Wednesday, January 6, 2021

An Interview with Sherry Harris by E. B. Davis


Just because you were in law enforcement didn’t mean you

couldn’t be a psychopath too.

Sherry Harris, Absence of Alice, Kindle Loc. 318


Sarah’s latest client, Alice Krandle, is sure she has a fortune in antiques on her hands. She’s already gotten a generous offer for the whole lot before her garage sale has even begun, but she thinks she can earn more with Sarah’s expert help. The problem is that while Sarah’s sorting through items from decades past, her landlady, Stella, faces a clear and present danger.
Stella’s kidnapper has contacted Sarah with a set of instructions, and “Don’t call the police” is at the top of the list.  But they didn’t say anything about Sarah’s friend Harriet—who happens to be a former FBI hostage negotiator . . .

Absence of Alice, the ninth book in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries, was released on December 29th by Kensington Press. It continues Sarah’s adventures after two years in the garage sale business, but also her misadventures as the plot centers around a hate crime, namely, crimes of people who hate Sarah! The Sarah haters try taking her down by going after her friends and loved ones.


There were disturbing and realistic elements in this book—like the media-created images of Sarah as a hero, which escalated pro and con feelings toward her and over which she has no control. Blaming the victim is another realistic element, one that angered me. But perhaps the most disturbing—it takes a village to foster positivity or negativity, leaving Sarah very much alone unable to trust anyone.


In the midst of cozy, Sherry Harris brings real life to the pages. Please welcome her back to WWK.                                                        E. B. Davis  


The new guy in town is the nephew of Angelo and Rosalie, owners of DiNapoli’s restaurant. His name is Emil Kowalski. How did he end up with that last name considering the family’s ethnic makeup? Angelo is Italian but Rosalie’s side of the family is actually Polish.


Stella’s kidnapper gives Sarah rules she must follow and a timeline for getting tasks done if she hopes to get Stella back alive. The kidnapper said that she knows him, and that she makes life hard. He repeats that she makes life hard twice. What does he mean by that? Sarah isn’t sure what he means by that. She is racking her brain trying to figure out whose life she might have made harder and can’t come up with anyone. In fact, Sarah firmly believes that she makes people’s lives easier. Although through the course of the book she finds out that more people than she’d like agree with the kidnapper.

Sarah doesn’t know whom she can trust. On top of that, the police in her town of Ellington don’t investigate murders. The state police are called in to do that—cops she doesn’t know. Are there only three towns in Massachusetts that have their own homicide units? Great question and I double checked this as it has changed a bit since the first book. The Pittsfield Police department also has a homicide division. State police are in charge of investigations in all other towns (except Boston, Lowell, and Worchester) and work with local police departments to solve homicides.

Sarah’s boyfriend, the town’s DA Seth, eluded someone kidnapping him. Then her sometimes neighbor, Mike “Big Cheese” Titone is threatened and heads to Ellington to investigate. No one seems safe. What does Sarah do to comfort herself and keep sane? Sarah does a couple of things. She plunges ahead trying to figure out what is going on and who is doing it. But she also lets herself be distracted by pricing things for a garage sale. A group of spouses from nearby Fitch Air Force Base ask her for help with a fund raiser. All of the spouses belong to a group who have a family member with special needs. Working with the women helps Sarah realize that her life isn’t as difficult as it sometime seems.


Sarah knows a few people who don’t like her. One—Zoey, a former employee, who now is her competition. Does Zoey have psychological problems? Zoey certainly has a problem with Sarah if nothing else. After Sarah taught Zoey almost everything she knew about the garage sale business, Zoey starts her own company. While Sarah wants to coexist, Zoey wants to put Sarah out of business and seems willing to stop at nothing to do it.


What is Tramp Art? Tramp Art is a type of American folk art. Boxes, frames, and other items were carved out of cigar boxes or packing crates. My mom has a beautiful piece of tramp art that we found in my grandparent’s basement years ago. I felt compelled to buy some frames on eBay for “research.” Here’s a great article with more detail about tramp art and some pictures:


Where are Bob Ross’s paintings? (He taught me how to paint birds in the sky—basically little “v”s.) Is there a “new” Bob Ross in New England now? Most of his paintings are stored near Herndon, Virginia at the headquarters of Bob Ross, Inc. He painted and filmed his show in Indiana. The new Bob Ross in Absence of Alice is just a fictional creation for the story.


