If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

WWK--Better than ever--Look for the return of blogs by Linda Rodriguez! She's back--on 1/4. Watch for our new blogger Tammy Euliano--debuting on 1/17

January Interviews

1/06 Sherry Harris, Absence of Alice

1/13 Jane Willan, Abide with Me

1/20 Kelly Brakenhoff, Dead of Winter Break

1/27 Jackie Layton, Bag of Bones

Saturday WWK Bloggers

1/02 V. M. Burns

1/09 Jennifer J. Chow

1/23 Kait Carson

Guest Blogs

1/16 Shea E. Butler

1/30 Gray Basnight


Congratulations to Jennifer J. Chow for garnering a 2021 Lefty Nomination for Best Humorous Mystery Novel. We're crossing our fingers for Jennifer!

Congratulations to two WWK writers. Paula Gail Benson's "Reputation or Soul" and Keenan Powell's "Miss Millie Munz" have been chosen for Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical anthology to be released this spring.

KM Rockwood's "Stay Safe--Very Safe" appears in this year's 2020 BOULD anthology. Congratulations, KM!

Margaret S. Hamilton's "Dealing at the Dump" will appear in Cozy Villages of Death Fall 2020.

Margaret S. Hamilton's "Black Market Baby" and Debra H. Goldstein's "Forensic Magic" will appear in Masthead: Best New England Crime Stories Fall 2020.

Two new books for WWK members: Jennifer J. Chow's Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines (look for the interview on WWK on 11/11) and Judy Penz Sheluk's Where There's A Will. Both books will be released on November 10.

For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Annette Dashofy signed with agent Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Congratulations, Annette!

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" has been published in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

An Interview with Grace Topping by E. B. Davis

The important thing isn’t whether a glass is half full or half
empty but that it can be refilled.
Grace Topping, Staging Wars, Kindle Loc. 2403

Laura Bishop’s new home staging business is growing in popularity, though not with her nemesis. Laura has long suspected established interior designer Monica Heller of sabotaging her fledgling company—and having an affair with her late husband.

When the ultra-chic Monica is caught at the scene of a murder, Laura is plenty happy to imagine her languishing in a prison cell with bedsheets far from her normal 600-thread Egyptian cotton. But her delight is short-lived.

When Laura’s friends land on the police’s radar, Laura must overcome her dislike of Monica to help solve the crime. Not an easy task since Laura and Monica have been at war since the second grade.

Staging Wars is the second book in Grace Topping’s Laura Bishop mystery series. It was released yesterday by Henery Press. Grace was nominated for an Agatha Award for her first book in this series, Staging is Murder. I’m unsure how this year’s Agatha Awards will be determined since the Malice Domestic conference won’t be held due to the public distancing required by the Coronavirus, but we still have high hopes that Grace (or Connie Berry, another WWK blogger, who is competing for the same award) will win.

Laura’s only relative, Aunt Kit, sister of Laura’s late mother, visits and stays with Laura. For someone on her own, Laura has little time to herself among her visiting aunt, Inky, her cat, Nita, her friend and business partner, business demands, both her own and Monica’s, and of course, solving two murders.

Ask Grace questions by leaving a comment below. Thanks for the interview, Grace!                                                                                                                                 E. B. Davis

You start each chapter with house staging advice. One piece of advice is to make sure the furniture in the room is in proportion to the room. I’ve been vexed for years because it seems as room sizes of homes have decreased, furniture sizes have increased. How can you find suitably proportioned furniture when manufacturers seem to think we all have spacious, Victorian homes?

Your question reminds me of an experience I had recently. I follow posts professional home stagers make on a Facebook group devoted to home staging. They raise issues like how to make furniture fit, how to bill for different situations, how to handle it when a homeowner is rigid about changing anything, etc. I found myself becoming stressed reading about those things and then relaxed when I reminded myself that I didn’t have to deal with them—I only had to write about them. It was almost like those commercials where well-known actors state that they only play a doctor on TV.

But as to your question about oversized furniture, Laura Bishop would tell you that one way of finding furniture to fit smaller rooms is to search antique and resell shops for older, smaller furniture and have it reupholstered to your taste.

In an effort not to swear, Nita blurts out mystery writers’ names, then romance writers’ names, then painters’ names. How can she be so creative when angry?

Nita is quite a character—someone I would love to have as a best friend. But having a friend like Nita can be dangerous because she has a tendency to lead her friends into sticky situations. With Nita’s success as a photographer, she is discovering she is more talented than she realized. Being artistic, she is inclined to be more imaginative when it comes to art, decorating, and language.

