Sunday, June 29, 2014

Interviewing Author Sally Carpenter

Today I'm interviewing Sally Carpenter, author of THE BAFFLED BEATLEMANIAC CAPER, as she tours with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

Synopsis of The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper:
In the 1970s, teen idol Sandy Fairfax recorded 10 gold records and starred in the hit TV show Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth. Now he’s a 38-year-old recovering alcoholic with dead bodies getting in the way of his comeback! An easy gig as the guest celebrity at a Midwest Beatles fan convention turns deadly when a member of the tribute band is murdered. When the police finger Sandy as the prime suspect, the boy sleuth is back in action to interpret the “Beatle-ly” clues and find the killer.

M.W. Welcome to Cicero’s Children, Sally. In reading your biography, I noticed that Star Collector, a play you wrote while working toward your Master’s degree in Theater, featured similar characters to those you later portrayed in The Baffled Beatlemania Caper. Can you tell us how your play influenced your writing of the book? Did the song Star Collector, which was recorded by Davy Jones and The Monkees in 1967 and spoke to the phenomenon of teen idol groupies, also influence your writing?

S.C. Hi, and thanks for hosting me today. In my college playwrighting class, the students had to write a one-act play. I wrote a two-person play with a burnt-out aging teen idol named Bobby Beat and an older avid fan who sneaks into his hotel room to meet him. The play was performed on campus and people loved it. The script was a finalist in a regional college playwright contest, one of six plays chosen from entries submitted from colleges in three or four states, quite an honor. The six plays all received a staged reading at the regional conference. My play didn’t win but one of the adjudicators said, “I see a bigger story for these characters.” So I tried writing a mainstream novel with the characters and a longer play, but nothing clicked until I put them into a mystery. Of course I know the song “Star Collector”, but I don’t think it influenced me. But the Monkees TV show definitely inspired the creation of my protagonist, Sandy Fairfax.

M.W. You appeared to nail the quirky nature of fandom in your descriptions both of the people running the Beatles’ convention and those who attended it. Have you ever attended a convention like the one portrayed in your book? Ever helped organize one?

S.C. I’ve never organized a Beatles convention, but I’ve attended three, Beatlefest (now called The Fest for Beatles Fans) in Chicago twice, and one in Pasadena called Liverpool Days. I used those events as a blueprint of the type of activities that my Beatles convention would have. At Liverpool Days, one of the special guests was Micky Dolenz, who talked about his friendship with the Beatles. That’s where I got the idea of putting my character at a Beatles fest. And as I describe in my book, the avid female fans (including me) stood right in front of the stage to hear Micky. I also took photos.

M.W. I noticed that you used titles of Beatles’ songs as chapter headings. You also referenced Beatles’ song lyrics and film lines, using them as clues in the book.  Was it difficult tying specific Beatles references to the chapters and clues? Did you spend a lot of time researching lyrics and film lines to find the perfect ones for your book?

S.C. Not difficult at all. For years I’ve had a collection of Beatles records, the movies, and some biographies. I already knew the songs, the movies, and Beatles history; it was just a matter of reviewing them (who says research can’t be fun?). The various pieces fell in place easily. Once I heard one particular song (spoiler alert!), I knew I had my story. I was surprised how easily I found the chapter headings. The headers were mostly for my benefit (and amusement) so I could keep track of the action in each chapter. BTW, in my current WIP, the third Sandy Fairfax book, most of the chapter titles are Elvis song titles!

M.W. You wrote the book using the first person point of view, the “I” for that POV being Sandy Fairfax. How do you think writing it this way helped to make Sandy more realistic and appealing as the main character?

S.C. I started writing the book in third person. That presented a difficulty right off. “Sandy” is the character’s stage name, so do I refer to him throughout the book as “Sandy” or his given name? Also, the story was just plodding along and not working. In my research I read autobiographies by several real teen idols. The books were fun to read and the idol’s personality jumped right off the page. Then I got the idea of writing as if Sandy was dictating his autobiography. As soon as I shifted into first person, the story opened up and came alive and the character just rolled off the pen (I hand write first drafts).

M.W. Super fan Bunny McAllister is another interesting character. Like Sandy, she changes over the course of the book, losing some of her preconceived notions of how stars should behave and beginning to see Sandy as a real person instead of as an older version of her teenage idol. Did you base Bunny on someone you knew, or on multiple fans you’ve met?

S.C. Some years ago I was a bit like Bunny. She’s just the prototype of the super fan. The character of Valleri, the aggressive, jealous fan, is based on a Monkees fan I met (Valleri is not her real name). Also, I was at a music festival once where I met some Bobby Sherman fans (I like him too). They were quite intense and serious about their affection. The Monkees fans were more fun and relaxed. Just my observations.

M.W. Sandy is quick with the witty retorts. For example, at one point he observes, “I had enough dead ends in this mystery to open my own subdivision.” Is Sandy just innately clever with words, or are his smart aleck remarks part of the personal defense system he’s developed as a down-on-his-luck alcoholic?

S.C. You’re quite perceptive! No, I didn’t consciously write Sandy as having a defense system. I’m not a recovering alcoholic, although I’ve had friends who were. I have a similar type of humor and wit as Sandy (what does that say about me?). I’ve been around guys so much that I can zip off those snappy one-liners. Plus I think the dry wit gives a nice edge to Sandy’s personality. It makes him stand out from other cozy characters. I wanted humor in the book, and I like how Sandy, when surrounded by chaos and nutty characters, can still find some humor in the situation.

M.W. Last but not least, who’s your favorite Beatle and why?

S.C. George. I love his solo music. It’s “comfort music” that I listen to when I need a pick-me-up or just want to relax. I liked his spiritual nature and also his affection for Monty Python. 

Those were some of the most interesting interview questions I've ever answered! Just one more thing -- my fave fictional detectives are Sherlock Holmes and Lt. Columbo. Hope I can stop by again for another chat about Sandy.

M.W. It was good talking with you, Sally. Good luck with your writing!

Sally Carpenter is a native Hoosier now living in Moorpark, Calif. She holds a master’s degree in theater from Indiana State University. While in school, her plays “Star Collector” and “Common Ground” were finalists in the American College Theater Festival One-Act Playwrighting Competition. “Common Ground” also earned a college creative writing award, and “Star Collector” was produced in New York City.Carpenter, who also holds a master’s degree in theology and a black belt in tae kwon do, has worked as an actress, college writing instructor, theater critic, jail chaplain, and tour guide/page for Paramount Pictures. She’s now employed at a community newspaper.

“The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper,” was a 2012 Eureka! Award finalist for best first mystery novel. “The Sinister Sitcom Caper,” the second in the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series, is published by Cozy Cat Press. The third book, “The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper,” is due in 2015.Sally is a member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles and “mom” to two black cats.

Purchase Links 
Amazon      B&N

Tour Participants
June17 – Shelley’s Book Case – Review, Giveaway
June 18 – Mommasez… – Review, Guest Post
June 19 – Back Porchervations – Review
June 20 – Kelly P’s Blog – Interview
June 21 – Carole’s Book Corner – Review
June 22 – Cozy Up With Kathy – Guest Post
June 23 – readalot blog – Review
June 24 – Christa Reads and Writes – Review
June 25 – deal sharing aunt – Interview, Giveaway
June 26 – Brooke Blogs – Guest Post
June 27 – Michele Lynn Seigfried’s Blog – Spotlight
June 28 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – Review
June 29 – Cicero’s Children - Interview
June 30 – Socrates’ Book Reviews – Review


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