and see your book on the shelf. Fan mail would be another. That a total stranger would take the time to write to me to say how much she enjoyed my book definitely ranks up there. Reviewers who tell the world to read my books? They deserve a special place in Heaven. Judges who have bestowed awards on my books? They’re up there right next to the reviewers. Each one of these things is a Sally Field moment for me. (They like me; they really like me!) I’m both thrilled and humbled by these events. So choosing one best experience is impossible.

As for the worst? I’d have to say that’s probably the wait between sales, the worry that I’ll be a one-book-wonder or now a two-book-wonder. Selling a book is no guarantee of a lifetime of sales. The worry never goes away. (Although a multi-book contract with a fat advance would go a long way to lessening the worry!)

JA: Thank you, Lois, taking time to answer my questions, and best of luck, on your current release! I understand it's already getting fabulous reviews.

Lois also works at the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. Her website is Since I forgot she worked at an agency, I'll have to ask her more questions about that aspect of her life!