by Femmes Guest Sherry Harris
I knew Sherry as she went through the process of writing and selling her mysteries. It's delightful to see The Longest Yard Sale, the second in the Agatha Award nominated Sarah Winston Garage Sale series, hit the shelves. And of course, to welcome her here!
Sherry tells me she started bargain hunting in second grade at her best friend’s yard sale, then honed her bartering skills as she moved around the country while her husband served in the Air Force. Sherry combines her love of garage sales, her life as a military spouse, and her years living in Massachusetts as inspiration for her mysteries. Her discussion of blurred lines does make me wonder if she's ever seen a copy of one of her books on sale at a garage sale...
Thanks for letting me join you today!
Fiction versus reality—sometime the lines get a little blurred for me. I borrow lots of bits and pieces from real places and people to create the world where Sarah Winston lives. And sometimes I forget which is real and which is fiction.
Ellington, Massachusetts is a fictional version of the real town of Bedford, Massachusetts. We lived in Bedford for two years and I fell in love with that little town, which is often overshadowed by its more famous neighbors, Lexington and Concord. Fitch Air Force Base is a fictional version of Hanscom Air Force Base where we lived for three years. If you ever go to Bedford or Hanscom you will find a lot of my descriptions are fairly accurate.
West Concord Seafoods is my made up depiction of Twin Seafoods in West Concord. They have the giant lobster rolls on hamburger buns instead of in the more typical New England style hot dog buns. They also have a fish counter and excellent chowdah (chowder), and it’s owned by two brothers (why yes they are twins) with great New England accents. Last time we were in Massachusetts my daughter showed me a picture of her lobster roll. I said, “Did you go to West Concord Seafoods?” She looked at me strangely until I realized my mistake and called it Twin Seafoods.
Carol Carson and Stella Wild are friends of Sarah's—Carol an old friend and Stella a new friend. I came up with the names by combining the names of four college friends who I still get together with. I borrowed bits of their personalities and physical traits, but I change things up, too. Stella Wild is a voice teacher at Berklee College of Music. The real Stella and Wild say they can’t sing a note on key.
Angelo DiNapoli is loosely based on a former neighbor in Bedford. I renamed him, pumped up his personality (although not by much), and made him a chef and restaurant owner. But some of the stories Angelo tells Sarah are stories that my neighbor told me. I’ve mistakenly called my neighbor Angelo. Yeesh!
People often ask me if CJ is based on my husband. He’s not although they do have a few things in common. Like CJ, my husband was in the air force but he wasn’t ever in the security forces. CJ drives a red Chevy Sonic just like my husband and they both sleep very soundly. But trust me, I never confuse the two of them.
Sarah is not me. I grew up in Iowa not Pacific Grove, California (although I was lucky enough to live in Monterey right next to Pacific Grove for eighteen months.) I do love garage sales but I often just give my things to charities instead of throwing garage sales.
The Revolutionary War sites mentioned in the books are all the real thing as are the reenactments mentioned in the series. The Minute Man National Historical Park runs through Lincoln and Concord. One part of the Battle Road Trail is a stone’s throw away (okay, if you have a really strong arm) from the house we lived in on Hanscom Air Force Base. The urban legend is the woods are haunted by the soldiers killed in the first battle of the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775. I never saw a ghost but when I walk the trail and stop at the Paul Revere capture site, the Bloody Angle, and the Old North Bridge I feel the history seep through my bones and into my soul.
New England’s Largest Yard Sale sadly is fictional because I would love to go. However, Brimfield Antique Flea Market in Brimfield, Connecticut is supposed to be fabulous. It’s a five day event that runs three times a year with hundreds of dealers and it’s America’s oldest outdoor antiques market. Some day I will make it to Brimfield.