Kitty Rodgers is the winner of an ebook from Grace! Kitty watch for an email from her.
Grace and I met through the Chessie Chapter of Sisters in Crime. I read the beginning of an early version of Staging is Murder. Grace is a great example of never giving up on your writing. And I’m so glad she didn’t! Look for a giveaway at the end of the post!
Here’s a bit about her second book Staging Wars:
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.
During the 1980s, TV viewers were enthralled by the program Cheers, noted for its setting in a Boston bar, where based on the theme song for the program, everyone knows your name. It featured a cast of characters who were either employees of the bar or regular customers. Week after week, viewers definitely came to know their names and could identify with them as they talked about their jobs, their woes, their families, and their latest love interest—or lack of.
Viewers seemed to like the idea of a place where people could go where they felt welcome, comfortable, and connected—connected being the key word. It’s what has been called peoples’ third place.
A thirdplace, a term coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, refers to places where people spend time between their home (their first place) and work (their second place). Floyd’s Barber Shop in the old Andy Griffith Show served as a third place for the men of Mayberry to gather, even when they weren’t getting a haircut. Another third place was Ivy’s Teashop in the Last of the Summer Wine BBC series, where the aging men of the town gathered when they weren’t getting into trouble.
In the British Isles, the local pub frequently serves as peoples’ thirdplace. When I lived in England, my husband and I would join family members at their localpub on Friday nights. I can’t say that everyone knew our names, but we did feel welcome, comfortable, and somewhat connected. My father-in-law took great delight that when he walked in, the barman would take down his personal mug that hung over the bar with dozens of others and pour him a Guinness. It was definitely his third place.
Many cozy mystery writers use the device of a third place, such as a bookshop, bakery, or craft store, in their books. When I created my Laura Bishop Mystery Series, which is about a home stager, the first scene I wrote was set in a coffee bar, which my characters visit frequently throughout the book.
But why a coffee bar when my main character was a professional home stager and not involved with dispensing coffee? Having a third place like a coffee bar provides my characters with the perfect place to connect and discuss investigations and cross paths with other characters (possible suspects) they might not see otherwise. It enables them to pick up gossip about what is happening in the community. I went one step further and made one of my key characters an employee of the coffee bar. People share information with him that sometimes provides vital clues to solving a murder. He knows more about what is going on in town than the mayor and shares that information with Laura.
I also use a local teashop Laura visits frequently. She doesn’t ply sources with liquor to loosen their lips. Instead, she knows the value of questioning them in a place conducive to sharing secrets—a cozy English-style teashop with lots of regulars. Who wouldn’t open up while enjoying sandwiches, scones with cream and jam, and fruit tarts, all washed down with fragrant tea? It works for Laura, and she’s been able to get good leads that help her unmask murderers.
Next time you want to coerce someone into spilling their secrets, discover where their third place is or take them to an English-style teashop.
Readers: Do you have a favorite third place?
Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a digital copy of Staging is Murder (Book 1) or Staging Wars (Book 2). (U.S. commenters only).
Bio: Grace Topping is a recovering technical writer and IT project manager, accustomed to writing lean, boring documents. Let loose to write fiction, she is now creating murder mysteries and killing off characters who remind her of some of the people she dealt with during her career. Fictional revenge is sweet. She’s using her experience helping friends stage their homes for sale as inspiration for her Laura Bishop mystery series. The series is about a woman starting a new career midlife as a home stager. The first book in the series, Staging is Murder, is a 2019 Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel. Grace is the former vice president of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and a member of the SINC Guppies and Mystery Writers of America. She lives with her husband in Northern Virginia.