Monday, April 10, 2006

Make-Believe Monday With Lois Winston

Today on Make-believe Mondays we have Lois Winston. Lois was first runner up in the American Title contest last year. It's such a thrill to see how the careers of last years finalists have taken off.

Lois, first, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you’re working on now.

Lois: Because my publisher is looking for romantic suspense, I’ve gone back to some of my older manuscripts (I started out writing r/s) and am rewriting them. I still believe in the stories and the characters I created and would love to see them published eventually. However, I cringed when I first reread them after so many years. I now see why they didn’t sell at the time and can also see how much I’ve matured as a writer. It’s actually a really good feeling.

Mark Twain said, “You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” How do you fill your creative well to keep your imagination in focus?

Lois: I get quite a bit of my inspiration from reading the newspaper, especially the human interest stories and the letters to Dear Abby. I keep a file of anything that interests me. When my muse takes a holiday and my imagination become uncooperative, I sit down with that file and start reading. Before I’ve gotten very far, the muse returns and my imagination stops putting up a fight.

Is there a point when your characters begin to come alive and you can see and hear them?

Lois: Oh yes! All the time. And sometimes at the most inopportune moments. I remember an episode of Bewitched years ago where Samantha is writing a play. The characters come alive in her living room and begin talking to her, helping her write the script. Sometimes I feel like that’s happening to me. It gets a bit awkward on occasion, though, especially when it happens in an aisle of the supermarket or during a doctor’s appointment!

Some very famous authors have played with language, creating words for people or places that no one has ever heard of. Have you ever played with words in that way and if so how?

Lois: I don’t make up words, but I love onomatopoeia. So I often play with phrasing. I also like to put a different spin on common phrases to make them fresh and a bit out of the ordinary. I also love to choose character names and settings for my stories that have a bit of double-entendre to them or a Dickensian nature. For instance, the father in Talk Gertie To Me is Earnest Stedworth. And he certainly is!

For some writers, dreams play a role in creating fiction. Has this been true for you? Have you ever dreamed a scene or an image that later wound up in one of your books?

Lois: You have no idea how apropos this question is for me! I began writing because of a recurring dream that kept growing. Each night another chapter played out. When the dream began taking over my daytime thoughts, I knew it was time to get it down on paper. That dream became my first manuscript. I also find that I often can’t fall asleep at night until I puzzle out the next scene in my current manuscript. If something is giving me problems, and I’ve written myself into a corner, I need to find a solution before I can shut down my brain and go to sleep at night.

As a child did any particular book or author pull you into their imaginary world?

Lois: In grammar school I devoured the Cherry Ames series. For several years I wanted to become a nurse because of the influence the books had on me. By junior high I had very eclectic taste. One summer I read The Hobbit and the complete Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gone with the Wind, Marjorie Morningstar, and Peyton Place (the last two on the sly.)

If there were no categories for books, no reader expectations to meet, and you could create the wildest work of imagination that you could think of what kind of story would that be?

Lois: One that lands me on the NY Times best-seller list? Truthfully, this is a very difficult question to answer. I write in several genres and also write cross-genre. It really depends on the story that’s burning within me at any given moment. I write what I want to write. I don’t write to the market because the market is always changing. It’s far better to be a trend-setter than a trend-follower. I’m just hoping that one of these days one of my books does trigger a trend. After all, who wouldn’t want to be the next J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown?

Is there anything else you would like to add about the role of imagination, and dreams in creating fiction? Any other message for our readers?

Lois: The one thing I’d like to stress is that if you have a passion to write, don’t stop. Keep writing, no matter how many rejection letters you receive, no matter how many obstacles are thrown your way. I know it sounds cliché, but you won’t succeed at something if you allow defeatism to rule your life. It took me 10 years from the time I wrote down that dream until I sold my first book. Some dreams just take a bit longer than others to come true.

Lois, thank you for joining us here on this Make-believe Monday. Visit

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