Did Laura jump to conclusions when she suspects that Monica cancelled a reserved truck and left a bad online review of her business or is she justified when no further attacks are made after Monica is jailed?

When the truck reservation is mysteriously cancelled, followed on the heels of receiving a poor anonymous online review, Laura pieces it together with some other things that had been happening, which she doesn’t name. Perhaps she was jumping to conclusions suspecting Monica, but given the history of their schooldays and Monica’s treatment of her, even in adulthood, it’s natural for her to suspect Monica first. Since the strange things that had been happening stopped once Monica was arrested, it was probably a correct assumption. Out of sympathy for Monica’s plight, Laura never asks her about it. So it’s still somewhat of a mystery.

Does anyone drink Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry anymore? Isn’t it sweet? When Laura uses it in Aunt Kit’s favorite chicken dish, I was taken aback because I thought cooking sherry was dry.

I enjoy an occasional sip of Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry. I first discovered Harvey’s when I lived in England years ago. It’s a sweet cordial with a nutty flavor. You can get dry sherry, but I don’t care for it. I particularly enjoy Harvey’s with smoked almonds and always have it on Christmas Eve and on cold winter nights. It warms you right up. And as Laura discovers, it helps calm frazzled nerves.

In addition to including Harvey’s in the chicken dish recipe that appears at the end of the book, it’s terrific in Sherry Trifle—an English dessert made of layers of cake (soaked in sherry), fruit, Jell-O, custard, and lots of whipped cream. You get a taste of the sherry with every bite. It’s a heavenly or devilish dessert, however you want to view it.

In the last few years, Harvey’s has been making a comeback. It is frequently listed as an ingredient in cocktails. Try it. But be careful. Given its sweet taste, it is more potent than you would imagine. 

Although Aunt Kit cautions Laura about leaving her lucrative job with benefits, I didn’t think she seemed as negative as Laura complains about to Nita. Is Laura predisposed to thinking that Aunt Kit has an identical outlook as her mother? She can’t be all bad since Inky loves her and she loves dessert.

One of the challenges of a second and subsequent books in a series is bringing readers up to date about the characters without doing an information dump. I created Aunt Kit so she could bring up things that occurred in the first book and have the retelling sound natural. I wanted her to sound critical of Laura’s decisions so Laura could explain what she did and why, thus setting the stage for the reader. But sometimes you create a character for a particular purpose and they take on a life of their own. It was like that with Mrs. Webster in Staging is Murder. I created her to beseech Laura to help her grandson, and she went on to steal the show and become a reader favorite.

Laura’s husband Derrick ran around on her. She didn’t marry someone like her father, did she? Why did Laura’s parents divorce?

Laura’s parents divorced, and Derrick was killed in an automobile accident with another woman before the series opens. Both contributed to Laura’s aversion to handsome men. Laura’s mother frequently told Laura that handsome men were trouble—that if her father hadn’t been so handsome, he wouldn’t have been unfaithful. But Laura questions what came first—her father’s supposed unfaithfulness (there was nothing to prove that) or her mother’s sour disposition. She didn’t heed her mother’s warning and married handsome Derrick, much to her regret. That and having handsome men take credit for her work and other things are enough for her to be wary of handsome men. It complicates her dealings with police detective Alex Spangler and businessman Doug Hamilton—both very attractive men. It’s a strange aversion, but I needed to give my character a flaw to overcome, so I came up with that. It seems to work.

I remember when gray was the new neutral back in the 1980s. It’s back! Do home fashions recur like clothing fashions? What’s so good about drab gray?

Trends in fashion and colors do come back. I hope we don’t see a resurgence of avocado appliances anytime soon. Gray makes for a good neutral, but it is important to select the right color of gray. Gray with a dark undertone can make a room look drab and gloomy. Gray with a bit more blue or lighter undertones can give a room more life. The base colors used to create a paint color determine the undertone. For example, bright fire engine red will have a lot of yellow in it, while darker red will have blue in it. Consulting a home stager about colors can save homeowners from making wrong color choices.

I don’t think Sister Madeleine was right to ask Laura to exonerate Monica. We’re required to forgive, but we are not required to get involved and help bullies who tormented us in our youth. Why would Laura succumb to the Sister’s wheedling?

