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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?

The Big Thrill spent some time with bestselling author Lois Winston discussing the latest installment of her Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, HANDMADE HO-HO HOMICIDE:

Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?

Anastasia Pollack, the reluctant amateur sleuth of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, came first. Plots and settings followed. I’m a total news junkie, and most of my plots are inspired by actual events. The plot of HANDMADE HO-HO HOMICIDE came about after I read of a recent murder in New Jersey.

What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?

Because this is the eighth book in the series (there are also three novellas), the biggest challenge has been making sure I’m keeping the series and characters fresh. I want to keep my readers wanting more. A bored reader is one who won’t buy the next book.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

This book, along with the others in the series, is a humorous cozy mystery. I want to make my readers laugh while they try to figure out whodunnit. I think this is more important than ever with everything that’s going on in the world right now. We all need to laugh more—even when it comes to murder (but only fictional murders, of course!).

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

Although most of my characters spring entirely from my imagination, there is one exception: Anastasia’s communist mother-in-law is more than loosely based on my own communist mother-in-law. (Which is probably why some of my husband’s relatives no longer speak to me!)


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.

To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.