Which Comes First, Craft or Crime?

Jun 28, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Lois Winston

I’m often asked where I get my ideas. That’s an easy question for me to answer. I’m a news junkie, and most of my plots and subplots sprout from seeds of real-life events. I’ll see something on the news or read a newspaper account of either a crime or an event, and my imagination begins to play the “what if?” game.

A more uncommon question to answer is when people ask how I begin writing a book. All I can answer to that is, it depends. There is no right or wrong way to start a novel. Every author has her own process. For me, the book often begins with a craft that becomes intertwined with a crime.

I write the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, a humorous cozy series that features a magazine crafts editor as my amateur sleuth. When I was asked to write a craft-themed cozy mystery years ago, I decided not to confine myself to one craft. I specifically chose my protagonist’s profession so that I could feature a different craft in each book in the series. There are now twelve Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries featuring twelve different crafts.

Sometimes the craft is specifically mentioned in the title, as in Decoupage Can Be Deadly. Other times, it’s inferred, as in A Stitch to Die For. And sometimes a craft is neither mentioned nor implied, but the title still refers to crafting, as in Revenge of the Crafty Corpse.

For my latest book, I wanted to write a story that took Anastasia out of New Jersey. My husband and I moved from a New York City commuter town to a suburb of Nashville two years ago, ever since, readers have been asking me when Anastasia would move to Tennessee. She won’t. Anastasia is a diehard Jersey girl. That doesn’t mean she can’t travel, though, and in this latest book, I send her to Tennessee wine country for a few days. (It’s not Napa, but as I’ve discovered, Tennessee has many fine wineries.)

Once I came up with the idea, I remembered having seen some lovely collages of antique wine labels when my husband and I were in Napa a few years ago. I decided to have Anastasia and Zack stay at a Bed & Breakfast connected to a winery. Their guest cottage has a framed wine label collage hanging on the wall. And voila! I had my craft for the book.

I then started writing. I’m not a plotter. I begin with the barest idea of a plot before I begin pounding out the story. I had an idea for how Anastasia would find the first dead body. As for the plot, here’s where my news junkie gene comes in. I was following a cryptocurrency fraud case that was playing out in real time on the evening news each night. That news story became the seed that sprouted the idea for the plot of the book. However, it wouldn’t be the only crime committed in this book because crimes rarely happen in a vacuum. Often, secondary crimes are committed to cover up the main crime, and there are several secondary crimes that occur in the book. That’s when the title popped into my head — A Crafty Collage of Crime.

A Crafty Collage of Crime
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 12

Wherever crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack goes, murder and mayhem follow. Her honeymoon is no exception. She and new husband, photojournalist (and possible spy) Zachary Barnes, are enjoying a walk in the Tennessee woods when they stumble upon a body on the side of a creek. The dead man is the husband of one of the three sisters who own the winery and guest cottages where Anastasia and Zack are vacationing.

When the local sheriff sets his sights on the widow as the prime suspect, her sisters close ranks around her. The three siblings are true-crime junkies, and thanks to a podcaster who has produced an unauthorized series about her, Anastasia’s reputation for solving murders has preceded her to the bucolic hamlet. The sisters plead for her help in finding the real killer. As Anastasia learns more about the women and their business, a host of suspects emerge, including several relatives, a relentless land developer, and even the sisters themselves.

Meanwhile, Anastasia becomes obsessed with discovering the podcaster’s identity. Along with knowing about Anastasia’s life as a reluctant amateur sleuth, the podcaster has divulged details of Anastasia’s personal life. Someone has betrayed Anastasia’s trust, and she’s out to discover the identity of the culprit.

Craft project included.

Buy Links
Kobo: kobo.com/us/en/ebook/a-crafty-collage-of-crime
Barnes & Noble: barnesandnoble.com/w/a-crafty-collage-of-crime-lois-winston/1143442079?ean=2940161008225
Apple Books: books.apple.com/us/book/a-crafty-collage-of-crime/id6448801378

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode went up last week.

You can use this link to order the book which comes out in August. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the Amazon link. You can also click here to purchase the book.

USA Today and Amazon bestselling author Lois Winston began her award-winning writing career with Talk Gertie to Me, a humorous fish-out-of-water novel about a small-town girl going off to the big city and the mother who had other ideas. That was followed by the romantic suspense Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception.
Then Lois’s writing segued into the world of amateur sleuths with her humorous Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, which Kirkus Reviews dubbed “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” The series now includes twelve novels and three novellas.
To date Lois has published twenty-one novels, five novellas, several short stories, one children’s chapter book, and one nonfiction book on writing. You can find all of Lois’ social media and a link to sign up for her newsletter on her website.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Thanks so much for featuring me and my latest book today!

  2. Lois, this idea of which comes first when starting a book–the crime or the craft (to me the craft is the in some ways the hook) is really intriguing. I’ve only written one and quarter manuscripts at this point, but in my case it was definitely the craft/hook that came first. I’ve always figured that was unusual, but now I see from you that it definitely happens that way, and not all that uncommonly. I love learning new things. This was bundles of fun. Thanks.
    Website: https://pamelaruthmeyer.com
    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pamelaruthmeyer
    Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/pamelaruthmeyer

  3. Pam, every author develops her own unique process. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to crafting a novel, no matter the genre. Most of us have arrived at what works best for us through years of trial and error. 😉
    Glad you enjoyed the post!

  4. Fun blog, Lois. It’s always interesting to look into your writing process. I’ll be watching for the new one next month.

  5. It’s always fun to learn how authors develop their stories. Interesting post, Lois.

  6. Crafts and crimes sounds like a great read. Thanks for the chance.

  7. Great post! And your latest book sounds delightful.


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