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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

MEET AUTHOR GRACE TOPPING'S HOME STAGER AND AMATEUR SLEUTH LAURA BISHOP

A Staged Home Office
Laura Bishop, from mystery author Grace Topping’s Laura Bishop Mysteries, stops by to introduce herself today.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
Pretty boring. I worked as an Information Technology specialist, which paid well, but bored me to tears. Investigating a system problem and finding a bug in the system was about as exciting as my job or life got. Since I was a natural problem solver, I yearned for more interesting problems to solve.

After my husband was killed in an automotive accident, with his female passenger (long story), I decided to change careers and do something that made me happy instead of what others thought I should do. From a young age, I’d always had a knack for interior decorating—so strong that I had to control my instinct to give friends, and even total strangers, advice about their décor. I learned the hard way that people don’t always appreciate unsolicited opinions or advice.

But I was determined to go into a career that could draw on my talents. I began by helping friends “stage” their homes for sale (making them as appealing as possible to sell quickly and for a good price). To make a living doing staging, I realized I needed to get some training and accreditation as a professional home stager, which I did.

Little did I realize that when I nabbed my first staging job, I would be introduced to the world of murder and mayhem. I knew trying to stage a 19th century mansion that hadn’t been updated in decades could be murder. I just didn’t expect it to involve a body. Suddenly, my old boring life looked more appealing.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
As I mentioned earlier, I’m a natural born problem solver, and I love a challenge. I also don’t give up easily—good instincts for someone trying find just the right paint color for a room. I’m also someone who follows through on my commitments, even when I would rather run away to a Florida beach and hide out.  

What do you like least about yourself?
Sometimes the best thing about a person can also be the worst thing. I have a hard time saying no to people, and once I make a commitment, I follow through, sometimes to my own detriment. When Mrs. Webster, the grandmother of a murder suspect, beseeches me to help him by finding the murderer, how can I say no? I tried explaining that my only experience in solving a mystery was finding those pesky system bugs and that I had no experience uncovering a murderer. But since she has such faith in me, I ended up agreeing to at least try. Now I’m stuck trying to find a cold-blooded murderer, and at the same time, deal with the awful flowered wallpaper in the mansion.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
Would you believe, she had me and my BFF, Nita Martino, go to a campground at night to investigate whether some men living there in a rickety camper could be the ones who committed the murder? First we had to cross a field to get there, which we discovered had been used to graze cows. You can imagine the stuff we ran (or stepped) into. She also dragged Mrs. Webster and me to the same campground searching for some members of Hell’s Angels who might have been involved with the murder. Mrs. Webster is one tough old bird—brave and determined. She probably should have conducted her own investigation.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
Since I figured Grace knew what she was doing with my life, I didn’t argue with her. However, when I discovered that this was her first mystery, I realized that I should have spoken up. Who in their right minds would have a character taste a suspicious substance she discovered on the mansion’s kitchen floor. Sara Paretsky wouldn’t have done that to V. I. Warshawski.

What is your greatest fear?
On a professional level, disappointing a client/homeowner by not being able to complete a job. On a personal level, I fear I’ll never see my father again. When he and my mother separated when I was young, I saw him frequently, then less frequently, and then not at all. I don’t know whether he is alive or dead.

What makes you happy?
Doing a good job and pleasing people. Also, being able to provide employment to friends who need work with lots of flexibility.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
Grace makes me out to be an extremely reluctant amateur sleuth—one who knows her limitations and is afraid of making a mess of things. She would like for me to help, but she knows I don’t have a clue how to identify a murderer. I would rather she portrayed me as a braver sleuth—one who would jump into an investigation with gusto.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
That would have to be Nita, my BFF. We’ve been friends since second grade when her large and loving Italian-American family took me under their wing. My home life wasn’t the greatest, and Nita’s family filled in the cracks with love and good humor. The problem with Nita is that I frequently end up playing Ethel to her Lucy. She is always coming up with harebrained schemes that get us into trouble. Like the time she brought a psychic to the mansion to sweep the house of negativity. Or when she took us on that visit to the campground. It nearly got us arrested.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
That would have to be Josh Sheridan who owns Antiques and Other Stuff, an antique store with more other stuff than antiques. Josh stocks a large collection of used books and has plenty of time between customers to read to his heart’s content. If we traded places, I could read, and he could track down murderers. 

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Grace Topping is a former IT specialist, technical writer, and project manager, accustomed to writing lean, boring documents. Perhaps that’s why when set free, she let her imagination run wild and sent me on some questionable adventures. She did find her former IT work experience valuable when she created her own web site: www.gracetopping.com. She’s also on Facebook and Twitter, where she takes great delight in promoting her friends’ books and sharing helpful writing tips she’s discovered on other writers’ pages.

What's next for you?
Now that my first home staging commission was a huge success (the mansion sold quickly and for more money than anyone anticipated), I have a reputation as a home stager—one who can be relied on to do a good job. In our next adventure, Nita drags me into the world of artists and local art shows. Unfortunately, my nemesis from our school days is doing some underhanded things to hurt my burgeoning business. We’ll see about her. I’m no longer the meek student she used to badger.

Staging is Murder
A Laura Bishop Mystery

Laura Bishop just nabbed her first decorating commission—staging for sale a 19th-century mansion that hasn’t been updated for decades. But when a body falls from a laundry chute and lands at Laura’s feet, removing flowered wallpaper becomes the least of her duties. 

To clear her young assistant of the murder and save her fledgling business, Laura’s determined to find the killer. Turns out it’s not as easy as renovating a manor home, especially with two handsome men complicating her mission: the police detective assigned to the case and the real estate agent trying to save the manse from foreclosure.

Worse still, the meddling of a horoscope-guided friend, a determined grandmother, and the local funeral director could get them all killed before Laura props the first pillow.

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2 comments:

Grace Topping said...

Thank you, Anastasia, for having me here today to talk about my adventures in STAGiNG IS MURDER. It was a lot of fun and I look forward to coming back again. My author, Grace Topping, says thank you as well. Best wishes, Laura Bishop.

ANASTASIA POLLACK said...

You're welcome, Laura! Tell Grace we'd love to have stop by as well.