Wednesday, May 31, 2017

An Interview with Sherry Harris by E. B. Davis

“Sometimes talking to New Englanders was like pulling ticks off a dog, slow and painful.”
Sherry Harris, A Good Day To Buy, Kindle Loc. 1897

While writing this interview both of my credit cards were cancelled due to fraudulent activity, which I confirmed. (I’m awaiting their replacement via snail mail.) Why mention this all-too-common modern-day crime? Sherry Harris’s new book in her Sarah Winston Garage Sale Series, A Good Day To Buy, focuses on fraud. Not credit card fraud, character fraud. I know the virtual world is full of posers (poseurs). And I also know about real life cons. But Sherry described a different sort of fraud. It smacked me, but I can’t imagine how those who served in the military would react.

A Good Day To Buy is the fourth book in this well-received series. Sherry’s murder plots are enjoyable, but I think readers return because main character Sarah Winston is so likeable and to find out what will happen next in her private life (at least I do!).

Please welcome Sherry Harris back to WWK.                                                                        E. B. Davis

Do you think up your own titles or does Kensington? Thus far in the series it’s been a 50/50 split. I came up with the first and fourth title while my editor at Kensington, Gary Goldstein, came up with the second and third.

Does all your literary activity, such as serving as President of the Chesapeake Chapter of SinC, blogging with the Wicked Cozy Writers, attending conferences, and traveling to promote your books interfere with going to garage sales? How do you keep current? Winter interferes more than my activities do! I love to attend yard sales when I’m traveling. It’s fun to see if people do things differently in various parts of the country. And now it’s easy to participate in virtual yard sales too. Two weeks ago I spent the day with a friend at an outdoor antique show in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was fantastic.

Sarah coordinates a garage sale for a couple, the Spencers, who are moving. Velma Spencer’s behavior vexes Sarah, but she knows how to deal with difficult people. How did she acquire her skills? As a military wife, Sarah has moved many times, adjusted to many places, and dealt with a lot of different people. Living on a base can mean living in close quarters with an interesting personal structure because of people being divided by ranks. It was all training for her current job.

After Sarah finds Mr. Spencer dead and Mrs. Spencer near death in the garage, she returns to her apartment alone to ponder the motive for the attack—and lunches on a Fluffernutter (peanut butter and marshmallow fluff) sandwich. I’ve come to regard these sandwiches as pivotal plot points because just after lunch Sarah’s long-lost brother, Luke, shows up at her door. Would you confirm or deny my assertion? This is such an interesting observation. I’ve never deliberately done that, but now I’m going to go back through the books and see if I’ve done it subconsciously.

Sarah’s relationship with Luke is complex, compounded by his post-traumatic stress disorder. She compromises her values and character to help him. Why? I’m not sure that I agree that Sarah compromises her values and character although she goes to the edge of them to help her brother. Sarah longs to reestablish a relationship with Luke. They’ve had very little contact in twenty years. Sarah feels like a few sins of omission are worth the risk to find out why Luke disappeared from their family.

CJ, Sarah’s ex husband, but current boyfriend, makes assumptions about Sarah. But Sarah doesn’t always tell CJ what’s happened in her life. Why doesn’t Sarah tell CJ that she’s seen and talked with Luke? Luke asks Sarah not to tell anyone he’s in town, especially CJ who is the chief of police. Sarah agrees with the caveat that if she has to tell CJ she will let Luke know first.

Because only the military can confirm or deny who has served, it’s rather easy for people to claim they’ve served in the military. What motivates people to pretend they’ve had military careers? There are several reasons: bravado, ego, and shame (for not serving) among others. I read an interesting article about a man who one time said he’d served when he was with a group of people who had. The small statement became a huge lie over the next twenty years. He finally confessed when he knew it was going to come out.

Although the situation in your book about military posers is immoral, it isn’t really criminal. Have these posers actually stolen real military personnel’s identity to claim benefits? Their medals? Two presidents, George W. Bush and Barrack Obama signed into law Stolen Valor Acts which prohibited people from wearing military medals if they didn’t serve. Both have been overturned as 1st amendment issues. Wearing a uniform is a separate issue and there have been broad interpretations of the rule. But people have gotten benefits by stealing someone’s identity. It’s difficult these days because of computer databases but not impossible.

Is there really a military regulation prohibiting military personnel from obtaining outside psychological help? According to my source, the regulation doesn’t prohibit military from seeking outside help but says it has to be reported. Everyone in the military has to meet standards of fitness (including mental health) to maintain their ability to serve and/or deploy. So a commander has to know what is going on in the military person’s life.