I was surprised that Angelo didn’t insist on hearing Sarah’s secret, which she blurts out without thinking. Why wasn’t he more curious? Knowing Angelo, he was really curious! Over the course of the two years that the series takes place, Sarah and Angelo have developed a great, trusting relationship. Because of that Angelo knows that when Sarah is ready to talk she will. He views his role in their relationship as being there for her when she needs him.


Sarah is allergic to cats, but is she allergic to dogs? Not that I know of, but she does know how time consuming having a dog is and Sarah isn’t ready to take on that responsibility.


Why does Seth’s mom dislike Sarah so much? Is Seth’s mom’s opinion important? Seth’s mom is the elite of the elite in Boston society and Sarah—isn’t. Seth’s mom had picked out a bride for Seth early on and until Sarah showed up thought he would marry her pick. While Sarah won’t let Seth’s mom rule her life, she doesn’t want to cause trouble between Seth and her.


Sarah seems to favor pencil skirts—in her life—don’t they inhibit her ability to run? Does she? It always amazes me the things you pick up on that I don’t. A pencil skirt is terrible for running or for working at a garage sale. I know a few books back she went through a sundress phase. But she wears a lot of leggings and jeans too. 


Does bereavement and loss change people, like Elmer Norman? I think bereavement changes everyone, but it also impacts everyone differently.

I knew that the Parker House Hotel’s chefs created Parker House rolls, but I didn’t know they also invented Boston Cream Pie. What’s the story? This is from the Omni Parker House website: The Boston Cream Pie is a timeless, culinary creation dating back to 1856. The dessert was first created and served at the grand opening of Boston’s Parker House. Today, it’s distinguished as Massachusetts’ official state dessert over Toll House Cookies and the Fig Newton.

Back in the 1800s, chocolate was mainly consumed at home as a beverage or in puddings. With this inventive use of chocolate, the dessert was originally named “Chocolate Cream Pie.” Over time, the name changed, and in 1958, the Boston Cream Pie became so popular it was fashioned into a Betty Crocker boxed mix.

The website includes a recipe or if you don’t like to bake, a link to buy one.

Sarah worries about having withheld evidence in two murders that were probably perpetrated by the kidnapper, but the kidnapper also seems to know everything she does. Although Sarah feels guilty, does she really have anything to feel guilty about, especially after finding Stella? I think she does have to feel guilty. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t be the kind of person she is – a kind, caring woman who is deeply loyal to the people she cares about.


Are Pellner and Awesome more caught up in themselves and their resources than in understanding Sarah’s position? Could they have done a better job than Sarah did? I’m not sure they could have done a better job than Sarah, but I can understand how they feel betrayed by her.


Is Harriet becoming Sarah’s partner in crime fighting? As a former FBI hostage negotiator Harriet has skills and connections that Sarah doesn’t. Sarah can keep Harriet busy at a time in her life when Harriet needs distractions. So they make a good team.


What’s next for Sarah? I have a plot and a subplot for the next Sarah book, but first I have to write two books in the Chloe Jackson Sea Glass Saloon mystery series. Thanks so much to you and the other WWK for having me today!


Sherry Harris


And her dog, Lily


Jim Jackson said...

Congrats on your latest, Sherry. And I wish you great continued success in 2021.

KM Rockwood said...

Sounds like a great addition to a great series!

Shari Randall said...

Congratulations on the new book! I can't wait to read it - Stella is one of my favorite characters and I'm on pins and needles wondering what happens!

Kait said...

Wonderful interview, Grace. I love this series and am looking forward to reading An Absence of Alice.

Jennifer J. Chow said...

Congrats on your latest book, Sherry! The new one seems so complex.

(Also, I love the author and pet photos!)

Sherry Harris said...

Thanks to all of you! I always love being here!