Q&A with Sherry Harris, author of LET’S FAKE A DEAL!
Do you ever base your characters off of the people in your life? Oh, yes! In my Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries there is a man named Angelo DiNapoli. He runs a restaurant, is opiniated, and a bit of a character—pardon the pun! I had neighbors when we were stationed in Massachusetts with the last name of DiNapoli. The real Mr. DiNapoli let me borrow some of his stories to use in the books. Things like his sayings: When you mess with the bull you get the horns. Angelo and his wife Rosalie provide a place for Sarah to go when she’s feeling down or when she’s celebrating.
What is the one book you could read over and over? I have a set of Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace that I started reading as a child. In the first book Betsy is five and in the last one she’s getting married. The reading level increases as Betsy gets older. They are warm, wonderful books. Betsy wanted to be a writer and so did I.
What is your favorite part of the writing process? I love it all even though it’s hard work. I liken the process to that of building a sand castle. The first draft is where you pour the sand into the sand box. It’s messy, maybe even disorganized. Revisions are where you build the sand castle. And the copy edits are when you make the sand castle beautiful with a final polish.
Do you have a process for working through writer’s block? I don’t believe in writer’s block. I think it’s fear. Fear your words aren’t good enough. Fear you aren’t good enough. Fear people are going to say you are a fraud. I do get stuck sometimes and I use a technique I heard in a class taught by author John DuFresne. He said to have your character look around, write down everything they see, feel, and smell. Most of what you write is going to be tossed out, but this has worked for me every time. I also talk through things with writer friends if I feel stuck.
Do you do any hands-on research for your books? Have you had a favorite experience? I love doing hands-on research. It’s hard to pick one thing but it was probably ride alongs with a police officers. I’ve done two of them. One in the small town of Bedford, Massachusetts which is the town my fictional Ellington is based on. And a second one in the large suburban county I live in outside of Washington, DC. They were such a contrast. In Bedford the police officer apologized because no one was committing any crimes while I was with him. But he told me tons of fascinating stories and pointed out a house where there was an unsolved murder and a place where a body had been dumped.
My second experience included going to court, working an accident scene, pulling over people who ran a stop sign, going to a scene where there were teens with pot, responding to home burglar alarms, and tearing across town with lights and sirens after someone who stole a pizza delivery man’s car.
The experiences were such a contrast to each other, but both were invaluable.