Today, June 2, is the birthday of my late sister Harriet Vachss Harris.
I dedicated my second novel, The Terrorist Who Wasn’t, to her. However my earlier book, The Victory That Wasn’t, was our real collaboration. As the book’s editor, Harriet performed all of the tasks that are so important in bringing a final product to publication. And more. Much, much more.
The Victory That Wasn’t is an alternate history based on real events in the Vietnam War years. It’s also a story with a central character based on my Army days in Hawaii and a few years beyond them. As my older sister, Harriet had known me for my entire life. We had always been in touch, but, of course, there are some things we seldom tell our sisters.
Our editor-author dialog was often about more than the book itself. We exchanged long emails every day and reminisced about the news stories of that time. Because my Army job as a journalist provided information that had never been published, I was able to tell her about things that happened in Vietnam, and Hawaii, that fascinated her.
And, of course, she quizzed me about the personal stuff. She recognized some of the characters, even though I had altered them from their real world personas. “I know who Jennifer was,” she might say. “But who was Katy?” “And what does that character’s name mean. I can tell that it’s a code for something.”
Finishing a book with so many historical details was a lot of work, mixed with a lot of laughs, and possibly a few gasps from Harriet. All in all, a great experience.