Interview with debut mystery novelist Sally Carpenter

Today’s guest on Reviews and Interviews is debut mystery novelist Sally Carpenter to talk a bit about her debut novel The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper, from Dark Oak Mysteries/Oak Tree Press.

Sally Carpenter is native Hoosier now living in Southern California.

She has a master’s degree in theater from Indiana State University. While in school two of 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. The plays received staged readings and productions in New York City.

Sally also has a master’s degree in theology and a black belt in tae kwon do. She’s worked a variety of jobs including actress, freelance writer, college writing instructor, theater critic, jail chaplain, and tour guide/page for a major movie studio. Now she works at a community newspaper.

She’s a member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles Chapter.

Sally, please tell us about your current release.
My book,
The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper, answers the question, “What happens to teen idols when they grow up?” They become amateur sleuths.

From 1975 to 1979, teen idol Sandy Fairfax recorded 10 gold records and starred in the hit TV show, Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth. Now he’s a 38-year-old recovering alcoholic, forgotten and desperate for a comeback. He takes his only job offer, a guest appearance at a Beatles fan convention in the Midwest.

What looks like an easy gig turns deadly when a member of the tribute band is murdered. When Sandy is fingered as the prime suspect, and is persuaded to fill in for dead musician at a concert, the boy sleuth is back in action to solve the case. But can he find the killer before the Apple Bonker and the Blue Meanie stop him?

What inspired you to write this book?
As they say, write what you know. I’ve been a Beatles fan for as far back I can remember. I heard “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold My Hand” when they were first on the radio and thought they were the greatest songs ever.

In the 1980s someone recommended that I read Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb. The entire book takes place during a weekend science fiction convention at a hotel—the guest of honor, a famous fantasy author, is bumped off and the convention guests are the suspects. I was into the SF culture at the time and laughed at all the in-jokes. I thought, “Wow! I wish I’d written that book!” I’ve attended three Beatles fan conventions over the years and, with Bimbos in mind, figured that would make a fun setting for a story.

In the late 1990s VH-1 started running The Monkees TV show on weekdays. I was hooked and got involved with the whole fan thing of collecting records and attending concerts. I was intrigued by the teen idol phenomena and did extensive research on idols.

I went back to college at that time and in my playwrighting class I wrote a script about a middle-aged fan finally meeting her idol. The play was a regional finalist in the American College Theater Festival. One of the adjudicators said, “I see a bigger story for these two characters.”

I wanted to write something else with my teen idol character, but nothing clicked until I put him into a mystery series.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m writing the next book in the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series, The Sinister Sitcom Caper. When Sandy shows up for a guest spot on a TV show, an actor falls down dead at his feet. Sitcoms rehearse and shoot in five days, so Sandy has less than a week to find the killer. He has some detecting help from a dwarf and Scruffy, an animal actor. We meet some members of Sandy’s family. And could romance be budding for our hero?

This story was inspired by my experiences working as a page at a major Hollywood movie studio. Most fun I ever had on a job.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always wanted to write. Growing up I spent many hours reading books from the local library, mainly because that’s all there was to do in my small town. When mom was washing dishes, I dried them and made up stories to tell her to pass the time. I also made up my own stories about my favorite TV shows.

When I was younger I tried my hand at freelance writing. I sold a few short pieces, but didn’t make much money and dropped it for a number of years. A decade ago I decided I really wanted to make a go at writing. I tried working with several genres, but the only success I had was with a mystery.

Do you write full time?
Alas, no. I wish I did. I have a day job to pay the bills.

If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I work full time at a weekly community newspaper. On weekends I do occasional reviews of local college and community theater. I write in the evenings after work and on weekends. I have no family obligations (except for two demanding black cats) so I can devote my free time to writing.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know how interesting this is, but I always write the first draft of a book by hand with a special refillable blue pen I bought especially for this task. I don’t use the pen for anything else. It’s a large pen that feels comfortable and writes quickly. I type up my scrawls into a computer and edit from there.

I can’t do first drafts at a computer. Staring at a blinking cursor leaves me numb. It feels too much like an office job. Writing by hand feels more natural and creative.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to star in my own TV series. I also wanted to be a musician, because my friends at schools were in band and choir and I wasn’t. I’ve always envied musicians. That’s why my protagonist is both a musician and a TV star. I can live out my dreams through him.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Don’t discuss the writing business with a non-writer. So many people have given me dumb advice even though they know nothing about the publishing industry.

If you’re trying to give solace to a writer who’s gotten a rejection, don’t say, “So-and-so got a dozen rejections and eventually sold their book for millions.” That isn’t comforting to someone who’s accumulated hundreds of rejections over the years (like myself).

If you want to write, start a project and finish it. Too many wannabes spend all their time reading how-to books and blogging about writing, but never get that book going!

Readers can feel free to contact me at

Sally, thank you for being here today and sharing a bit about yourself and your writing. I now have flashbacks to The Monkees. 🙂

8 thoughts on “Interview with debut mystery novelist Sally Carpenter

  1. Marja Mcgraw says:

    Interesting interview and a fun read. Unlike you, I've grown too impatient to hand write anything, not to mention half the time I can't read my own writing. I like the sound of your book and will definitely read it.

  2. jrlindermuth says:

    Interesting and entertaining. I'm sure that sense of humor shines through in everything you write. With your variety of job experience, you have a lot of material for more books. Go for it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    What a great idea for a book series. Congratulations on the first book and may you have many more. I used to write longhand drafts, but that was before computers. I was hooked immediately the first time I visited a fellow author who had a Kay Pro. Those were the days. You've had an interesting life, would make some dandy memoirs one day.

  4. jack59 says:

    I loved the way you described your love for the Beatles it brought back memories I thought I had forgotten. Not so much of my attending concerts but of wrapping my 14 year old daughter up before she left with a group of friends to see the Bay City Rollers?
    I truly wish you and your book much success.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, everyone, for your kind comments. Some of you mentioned memories, and I had to "reach back" in my memory vaults in writing the 1970s flashbacks in the book. The novel is available on Amazon. Happy reading!
    Sally Carpenter

  6. Augie says:

    Lisa, what a fun interview. Sally, congrats, I too like watching the Monkees…thanks for the memories. I have my adult kids watching 'Father Knows Best' sounds a little weird, but I love clean and straight comedy. augie

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