Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Guest Blog by Lois Winston

Hope you enjoy this guest blog by Lois Winston, author of Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun!

I live in a state that is often one long parking lot. I suppose that’s why they call the major north/south thoroughfare the Garden State PARKway. This morning I had a 9:15 doctor’s appointment. The office is 12 miles from my house. I left home at 8:00am and arrived 10 minutes late! Really. No exaggeration.

My state, New Jersey, is the butt of many jokes. Current reality TV shows such as Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and Jerseylicious don’t help. Even Cake Boss often portrays us in a not so accurate light (and with Hoboken now Manhattan West, even Buddy and his famiglia are no longer an accurate representation of that town’s demographic.)

However, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. (Okay, that’s
not completely truthful. If someone offered me a 2,000 sq. ft. apartment in Manhattan, I’d jump at the chance, but how
Assault with a Deadly Glue Gunlikely is that to happen?)

I like New Jersey so much that I’ve set my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series not only in my own state but in my own town. Some people might think I’m crazy to set a series in a real suburban community, but there’s a method to my madness. I already have to keep straight all these characters who populate my books. With a real setting, I don’t have to fear messing up the layout of an imaginary town. I don’t have to worry that I set the shopping district on Broad Street in Book One but inadvertently moved it to Main Street in Book Two.  Readers pick up on errors like that, and I want to keep my readers happy and reading.

But why not use the town and change the name you might ask? To which I respond, why? People love reading books set in real places, especially real places they know. With 9 million people crammed into the third smallest state in the nation, New Jersey contains many potential readers. A good percentage of those readers will be quite familiar with the town where Anastasia lives.

Another great aspect of setting my series in New Jersey is the diverse geography of the state.  New Jersey is just under 48,000 square miles. While keeping Anastasia close to home, I have the opportunity to place her on the Appalachian Trail, down the shore (in New Jersey we go “down the shore” not “to the beach,”) out in horse country, or in a crime-infested inner city, all within less than an hour’s drive from her home. Not to mention being a short train commute from Manhattan. That opens all sorts of plotting opportunities for me.

If you only know about New Jersey from those reality TV shows, pick up a copy of Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun and learn about the real New Jersey. And don’t worry. You’ll still laugh at us but hopefully, in a good way.

BIO: Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries featuring magazine craft editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, debuted in January and received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus Reviews dubbed it “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” Death By Killer Mop Doll will be out in January 2012. Visit Lois at her website, http://www.loiswinston.com, and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com.


Kathleen Ernst said...

I just finished Assault while on vacation, Lois. It was a fun read!

Irene said...

In my opinion, there is no finer place in which to set a story, nor any finer group of interesting folks about which to write.
Did I just write that?
Product of New Jersey schools....

Irene said...

New Jersey is probably the most perfect place in which to set a story. We have everything here! And fascinating people around every corner. I know a whole bunch of 'em.

Patricia said...

I like being immersed in a "real" city or town. It gives the story a certain depth which I enjoy. And if a book were to be written with the city I live in as its venue, I'd buy it just because of that.

Dru said...

I can't wait to read Death by Killer Mop Doll.

Joanna Aislinn said...

Great article, ladies! As a Jersey girl, I always enjoy being able to identify story settings firsthand. NJ has its issues, but it's got four seasons, a mix of every kind of culture and has its gorgeous spots too. As the saying goes, there's something for everyone.

Joanna Aislinn
Dream. Believe. Strive. Achieve!
The Wild Rose Press

Lois Winston said...

Thanks, Kathleen! So glad you enjoyed it.

Yes, Irene, we do have some of the finest schools in the nation and the top percentage of students going on to college. Let's hear it for NJ English teachers! (and a special thanks to Burnet Jr. High's Peggy Riley Hughs!)

What city is that, Patricia?

Dru, I hope you enjoy Death By Killer Mop Doll as much as you enjoyed Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun -- or even more!

Maggie Bishop said...

You are right -- why not use a real setting? My editor and I discussed using a fictional town name, even came up with one, before deciding that the real setting of Boone, NC, had benefits. Plus I use real people as some of my minor characters.
Enjoyed your post.

Karyne Corum said...

Lois, I couldn't have said it better myself. NJ deserves the true representation it gets in books like yours.

I'm so glad that you were on my site talking up Jersey as well. Jersey Pride we can never have enough of.

Jessie Chandler said...

Fun post, Lois! My partner is from Jersey, and I lived out there a year till we wound up moving back to MN. THat state is plum full of characters that cry to be put in a book. In fact the personalties of the different cities are so varied they are almost characters themselves. Love the cover of Mop, btw. And I set my series in a tread city too...I know I love reading about places I'm familiar with, and so do readers, I think.

Lois Winston said...

Joanna, personally, I don't think NJ has any more issues than the other 49 states, but for some reason we get the worst rap.

Maggie, so glad your editor allowed you to go with a real city. I know some publishers are totally against that. Some even insist on made-up countries! How weird is that?

Karyne, in the book I'm working on now (the third Anastasia book) I've got a character who wears her jersey pride across her chest in a series of T-shirts.

Jessie, thanks for the thumbs up on the cover for DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL. Where about in NJ did you live while you were here?

Coco Ihle said...

Lois, you certainly hit the nail on the head when you said NJ is varied. I grew up in central Jersey, but my parents had a summer place in the northern part of the state. My sister grew up down the shore. It's like different worlds describing those places. Great for storytelling. I got Absinthe at Malice and I finally have some time to read it. Can't wait!!! Great luck to you!!!

J K Maze said...

You're so right about having your setting in a real place. I have a series set in a fake town and actually drew an intricate map - which I lost. I read the first Anastasia book and am looking forward to the rest.

Joan K. Maze

Lois Winston said...

Coco, that's what's so cool about NJ.

JK, so glad you enjoyed ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN. DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL is now available for pre-order and will be in stores the beginning of January.