A little rainy, a little humid for the beginning of the new month. I'm looking forward to having the release of my next book, "Beta" on the first of October.
This week gets a little funky because my featured author wanted to travel to a place I didn't think we could go. However, my transporter is fashioned after a famous blue police box, so with a little manipulation, a few thrown switches and blown fuses, we end up in Indiana standing backstage after a sold out Sandy Fairfax concert. Sandy is a 38-year-old former teen idol/TV star making a comeback and the amateur sleuth of Carpenter's series. While waiting for Sandy to finish schmoozing after the concert, we talk.
1. Who is Sally Carpenter and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?
I’ve written a book that nobody else has written. My mystery is the first to feature a middle-aged former teen idol that still wants to work in the entertainment business. Matt Williams wrote a play about southwestern Indiana called From Daylight to Boonville, but mine’s the first book ever set in Evansville, Indiana. I grew up in a town north of Evansville, but I don’t live there any more.
2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?
My hair is naturally curly. I don’t roll it or style it. It just grows that way.
3. What interested you to be become a writer rather than something else such as becoming an astronaut?
I’ve always wanted to tell stories, although I never did it well until recently. As a child I made up stories in my head—didn’t write them down—and read oodles of books. When I was a kid I cut pictures out of magazines and made up my own stories about them. Even when I was working at another job, I still wanted to write. I’d go in a library and think, “I’d like to have a book of my own on the shelf.”
4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?
Steve Hockensmith, author of the “Holmes on the Range” mystery series. He grew up in the same town where my book is set.
I also admire William Link, TV writer extraordinaire who created “Columbo” and “Mannix.” Also William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter, who wrote for “Mission: Impossible” and other shows.
Can we include deceased persons? I’d like to meet Mildred Wirt Benson, who wrote most of the original Nancy Drew books as well as hundreds of other juvenile adventure books.
5. If I were stranded on a deserted island (or suffering a four hour layover at the airport), why would your book(s) be great company?
My book’s quick and easy to read, not the kind of reading where one has to plod along slowly to figure out the meaning or stop to look up words in the glossary. My novel’s funny and can maybe cheer up someone who’s stuck in an unpleasant situation. The plot is interesting enough to keep a reader turning the pages. The characters are likeable. And hopefully the mystery is crafty enough that readers won’t figure out whodunit before the end (although all the clues are in plain sight).
6. Share the Carpenter process of writing in regards to: idea and character development, story outline, research (do you Google, visit places/people or make it up on the spot?), writing schedule, editing, and number of rewrites.
For the character development of this book, I researched “teen idols” like crazy. I read biographies and autobiographies about teen idols, taped TV documentaries about them, watched concert videos, attended concerts and got wrapped up in the whole fan thing of collecting records and merchandise.
For this book I listened to all my Beatles records, watched their movies again and read those Beatles biographies on my shelf. With all this information in my head, the story nearly wrote itself.
As for the outline, the setting determines the structure. In this book, Sandy’s at a weekend Beatles fan convention, so the story takes place in the three days of the event. The various activities of the convention provide the framework of the story and I fit the sleuthing in around that.
In the next book of the series, Sandy’s a guest star on a sitcom. These shows rehearse and shoot in five days, so he has that much time to find the killer. He has to fit his sleuthing around rehearsals, publicity events and family matters.
I once worked at a movie studio, so I dug out every scrap of paper I’d saved from that job—old scripts, call sheets, information about the studio. Fortunately, at the time I had the foresight to save everything.
In each book, Sandy is performing at a different venue and the demands of that gig forms the basics of the story. Plotting is easy because the structure’s already in place.
Writing schedule, editing, and revisions. I work a day job, so my writing time is limited to evenings and weekends. I try not to get dictatorial about time—“it’s seven o’clock and I must start writing on the dot!”—because then it feels too much like a job. But I try not to wait too late in the evening to get started or I run out of time.
Revisions are numerous. The rough draft is just that—words to get me started. I edit and rewrite each page many times. I look at editing like a jeweler—I take a rough stone and keep polishing and cutting to find the gem inside.
Too many writers slap off a first draft quickly, send it to publishers and then wonder why it’s rejected—because it needs more work!
7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”
I’m not aware I have a “process.” I plop my seat in the chair, pick up a pen or turn on the computer and go (okay, sometimes I start with a few minutes of computer games, the worst time wasters ever invented). That’s the best advice I can give. Do it. Don’t spend all your time talking or blogging about writing. If you never start, you’ll never have a finished product.
8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read ‘Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?
Trust that God can help you overcome setbacks. Took me many years of failure to finally publish a book. The writer’s journey is not straight, short or easy.
9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?
I’m working on the next book in the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol mystery series, The Sinister Sitcom Caper. Most of the story takes place on a studio lot as Sandy’s rehearsing for a TV show. An actor drops dead at Sandy’s feet. A dwarf, an animal actor and his biggest fan aid our hero in the case. We also meet some of Sandy’s family members. And could romance be in the air?
10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be happy to answer any questions. I hope to set up a website soon. My book is available at http://oaktreebooks.com/dark_oak_mysteries.htm.