Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sherry Harris - Guest Author

Please welcome fellow Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime member and mystery author Sherry Harris to the blog today. She says: You never know who you are going to meet at Malice Domestic. A few years ago I met Jim, at the time getting published was just a glimmer in my eye. Now, several years later I get to hang out with Jim on his blog! Thanks so much for having me!

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

I don’t always finish books. There are several things that cause me to quit, probably the first is not finding the characters intriguing. I don’t have to like them but I do have to want to know more about them. A plot that is too over the top to be believable or a book with lots of inconsistencies.

What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?

Quiet is my background noise and the quieter the better. I’m easily distracted so if I had music on I’d be singing or humming to it.

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I’m a pantser that has had to start doing a little plotting. I have to write a short synopsis for each book to turn in to my editor before I start writing the next one. It’s helpful but it changes a lot during the process. I also do something else that horrifies most of my writing friend. I usually write the beginning of the book and then the end. The end always seems to pop into my head at around 25,000 words and I don’t want to lose it so I write it.

Do you read reviews of your books? Why or why not?

Yes, yes, heaven help me, I do read my reviews. I just can’t not look, I’m a moth to the flame and sometimes reading them burns. It’s great to read the good ones. And it makes me pause every once in awhile and think that complete strangers are reading my books — it seems like a dream. And even the bad ones can be instructive. My daughter shared the best piece of advice that helps deal with the negative. She paraphrased someone: You can have the sweetest juiciest peach but not everyone likes peaches.

What do you do that you suspect causes your copyeditor to pull her/his hair out?

My books are set in the small fictional town of Ellington, Massachusetts and on a fictional air force base, Fitch Air Force Base. So sometimes I use military jargon that I picked up while my husband served. Usually it’s simple things like I’ll say “I’m going to go to base.” It’s how we talk. My copy editor always adds in a “the” before “base.” And I found out that for the most part only military people use the term “goat rope” for a situation that is out of control.

When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

My first draft is always short usually between 53,000 and 55,000 words. I’ve blogged about this a couple of times over on Wicked Cozy Authors. My contract calls for books between 70,000 and 75,000 words. Usually the first draft is talking heads — no one is grounded in the scene and they don’t move. There’s very little description although I really try to keep description purposeful. I’ve almost always dropped a story line that needs to be fleshed out. And usually I panic at some point in the revision process thinking I’ll go too long. But that hasn’t happened yet.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

An editor at Kensington was looking for someone to write a cozy series with a garage sale theme. He went to an agent, who went to my friend Barbara Ross. She knew I loved garage sales. I hadn’t ever thought about writing a book about garage sales but the first three chapters, the overview, and the characters poured out of me in four days. I wish all writing was like that, don’t you?!

What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

My best writing advice is learn the craft. It took me a long time to get published. In between the the first time I started submitting and getting rejections to finally getting published, I took lots of classes, read lots of writing books, and attended lots of conferences. I read at the first writers conference I attended. As I was reading, I was thinking this is the most boring, back story filled piece of drivel ever written. Fortunately the group listening was kind and encouraging. But it’s when I realized I had a lot to learn.

You can find me at sqherryharrisauthor.com and I blog with the Wicked Cozy Authors at wickedcozyauthors.com

Here’s a blurb for All Murders Final:

When Sarah Winston started the virtual garage sale, it seemed like a keystroke of genius and the next logical step in her business. No more collapsing card tables and rainy-day washouts. But what began as a fun way to run garage sales during the long New England winter has become a nightmare of managing people and putting out fires. Online, she can avoid the crowds--but not the crazies.

She certainly never bargained on dealing with frightening threats. When a client is murdered, Sarah searches--online and off--for the killer. But solving this crime before someone else gets tagged seems virtually impossible…


  1. Love your books, including your military and West Coast influences. Though maybe you could take the "the" out of your highways and add it to your bases. :)

    1. Very funny! I guess I have a "the" problem!

  2. Yeah, that pertinent-to-the-career lingo is a tough one to get past a copyeditor. Thanks for sharing your processes. Marilyn (aka "cj petterson")

    1. It's much better to be on the writing side of the lingo -- the poor copy editors!

  3. I loved your description of writing the end early. I have a friend who reads that way. First, the beginning, then the end, and finally the middle. I tell her she's crazy. She says she just wants to know how the writer got to the end after she knows the end. Geesh! Good luck with your continuing series!

    1. I could never read a book that way! But I have a friend that does that too!

  4. Isn't it great when our early audiences are kind and encouraging, Sherry? Thanks for an interesting interview. M.

  5. Good interview, great questions,Jim and Sherry answered clearly. I wish you all the best with the new one, Sherry.

  6. Hi Jim! Hi Sherry!
    Well, I'm a weirdo, too, because with the stories I've written, I always wrote the end before I actually finished the middle. I read somewhere that George Balanchine choreographed his ballets by figuring out moves he wanted at certain points of the music, and then "filled in" to get from one point to the other. So I'm claiming the Balanchine Method.
    Loved your new book, Sherry! I get such a kick out of your tag sale details - like the Pez dispensers.

    1. I love your definition of the Balanchine Method, Shari.

  7. Looking forward to reading your newest book, Sherry. The idea of virtual garage is great. Lovely interview, Jim!