Talkshow Thursday: Meet Sally Carpenter
Sally: Thank you. I write cozy mysteries, and most cozy series have a Christmas book. Many cozy readers love Christmas stories, especially those set in the American northeast with lots of snow, a chill in the air and heavy sweaters. Since my protagonist lives in Los Angeles, my story has sand, not snow, and 75-degree temperatures.
Southern California is known for its theme parks, and a Christmas-oriented amusement park seemed a logical setting. My protagonist, Sandy Fairfax, is a 38-year-old former pop star making a comeback. He’s hired to emcee the Miss North Pole scholarship pageant, set at the Santa’s Magic theme park. Former teen idol Donny Osmond has hosted the Miss World and Miss Universe pageants, so it seemed like a good job for Sandy. However, Sandy gets in trouble when his girlfriend, Cinnamon Lovette, is jealous of him working near so many beautiful women—but he stays faithful. People begin dying at the theme park and one of Sandy’s friends, who is later charged with the killings, asks Sandy to investigate the suspicious deaths.
LM: You’ve written most of your books as part of the Teen Idol and Psychedelic Spy series, each with very unique protagonists. Where did you get your idea for the two series/characters?
I wanted to explore this type of character and created Sandy Fairfax to follow this trajectory. In the first book of the series, The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper, Sandy recently quit drinking and is just getting back in the public eye after several fallow years. Over the series arc, he reconnects with his estranged family and children. The series follows his journey from a self-centered has-been to a more open, loving human being.
The Psychedelic Spy series, set in 1967, was inspired for my love of the 1960s: the colors, music, media, fashions, mindset. It was a heady period that preached “love and peace” but was filled with conflict: the Vietnam War, generation gap, civil rights, women’s rights, the rise of Eastern religions, the New Age moment, Vatican II for Catholics and contemporary worship/the Jesus movement for Protestants.
The popularity of the James Bond books and movies launched the ‘60s spy craze, inspiring many spy-related moves and TV shows. I created Noelle McNabb, an actress and a Christian who is recruited by a spy agency. Her morals and values often conflict with the ends-justify-the-means approach of the agency.
LM: You’ve been an actress, college writing instructor, jail chaplain, and tour guide for Paramount pictures. How did those jobs impact your writing/story ideas?
Sally: Both of my protagonists are actors LOL. I used my experience at Paramount Pictures for my Sandy
LM: How do you decide where to set your stories, and have you visited the places in your books?
Sally: The Noelle McNabb books are set in Southern Indiana, where I grew up in the 1960s. The cities are fictional but based on my hometown and the nearby “big city,” Evansville.
Since 2000 I’ve lived in Southern California, the setting for Sandy Fairfax, who works in the entertainment industry. I use a few real places, such as Cantors Deli and Hamburger Hamlet, but I mostly use fictitious stores and places so I don’t have to worry about accuracy.
The Santa’s Magic theme park in my new book was, of course, inspired by the famous Mouse Park in Anaheim, including the underground tunnels for the staff to move about. I’ve been to Disneyland twice, but only because a friend gave me free guest passes; it’s far too expensive.
LM: Are you an outliner/plotter or “discovery” writer (i.e., just sit down and start writing)?
Sally: I outline, although it’s a rough list of scenes I scribble on paper. I don’t use software programs or index cards or color-coded markers. Generally, I often write the opening and closing scenes, then I plan the middle part with the mystery. In the second draft I add more red herrings, suspects and description. In my new book, I had a character, Doug Shaw, who was only mentioned briefly. I expanded his role in later drafts. The outline isn’t set in stone, but I do need to know where I’m going.
In my fourth book, The Quirky Quiz Show Caper, I tried “pantsing.” After 50 pages I was stuck and threw out most of what I’d written. Chapter two became chapter one. I shifted the focus from Sandy and his father to Sandy to his brother, which made a more interesting story.
LM: What sort of advice can you give to fledgling writers?
Sally: Finish what you start. Too many “writers” talk about writing but never do it. You can’t publish what isn’t written. And if you want a long-term writing career, you need perseverance and dedication. Many writers publish one or two books, sell a few copies to friends and family, and that’s the end of that. For the career author, the writing and marketing are ongoing. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
LM: What is your next project?
LM: Where can folks find you on the web?
Sally: My website is sandyfairfaxauthor.com. You can friend me on Facebook at facebook.com.sally.carpenter.54.
The Notorious Noel Caper:
Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/3nbwtoG