Gennie, one of Sarah’s clients, makes Sarah box with a bag to help improve her self-defense skills. Have you tried boxing? Only shadow boxing in a fitness class. I have a feeling I’d be terrible at the real thing – my hand-eye coordination is abysmal.

What is a cage fighter? On TV it’s called Mixed Martial Arts. Two people go into a cage like boxing ring and use a variety of martial arts to battle. I thought it would be an amusing and different occupation for someone so Gennie “the Jawbreaker” was born.

 After writing four books in this series, do you think the first was the hardest to write or is the latest always the hardest? The book I’m writing is always the hardest. I always want the next book to be better than the last. I always want to see a review that says this is the best in the series and am terrified that someday one will say, it was okay.

Did having your first in the series, Tagged For Death, nominated for an Agatha Award provide for lasting promotion of the series? Absolutely! I can forever say the Agatha Award nominated Sarah Winston Garage Sale series. I was so humbled and honored that Tagged was nominated with a great group of books and authors – Annette Dashofy, Terrie Moran, Susan O’Brien, and Tracy Weber. 

What’s next for Sarah Winston? I Know What You Bid Last Summer comes out in March 2018. Sarah tangles with the school board when she’s asked to run an equipment swap to raise money for the school district. She’s also running an over-the-top, high end garage sale for a woman with a strong vision of what the event should look like. When Sarah finds the body of the murdered school superintendent right after the swap, she’s drawn into a tangled web of lies and deceit.

When Sarah Winston’s estranged brother Luke shows up on her doorstep, asking her not to tell anyone he’s in town—especially her ex, the chief of police—the timing is strange, to say the least. Hours earlier, Sarah’s latest garage sale was taped off as a crime scene following the discovery of a murdered Vietnam vet and his gravely injured wife—her clients, the Spencers.
All Luke will tell Sarah is that he’s undercover, investigating a story. Before she can learn more, he vanishes as suddenly as he appeared. Rummaging through his things for a clue to his whereabouts, Sarah comes upon a list of veterans and realizes that to find her brother, she’ll have to figure out who killed Mr. Spencer. And all without telling her ex . . .


  1. Sherry, this sounds wonderful. I love the series, but this, you sent chills down my spine with the faux military history story. I know someone who did that. Now I'm racing to Amazon. Good luck with the book. Can't wait to read it.

  2. Thank you so much, Kait! I hope you like the book!

  3. I know that wearing medals is an important part of military life. Wearing one you have not earned is a major transgression.

  4. Sherry, this sounds very much like a series I would enjoy reading. I'm putting it on my to be ordered list.

  5. Warren, I've found the recent uproar over Sheriff Clarke's wearing of what he calls "pins" fascinating. And yes, it is a huge insult to see someone wearing medals who hasn't earned them.

  6. Thank you, Gloria! It has been so much fun to write.

  7. A copy of this book is sitting on my nightstand, next in my TBR list. I may even slip it in before I finish the one I'm working on now.

    There was a recent incident in Harrisburg where a decorated vet wore his uniform for a ceremony and afterwards was confronted by a group (including an on-duty cop, no less) who challenged his right to wear the uniform and the medals, claiming that his belt was not authentic and therefore he must be an imposter.

  8. Hi Sherry! There are many reasons I love your series, but one big one is the way you open a window into military life. This stolen valor plot sounds especially interesting. I had a friend who collected antique military medals because she liked the look (and they are very cool) but she put them away after getting negative comments. She was not misrepresenting herself (she was certainly not passing herself off as a Spanish-American War veteran!), but realized it was a sensitive issue.
    Plus you know how I love Stella and Gennie!

  9. I know of a young man who had his family convinced that he was enrolled in a professional post-graduate program. His life was a hoax and it was several years before his wife figured it out. Great plot potential!

    Congratulations on your most recent publication.

  10. Sherry, this quote about New Englanders is PERFECT (said someone married to a Mainer ...)

  11. Sounds like a great plot, Sherry! I'm looking forward to reading the book.

  12. Kathleen, you will have to read the book as you think about that incident.

  13. Shari, that is so interesting that someone would be criticized for collecting medals.

  14. Margaret that is such an interesting story. It's so amazing how and why people present themselves as something they aren't.

  15. Carla, I loved my time in New England, but it is certainly a different dynamic than anywhere else I lived.

  16. Thanks for the interview, Sherry. As usual, your books are a pleasure to read. Have you any plans for a second series? (I'm always asking questions I forgot to ask.)

  17. Thanks, Maya! And you have The Tell-Tale Tarte coming out soon which sounds really interesting too!

  18. E.B. your interviews always challenge me to think deeply about my writing. Thank you so much! I have a couple of ideas for other series, but finding the time to write them is another story!