Sister Madeleine played a pivotal role in Laura’s life. She was Laura’s teacher in the second grade, and when she became aware of Laura’s dismal home life, she nurtured her friendship with Nita Martino, hoping that Nita’s large and fun-loving Italian-American family would take her under their wing. Which is exactly what they did and accounted for Laura’s better outlook on life than she would have had without them. Monica had also been one of their classmates, and Sister Madeleine had a fondness for all three of them and watched them over the years. Laura and Sister Madeleine have been friends for years based on their shared interest in murder mysteries.

So when Monica gets into trouble big time, Sister Madeleine asks Laura to help save Monica’s business while she is in jail. She knows of the enmity between the two of them and hopes that by helping Monica, Laura can move on with her life and shed herself of resentment, which she feels Laura is dragging behind her. Sister Madeleine didn’t ask Laura to involve herself in the murder investigation, just Monica’s business, but Laura feels compelled to do so anyway when other friends come under police scrutiny. Besides, how can Laura tell a nun she is fond of no to something she asks of her, especially since she helped her so much in life?

When Sister Madeleine makes the claim that Laura’s resentment toward Monica is preventing her from moving forward, I begged to differ. Seems as if Laura has moved on with her life by divorcing Derrick, quitting her job, and creating a new business. Why would the Sister say such a thing?

Actually, Laura planned to leave Derrick, but he was killed before she could divorce him. She is making progress in her life with her business, but it’s the emotional side that Sister Madeleine is concerned about. Laura suspected that Derrick had been involved with Monica, which complicates their relationship even more than Monica’s bullying of her in school. Resentments run deep, and it takes a long time to get over them. By helping Monica, Laura learns the truth of what happened between Monica and Derrick.

“Sister Madeleine was a much better person than I was.” Kindle Loc. 1117
“But Tyrone was a much better person than I was.” Kindle Loc. 1630
Why does Laura think many people are better than her?

Laura recognizes her talents and shortcomings. She recognizes that she has a talent for interior decorating and that knowledge helps her leave a job she found boring and move to setting up her own business as a home stager. Equally, she recognizes the strength of her friends and acknowledges that sometimes they are stronger than she is in certain areas, especially when it comes to forgiveness. It’s more to do with recognizing their strengths and less about her lack of them.

What is it about an English tea that calms and delights?

Ah, for a good cup of tea when you need it. There is something about tea that helps soothe anxious spirits. It has a calming effect. For Nita’s family, food is love and seems to help in every situation. For Laura, everything seems better with a cup of tea. My husband, who is British, and I have a pot of tea available all day. In the morning, tea says, “Come on, it’s time to start your day.” Coffee hits you on the back of the head and says, “Get moving!”

What is the special epoxy covering you can use to paint tile?

Actually, you can use both latex paint and epoxy paint to cover tiles. If you use latex paint, you need to first apply a bonding primer that is made to adhere to tile. Using epoxy, you don’t need the primer. Two coats of epoxy meant for tile, such as Rust-Oleum Tub & Tile, is all you need. The disadvantage of epoxy paint is the selection of colors may be limited. It’s amazing the things I learned doing research for my series—and watching far too much HGTV.

And now the hardest question. Much like Shari Randall, who was nominated (and won) an Agatha award and whose series was cancelled, Henery has cancelled your series, even though you were nominated for an Agatha Award. Will you continue to publish the series independently or try a new series? There are so many unanswered questions!

This is a terrible time for writers and publishers, especially small publishers. Since Henery Press cancelled the contracts with most of their authors, I can only imagine that they faced some major challenges. It was disappointing, but if it was going to happen, this was probably the best time. With needing to promote Staging Wars and deal with lots of other matters, not having a deadline to deliver my third book at the end of the summer is a bit of a blessing. I have enjoyed creating the characters in my Laura Bishop series, so I’m not ready to abandon them yet to start another series. So Laura, Nita, Mrs. Webster, and Aunt Kit’s futures are still up in the air. Stay tuned.


Marilyn Levinson said...

A great interview and a delightful series!! Wishing you many many sales, Grace!

Grace Topping said...

Thank you, Elaine, for the "challenging" questions and for interviewing me on WWK.

Thanks, Marilyn. I'm happy to have readers learn about Laura Bishop's world and all her friends--with a few murders here and there.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Great interview, Grace! I love learning about staging, but when it comes time to sell, I empty the house. Too many complaints about "Grandma furniture."

When we unloaded the Atlanta house, the realtor picked the interior paint color, an insidious shade of tan. Potential buyer comments? "All the houses look the same."

I grew up in a post-war bungalow with a gray interior. I loathe the color. However, paint companies are making "greige" tones and a neutral called "elephant's breath", which, if you ignore the name, is a good wall color.

