When I tell people I write humorous amateur sleuth mysteries, they often respond with looks of horror. How can murder be funny? Even within the mystery writing community some people have very strong opinions regarding this particular sub-genre. They find nothing humorous about murder. Personally, neither do I. However, I do find that 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 way 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.
I like to make 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, the first book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, I did so with a hot glue gun. And when I killed off a TV executive in Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in the series, I used a knitting needle. After all, anyone can kill off a victim with a Glock or a Ginsu knife, but how many killers use a glue gun or a knitting needle?
My mystery series is also populated with a cast of zany characters. I love taking polar opposites and throwing them together to create conflict. My protagonist has a mother who believes she descends from Russian royalty and a mother-in-law who’s a staunch communist. Not only are they both living under Anastasia’s roof, they’re forced to share a bedroom. Zany characters + conflict = humor. Even though it’s in the confines of a murder mystery.
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 readers guessing as to the identity of the killer. As the author, I have to know who the killer is. So it’s difficult for me to be objective. Did I leave too many clues? Not enough? The worst thing in the world is to have your readers figure out whodunit by the third or fourth chapter into the book.
Humor is very subjective, though. I’ve written scenes where I’ve laughed out loud as I’ve typed, then again each time I reread the scene. However, I never know if others will find those scenes funny and always hold my breath, fingers crossed, once the book is released.
So you can imagine how absolutely thrilled I was when Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist, with Publishers Weekly stating, “Crafty cozies don’t get any better than this hilarious confection…” and Booklist saying, “Winston has hit a home run with this hilarious, laugh-until-your-sides-hurt tale.” Kirkus Reviews called the book “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.”
I held my breath once again recently, awaiting the reviews for Death By Killer Mop Doll. Would the critics think it’s as funny as its predecessor? Yes! Reviews have started coming in, and I’m breathing once again. Publishers Weekly called the book “droll” and said that “readers who relish the offbeat will be rewarded.” Booklist called Anastasia “a crafting Stephanie Plum,” and Kirkus Reviews said the book was filled with “oodles of laughs.”
Now, once again, it’s up to readers. If you’d like to find out for yourself, I’m giving away 5 signed copies of Death By Killer Mop Doll as part of my January blog tour. To enter the drawing, post a comment to any of the blogs on the tour. The full tour schedule can be found at my website, http://www.loiswinston.com, and the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. In addition, I’m giving away 3 copies of Death By Killer Mop Doll on Goodreads, http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/15173-death-by-killer-mop-doll
BIO: Lois Winston is the author of the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries published by Midnight Ink. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. The new year brings with it the release of Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in the series. Read an excerpt at http://www.loiswinston.com/excerptap2.html. Visit Lois at her website: http://www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. You can also follow Lois and Anastasia on Twitter @anasleuth.