Thursday, July 6, 2023

Talkshow Thursday: An Interview with Sally Carpenter

An Interview with Author Sally Carpenter

My latest book is The Highland Havoc Caper, a cozy mystery starring Sandy Fairfax, a former teen idol from the 1970s. He’s now 39 years old and dealing with a career comeback, an ex, two kids (his ex has custody), a new fiancĂ©e, and a mystery.

Is the book part of a series? Did you set out to write a series?

Yes, Highland is the sixth book in the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol mystery series. Most cozies are in a series, as readers want to keep following the characters. I knew that this would be a series from the outset and that eventually, Sandy would find a second wife. One advantage of a series is that I don’t have to create fresh principal characters from scratch with every book. The downside is keeping the characters from growing stale.

How are the characters like you and different?

Sandy and I only have a few things in common: we both live in Southern California, we’re both tall, we’ve both worked on a movie lot and we both drive red cars. He’s a man; I’m a woman. He’s wealthy; I’m not. He’s a terrific singer and dancer; I’m not, although I’m a better actor than he is. He’s divorced with kids; I’m unmarried. He’s a celebrity; I’m not. He doesn’t have pets; I have cats. Over his lifetime he’s traveled far more than I have. But I love the differences. Writing about someone like me would be dull.

What draws you to write in the time period you do?

Sandy’s books are set in 1993-94. He started in the entertainment industry when he was 18 years old
and starred in a TV show that ran from 1975 to 1979. If I set Sandy’s stories in modern times, he’d be 66, too old for a career comeback and the physical stunts I have him do.

What I like about writing in the past is no cell phones! If Sandy’s in trouble (which happens often), he can’t call for help. He can’t look up information on a computer; he must go out and talks to people.

What job prepared you to be a novelist?

After I moved to Los Angeles I worked as a page for Paramount Studios in Hollywood. The hardest work and best fun I ever had in a job. During the day the pages led the studio tours. In the evenings we ushered in the audiences for the sitcom shoots. I learned how movies and TV shows were put together—that information went into my second Sandy Fairfax book, The Sinister Sitcom Caper. Some of Sandy’s other stories are also set at a film studio, and I use Paramount as the guide.

What research did you do on this book?

The Highland Havoc Caper has a Scottish theme. Sandy’s real name is Ernest Farmington, so he had a Scottish heritage. I listened to Scottish songs on YouTube (I use them in the book). I looked up internet stores that sold kilts, since Sandy wears a kilt. I researched Scottish foods on the internet and some Scottish slang words (all clean) for one of the secondary characters. One of the settings is a Scottish castle, so I looked up real castles and designed my own. The county where I live has the annual Seaside Highland Games; I watched videos of the games online.

Why do you write in this particular genre?

Pixabay/Francoise Gisbert
I wasn’t always a mystery fan. That changed in 2008 at my day job at a community newspaper. One day a press release came across my desk regarding a panel of mystery authors appearing at a local library. Something in my head said, “You need to go to that.” I went, met other mystery writers, and started writing.

Mysteries provide a solid, logical structure to the plot. The protagonist keeps finding clues that lead to more information until he solves the mystery. Plot points build on each other. It’s also fun to keep the reader guessing until the end and confused by the red herrings.

What books are on our nightstand?

The genre book club at my library is reading is Pyramids (fantasy) by Terry Pratchett. I also have Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, stories of the great detective in science fiction settings, and I’m rereading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

What is the one thing you wish you could do?

Write full time.

What is your next project?

I’m working on a new science fiction/mystery series set on another planet. However, it might be difficult to do any research on location.

About The Highland Havoc Caper

Former pop star Sandy Fairfax engages in a dangerous hobby—amateur sleuthing. At the Seaside Highland Games in California, he and his teenage son, Chip, discover more than their heritage. In a castle transported from Scotland, they find a body bludgeoned with a curling stone. But when they go for help, the corpse vanishes. Without a body or even a name, how will Sandy find the killer? As he and Cinnamon plan their wedding, more bodies pile up. A piper plummets from the castle tower and into the ocean. Another body is found behind a Scottish pub in L.A. And when Sandy takes a guest role on the Spook Spotters TV show, the worried dad must keep Chip safe from an amorous young actress.

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