Sally Carpenter stopped by our Interview Room at The Editing Pen.  Tea was poured and we got to talking. Ms. Carpenter has 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 Playwriting Competition. “Common Ground” also earned a college creative writing award and “Star Collector” was produced in New York City. She’s now employed at a community newspaper.

Her initial book in the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series, “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper,” was a 2012 Eureka! Award finalist for best first mystery novel.  Her short story, “Dark Nights at the Deluxe Drive-in,” appears in the anthology “Last Exit to Murder.”  “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet” was published in the “Plan B: Vol. 2” e-book anthology, and her short story “The Pie-eyed Spy” appeared in the Nov. 23, 2013, issue of Kings River Life ezine. I had specific questions for Ms. Carpenter and she came prepared.

Who is your favorite playwright?

William Link and Richard Levinson. They’re mostly known for their TV work but they’ve also written several stage plays. One of them, “Prescription: Murder,” launched the “Columbo” TV  series.  I like these men because they created Columbo, my favorite detective, but their other mystery scripts are just as good. And they write “cozies” without gore, violence, sex or profanity.

Was it easy or difficult to transition from a play script to a fiction manuscript?

When I first started writing a novel it was all dialogue, like a script. I had to go back in and add description and action. In a play, the audience sees the characters, what they look like and what they’re doing. In a book, one has to describe every gesture and visual. I still write my first drafts this way; I just slap down the dialogue and some action and then fill in the setting, clothes and details later.

Considering Aristotle’s Poetics, which of his six story elements are the strongest in this new release? (Plot, Character, Theme, Language, Melody, Spectacle)

I’d say character although the book has strengths in the other elements as well. A major focus of the book is the relationship between my hero, Sandy Fairfax, and his estranged sister, Celeste. She has to forgive Sandy before they can work together in presenting a concert. Celeste is a fun character who has some personal issues to deal with in order to get back on stage again (Sandy went through some of these same issues in the first book of the series, “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper”).   For a mystery, plot needs to be a strong factor. I try to set up a number of red herrings and clues and weave those in around the character development.

Spectacle is strong in my books. I like to place the story in an interesting, unique setting that may be unfamiliar to the reader. My first book was set at a Beatles fan convention. The second, “The Sinister Sitcom Caper,” takes place at a movie studio. In this book the characters are on a cruise ship sailing to the Bahamas.

Both you and I have black belts in Tae Kwon Do.  Do your characters show us any techniques?

I don’t have any martial arts in this book, although my hero, Sandy Fairfax, uses his physical prowess to escape a death trap. I plan to make martial arts the focus of a future book when Sandy learns tae kwon do for self defense.

How does your central character’s language differ from the other characters?  Is the sentence structure different? The musicality in his phrases? Accent? Speech rhythms?

I write in first person so the character’s voice is apparent all on every page. Sandy Fairfax, my hero, reflects on his past actions and makes judgments about the people he meets. He has a dry, self-deprecating sense of humor. At times he’s quite vain. He’s an actor and knows how to put on a good front he often says one thing but he’s thinking something else. I haven’t analyzed how Sandy talks but I hear his voice in my head and it flows easily on to the page. As for language, one of secondary characters has a Southern accent that I try to express with word choice. Writing out the phonetic sounds of an accent can be hard to read.

As we finished our tea, Sally let me know that the next book in the Sandy Fairfax series is “The Bloody Black Tie Benefit Caper.” In this story, Sandy’s father is losing his orchestra due to financial loss, but where did the money go? Sandy also has to clear his father’s name as a murder suspect as well as appear on a TV game show, cozy up with his new girlfriend, and iron out family issues. Ms. Carpenter also wants to launch a new cozy series set in the 1960s that will be pretty hip and fab gear.

I boxed up the extra cookies and handed them to her as we made our way to the door.  It was a pleasure to have Sally visit.  Check out her book and webpages and feel free to post any comments below for the author or your Editor.

The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper(Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol mysteries Book 3)
Cozy Mystery
Paperback: 226 pages
Publisher: Cozy Cat Press (September 28, 2014)
ISBN-13: 978-1939816528

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