Warren Bull said...

Ah, the joys of being a writer. I've known a number whose series was canceled after bringing out a wonderful book. I'm glad you persist.

KM Rockwood said...

Sounds like a great second book in the series.

I love reading about "worlds" I know nothing about, like staging.

I've stopped looking at those "decorating horrors to avoid" on line, since I so often see my own house (which I like & find comfortable) on them.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Congratulations on your new release, Grace. Having moved a few times in my life, I've learned how important staging is; in fact, a few moves ago our realtor made staging suggestions for our home we were selling and I wished I had had that setup all along. Also, like you, I'm in the Henery boat and have some orphaned books ahead of my current release. I've been trying to take it easy with writing and editing since the hard and fast deadline is gone, but I really really want to keep moving ahead with the edits at the same time. Next week, maybe...

Kaye George said...

I hope this does really well, with people having time on their hands to read. Thrilled for you, Grace!

mysteryfictionfan said...

Great,thoughtful answers to the interview questions. I'm ready to get to know Laura Bishop now, through Grace's storytelling.

Grace Topping said...

Thanks, Margaret, for sharing your experiences with paint color. When I walk into a home painted in tan, beige, browns, etc., I feel the walls coming in on me. I probably passed on lots of homes that might have worked nicely if they had been painted different colors. The interior of my own home is done in what I call sherbet colors--light yellow, a soft berry, and pale blues. The rooms are bright, cheery, and restful. I could tolerate a gray if it had lots of light blue undertones.

Most people who stage their homes nicely, Maggie, often say they wish they had done the work earlier so they could have enjoyed it themselves. I look at my very serviceable vinyl countertops and think I should replace them with quartz in case I would sell someday. Then I could enjoy them. But they are in such good condition, I can't tolerate the idea of waste.

Grace Topping said...

Thanks, Kathleen. I had to learn a lot about the world of staging. Next, I need to focus on my own house. After getting our homes just the way we want them, it is hard changing it for someone else to buy.

Thanks, Kaye, mysteryfictionfan, and Maggie. It took me forever to finally get published, and I am so pleased that people are enjoying my book.

Maggie, you have such great experience from writing your many books, that you will do great in the future. Good luck.

E. B. Davis said...

Was it all worth it, Grace? LOL--I always have one question more!

Grace Topping said...

E. B. asks, Was it worth it? Absolutely! There is something about holding a copy of a book you've spent so many years on, knowing that you brought the characters in it to life. It took me ten years from the month I took a class in mystery writing until the month it was released. When you spend that much time on something, you become too stubborn to give up. Before I retired, I wrote user manuals for computer systems that are probably no longer running, and my manuals are probably in a landfill somewhere. That's why it means even more to me to have written something that will hopefully live on after me.

Maya Corrigan said...

I enjoyed the interview. Thanks, Grace and Elaine! Congratulations again, Grace, on your Agatha nomination.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Grace Congratulations! The blurb got me! Off to order than finish the interview. sorry Elaine :)

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Grace, not only did I buy this book, I'm going to recommend to several friends who are interior decorators and space savers. I can't wait to read. I'm also going to ask my best friend chef why we've never tried Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry

Elaine, what a great interview. Wishing you both much success!

Kait said...

Fabulous interview! I was so excited when the book dropped to my Kindle. Cannot wait to dig in and catch up with Laura. I am so thrilled for you on this release.

Susan said...

Wonderful interview. Elaine always has the best questions, but you had all the answers, Grace. I hope you have lots of book sales, and you enjoy the pleasures that bringing out a new book provides.

Grace Topping said...

Thank you, Maya/Mary Ann -- It's writers like you that make writing book after book look so effortless that inspired me.

It was you, Kait, that helped keep me going--with your wonderful reviews of my early versions. Thank you, dear friend.

Thank you, Susan. I'm so sorry we won't be together this weekend at Malice. I remember your first Malice.

Donnell, you are a sweetheart to buy my book and recommend it to your friends. I remember you from way back with the Guppies, and I'm happy to see you back again.

Mark Bergin said...

Hi Grace. Lovely interview, you as always were gracious (get it) and informative. I am so sorry about your publisher, we will talk about options. I look forward to Staging Wars. We'll meet again soon. Mark

Paula Gail Benson said...

Grace and Elaine, what a great interview! Thanks for your honestly and continued enthusiasm. I’m sure good things are coming to you both. I look forward to reading more about Laura.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview!

Gretchen Archer said...

I really enjoyed this!