WHAT ARE THE ODDS? by Lois Winston

In fiction authors know to steer clear of circumstances that are considered too coincidental. Readers and reviewers will call them out on it. However, in real life coincidences often occur fairly frequently. For instance, when my husband and I lived in Philadelphia, every few months we’d drive up to New York City for a weekend of museum hopping and Broadway shows. On countless occasions we’d wind up bumping into people we knew from Philadelphia.

Considering the population of Philadelphia and how many people are on the island of Manhattan on any given day, what were the odds of this happening even once, let alone half a dozen times over the course of three or four years? Still, it’s not a trope I’d ever use in a book. Truth might be stranger than fiction, but coincidence stretches the suspension of disbelief too thin for most readers.

However, coincidence did play a role in the creation of Literally Dead, the second book in my Empty Nest Mystery series. An unbelievable coincidence in my own life gave me the idea for one of the plot points in the novel.

A couple of years ago my husband and I reluctantly attended a family reunion given by one of his elderly aunts. (Arm-twisting on the part of his sister played a huge factor in our agreeing to go.) His family is a bit strange. Not only were family members in attendance but so were ex-spouses of family members who had divorced decades ago. I knew very few of the people at the party. My husband’s family is not what you’d call close. We rarely saw any of them, which made the reunion and our invitation to it all the more surprising.

One of the invited guests was an ex-spouse of one of my husband’s relatives. Although we had never met, I knew addiction had played a role in the breakup of their marriage. Imagine my shock when I discovered this ex-relative was someone I knew from the publishing industry! What were the odds?

Even though I’d never write a coincidental meeting into one of my books, my own coincidental meeting of this person at the family reunion wound up playing into the storyline for Literally Dead. And to think, I almost skipped going to that party.

Literally Dead
An Empty Nest Mystery, Book 2

After her last disastrous episode as an amateur sleuth, Gracie Elliott is back. The budding romance writer has spent the past year crafting her first novel. Her hard work and determination pay off when her manuscript wins the Cream of the Crop award, a contest for unpublished writers, sponsored by the Society of American Romance Authors. First place entitles her to attend the organization’s annual conference, normally open only to published authors.

With husband Blake in tow, a starry-eyed Gracie experiences the ultimate fan-girl moment upon entering the hotel. Her favorite authors are everywhere. However, within minutes she learns Lovinia Darling, the Queen of Romance, is hardly the embodiment of the sweet heroines she creates. Gracie realizes she’s stepped into a romance vipers’ den of backstabbing, deceit, and plagiarism, but she finds a friend and mentor in bestselling author Paisley Prentiss.

Hours later, when Gracie discovers Lovinia’s body in the hotel stairwell, a victim of an apparent fall, Gracie is not convinced her death was an accident. Too many other authors had reason to want Lovinia dead. Ignoring husband Blake’s advice to “let the police handle it,” Gracie, aided by Paisley, begins her own investigation into the death. Romance has never been so deadly.

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About the Author

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 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. Visit Lois/Emma at www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. Follow everyone on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/anasleuth and onTwitter at https://twitter.com/Anasleuth. Sign up for her newsletter at https://www.MyAuthorBiz.com/ENewsletter.php?acct=LW2467152513


Susan Oleksiw said…
I too am suspicious of coincidental events in a mystery but I'm never surprised by them in real life. Great story about the reunion, and best of luck with your new book.
Lois Winston said…
Agreed, Susan. It's funny how we accept coincidence in real life but can never seem to suspend our disbelief enough to buy into them in fiction. Thanks for stopping by
I've also experienced some amazing coincidences in real life, but we are told to avoid using coincidence in fiction. Go figure?
Lois Winston said…
It's crazy, isn't it? But coincidence seems so contrived in fiction. It becomes a lazy way out. Thanks for stopping by, Jacqueline.
Angela Adams said…
I would love for you to write a story based on that family reunion (smile!).
Lois Winston said…
I probably will at some point, Angela. As Nora Ephron used to say, "It's all copy." ;-)
Thanks for stopping by!
Hi Lois, Excellent post! I enjoyed reading and highly recommend Literally Dead. Looking forward to the next book in the series.
Lois Winston said…
Thanks, Joanne! I'm currently working on the next book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. So it will be awhile before Gracie makes her next appearance. Hope you can wait!
Vinnie/www.vinniehansen.com said…
This book sounds great!
Jackie Houchin said…
An interesting interview and over-view of your book, Lois. I have to tell you, that when I was in Florence, Italy last June, (I'm a So. California resident) I heard someone call my name. It was friends from Santa Clarita, California - in my old neighborhood. As you say... could never use it in a story because who would believe it?

Your series sound very interesting. I will check you out on Amazon Smile. I like stories about writers.

By the way, one of us 8 writers on The Writers In Residence blog this week, wrote her post on cozy mysteries. Maybe check it out, and add YOUR list to ones that have also been suggested.
Here's the short link to the post. http://bit.ly/2dYPdRA
Gemma Juliana said…
Entertaining blog post, Lois. A couple I know in the US took a trip to Venice, Italy. Upon turning a corner, they bumped right into a couple they know well in Texas. It's a very small world... Literally Dead sounds like a page turner.

Did you reveal to the relative at the reunion that you *knew* him/her? Or did *they* also recognize your name? Quite fascinating!
Lois Winston said…
Thanks, Jackie, I hopped over there, read the blog, and posted a comment.

Gemma, she had no idea who I was, even though we'd sat next to each other at a luncheon several years earlier. But that was during her coke days. I'm guessing she doesn't remember much of that period of her life. Thanks for stopping by!

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