Mystery Trivia Tuesday: Who IS This Gal? Heather McNeil

Today I'm happy to have award-winning author Karen McCullough as my guest on Birds and Books. Karen is introducing us to her first mystery featuring protagonist Heather McNeil by allowing Heather to tell her story. 

Author Karen McCullough sat down for an interview with Heather McNeil, protagonist of A GIFT FOR MURDER, the first in a planned series of "Market Center Mysteries."  At the end, there's a blurb for A GIFT FOR MURDER, which is still available in hardback (Five Star) from Amazon and B&N, in mass market paperback from Harlequin Worldwide Mystery bookclub, and will shortly be available as an ebook for Kindle, Nook and other formats.

1. Heather, tell us about yourself.

Don't know that there's much to tell.  The basic facts: I'm 26, almost 27, Five foot four, appropriate weight for my height (heck no, I'm not going to give you an exact figure!) grew up in Richmond, Virginia, have a degree in business from the University of Virginia, now work for the Washington, D.C. Commerce & Market Center as assistant to the director.  I have a nice apartment in Bethesda that I don't see enough of. No car, but I don’t really need one right now. I’m saving to buy one in a year or two.

2. Your job sounds kind of interesting.  How did you get it?

Actually I was pretty lucky.  I got out of college with a degree in business, and started answering ads in the Washington Post, looking for a job.  After four months of interviews and disappointments, I got hired to man the front desk at the Washington, D.C. Commerce & Market Center.  Eight months into it, the director's assistant left and Janelle Addison, the director, offered me the job as her replacement.

3. What's a normal day like for you?

Normal? What’s that? One of the things I like about the job is there’s so much variety. Depending on what kind of show, exhibition or conference is going on, I could be doing a lot of different things. If there’s nothing going on at the Center that day, I’d probably spend most of my time on paperwork, answering emails, making phone calls, setting things up for future shows or dealing with leftovers from past ones. When there is an event, I generally spend a lot of time down on the show floor, dealing with complaints, smoothing ruffled feathers, solving problems and making sure everything runs smoothly.

4. You solved a mystery when everyone, including the police, thought they'd already arrested the culprit.  What led you to keep digging?

Stupid stubbornness, maybe? No, in truth, it was because I was pretty sure the police had the wrong person. I mean I’d only met Chloe Bethel once, but for some reason I was really sure she hadn’t killed her husband. And I had this sense that there was a dynamic at work that the police wouldn’t understand because they didn’t have the same familiarity with what trade shows are like. At some level, somewhere below conscious thought, I had this nagging sense of a pattern that pointed to someone else. Good thing I was right. It would’ve been really embarrassing if I’d been totally off base.

5. You almost lost your job over that incident. Was it worth it?

Yes, absolutely! Well, okay, it’s easy to say that now, when I still have a job. But it could’ve gone another way and then… I don’t know. I’d like to think I’d still say it was worth it. I have strong feelings about justice and fair play, but I like my job, too.

6. What about your relationship with Scott Brandon, the new security guy at the Market Center?

Um, yeah. We’ve had a few dates, but it’s too early to tell if it will lead to anything more. He’s attractive, smart, strong, and personable, but there’s an awful lot he’s keeping secret. He was a D.C. cop once and he isn’t telling why he isn’t now. He’s hinted at disagreements with his superiors, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the whole story.  It makes me hesitant to get involved with him too deeply, even though the chemistry between us is pretty hot.

7. What do you see yourself doing ten years from now?

Actually I wouldn’t mind if I were still doing this job. I enjoy it.  Of course, I’d like to get married and have a family as well. I’m not sure how those fit together yet.

For fifty-one weeks of the year, Heather McNeil loves her job as assistant to the director of the Washington, D.C. Commerce & Market Show Center. But the Gifts and Home Decorations trade show, the biggest show of the year at the center, is a week-long nightmare. This year’s version is being worse than usual. Misplaced shipments, feuding exhibitors, and malfunctioning popcorn machines are all in a day’s work. Finding the body of a murdered executive dumped in a trash bin during the show isn’t. The discovery tips throws Heather’s life—personal and professional—into havoc. 
The police suspect the victim’s wife killed him, but Heather doesn’t believe it. She’s gottenglimmers of an entirely different scenario and possible motive. Questioning exhibitors about the crime doesn’t make her popular with them or with her employers, but if she doesn’t identify the murderer before the show ends, the culprit will remain free to kill again.
Her only help comes from an exhibitor with ulterior motives and the Market Center’s attractive new security officer, Scott Brandon. Despite opposition from some of the exhibitors, her employers, and the police, Heather seeks to expose the killer before the show ends. To solve the mystery, she has to risk what’s most important to her and be prepared to fight for answers, her job, and possibly her life.

Karen McCullough is the author of a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, three grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years. 

Blog: http://www.kmccullough/kblog

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