About the book:It’s been years since Sandy Fairfax was a teen idol and starred in his hit ‘70s television series Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth, but he still has his fans. Now it’s 1993 and many of his grown-up fans see a leisurely cruise as the ideal vacation. So, when Sandy’s agent finds him a pleasant gig aboard the SS Zodiac, he jumps at the chance. And, when the offer includes a spot for his musician sister, Celeste, who is blind, Sandy sees an opportunity to re-engage with his estranged sibling. However, the brother-sister duo are barely aboard the ship, when Sandy finds a singer from another shipboard show murdered in his dressing room. When the ship’s security officer does little to investigate, Sandy feels obligated to jump in, even though he isn’t a detective––he just used to play one on TV. Soon he’s grilling potential suspects, including a burnt-out piano bar player, a Southern-fried magician, a blackmail victim, a ventriloquist with a sassy dummy and even a former flame. Will Sandy unmask the killer before the cruise ends? Will he connect with the girl of his dreams? Will he have time to enjoy the sights of Nassau? Or will he end up sleeping with the fishes in the Atlantic Ocean, another victim in this killer’s Cunning Cruise Ship Caper?
Interview with Sally CarpenterTell us about your series. Is this book a standalone, or do readers need to read the series in order?
The Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series is about a former ‘70s pop star that has been out of the business for too long, but now at age 38, he’s quit drinking and making a comeback. He’s also making amends with his estranged family. There’s a development arc over the series as Sandy regains his confidence on stage and deals with family issues. It helps to read them in order, but each book stands on its own as well. A new reader can pick up the story at any time.
Where’s home for you? Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Princeton, Indiana, a county seat town of about 10,000. I lived in various cities in the Midwest until 2000 when I moved to Southern California. Now I reside in Moorpark, which is considered “small” even thought it has about 34,000 people.
What do you love about where you live?
No snow to shovel and not driving on icy streets.
Do you have another job outside of writing?
I work a full-time job to pay the bills. I work at a weekly community newspaper, but I’m not a reporter. I use my writing skills for headlines, and photo cutlines, and in editing articles.
What would your main character say about you?
“Stop putting me in so many deathtraps! I also lose my life in every book!”
How did you create the plot for this book?
Research. The plot points arise from what I know about the subject matter. For this book, I took a cruise years ago and saved every scrap of information and took tons of photos from that event. In writing this story, I went through all of that and built my story from there.
Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
My protagonist, Sandy Fairfax, was inspired by The Monkees. I did plenty of research into teen idols of the 1960s/70s, including reading several autobiographies by various real life pop stars. Sandy is a mash-up of the guys I read about, but he doesn’t represent any particular person.
Is your book based on real events?
It was based on the cruise I took and the fact that some of the older teen idols have performed on cruise ships.
Are you like any of your characters?
I’m a little like Bunny McAllister, Sandy’s biggest fan, and Celeste Farmington, Sandy’s sister. There are a few of my traits in these women, but they are not exactly like me. The fact that Celeste can sing and play keyboards is not a skill I have!
Who are your favorite authors?
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (naturally), Robert Levinson and William Link, Rod Serling.
What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
I don’t have a Kindle/ereader. Looking at a computer screen all day strains my eyes, so I go with paper for pleasure reading. I’m re-reading the entire Sherlock Holmes canon in order. I’m enjoying those stories more now than when I was younger. On my next-up list is “Granny Snows a Sneak" by Julie Seedorf.
What’s one pet peeve you have when you read?
I usually read before I go to bed, but by then I’m generally too tired to cover more than a few pages. And if I take too long in reading a book, I forget what I read days ago.
Do you have a routine for writing?
First drafts are always handwritten. I can’t compose fiction on a computer. It feels too much like a job, and I stop constantly to make corrections. I’m trained as a touch typist, so I can’t look at my fingers or the screen when I’m composing. Handwriting helps the story flow better onto the paper. I have a refillable pen I use only for writing. Then I type up the draft into the computer and revise from there.
Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
At home. I work a day job, so my writing time is limited to evenings and weekends.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing? That I made the reader laugh.
Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?
I’ve lived in various towns, and one of the first things I did after settling in was to get a new library card. I’ve been in many libraries but the most memorable was in the town where I grew up. During the summers mom dropped me off at the library while she shopped, instead of leaving me at home. The library was an old-fashioned brick building with a couple of “nooks” where one could get lost among the books and some chairs for reading. It was quiet, not like modern libraries where people are talking. No computers or activities going on, just paper books to read. In eighth grade, I won the summer reading contest for taking on the most books. I’m sure that library is much different now—-I haven’t been in it for years. But I have fond memories.
Why did you decide to publish with Cozy Cat Press?
Like most authors, when I started out with my first book I wanted an agent and a big advance and nice contract. Reality is, agents/large publishers won’t touch an unknown/unpublished author. Publishers won’t take a chance on an author until she’s a celebrity who will guarantee huge sales. After several agents turned me down, I queried small presses that do not require agents. My first book was with another publisher. After two years, that publisher put my book out of print. Many publishers won’t pick up a series that started with another press, so I was fortunate to find Cozy Cat Press. The publisher, Patricia Rockwell, liked my series and was willing to publish the second book. I got the rights back on my first book and self-published an ebook version to keep it in print.
Are you happy with your decision to publish with CCP?
I have cats, so I love the name! CCP is very encouraging of its authors. Patricia works hard to get books on the market promptly as soon as they’re finished. CCP doesn’t set deadlines so authors can take as much time as they need to write. Authors can give input regarding book titles, book covers, and the promotional copy—-large publishers handle these areas with no regard to the author’s wishes. The other CCP authors support and promote each other.
How did you find them, and how long did your query process take?
I Googled “mystery publishers” and eventually found a list of various small presses; CCP was on the list. The query process went fast—-I think Patricia responded to my query in just a few days! Large publishers take months because they pass queries through several layers of readers, editors, marketing directors, etc.
What are you working on now?
The next Sandy Fairfax book, number four, The Bloody Black Tie Benefit Caper. Sandy’s taking part in a fundraiser to help save his father’s orchestra, and he’s also appearing on a TV game show. He’s handling some serious issues with his kids, and he’s trying to woo his girlfriend. And of course, there’s a corpse or two. I’m also starting on a new cozy mystery series set in the 1960s. I’m still working on the details, but it should be groovy and fab!
About the author:
She 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 Playwrighting Competition. Common Ground also earned a college creative writing award and Star Collector was produced in New York City.
Carpenter also has a master’s degree in theology and a black belt in tae kwon do.
She’s worked as an actress, freelance writer, college writing instructor, theater critic, jail chaplain, and tour guide/page for a major movie studio. 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.
Her short story “The Pie-eyed Spy” appeared in the Nov. 23, 2013, issue of Kings River Life ezine.
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