Today I’d like to welcome an author who has a very unique background, and has written a book that many of you are going to love.
1. Welcome to our blog, Sally. When I saw the title of your book—Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper—I was instantly intrigued. What can you tell us about it?
The title is based on the fact that my protagonist, teen idol Sandy Fairfax, starred on a hit 1970s show, “Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth.” Back in those days, the episode titles on TV shows sometimes followed a format, such as “The Night of the Such-and-Such” for “The Wild, Wild West” and “The So-and-So Affair” for “The Man from UNCLE.” On “Buddy Brave,” all the 100 plus episode titles end in the word “caper” and had alliteration in the title.
The word “caper” was appropriate for my book because it’s funny and light hearted and I love “caper” films like “Sneakers” and “Mission: Impossible” (the first movie only, not the sequels).
I put in the word “Beatlemaniac” so when readers on Amazon.com searched the word “Beatles” my book would come up.
The story is set in 1993 when Sandy is a 38-year-old recovering alcoholic, forgotten and aimless. He takes the only available job offer, a guest appearance at a small Beatles fan convention in the Midwest. When a member of the tribute band is shot, Sandy unwittingly begins snooping like a sleuth and acting out his TV character to find the killer.
2. I see that you have a degree in theater and a black belt in tae kwon do. There must be an interesting story there. Would you care to share?
I’ve always enjoyed live theater. The first show I acted in was “Cinderella’s Slipper,” a musical (I didn’t sing) in eighth grade. I played the Wicked Stepmother and was told I stole the show. I was involved with high school theater (won the senior drama award!) and college (pledged the drama honorary) and have since performed with community theater and a touring company. Nowadays I’m in the audience as a drama critic and write reviews for a local newspaper.
The theater degree planted the seed for my book. In my playwright class I wrote a one-act play about a middle-aged fan that finally meets her idol, a burned-out aging pop star, and finds he’s all too human. The play was a finalist in a college playwrighting competition. The play was well liked and one of the adjudicators said, “I see a bigger story here.” I wanted to write a longer piece for the characters and ended up with this book.
My protagonist is an actor as well as a singer, so I can use my theatrical knowledge for the book.
As for the black belt, for some strange reason I always wanted to learn martial arts, maybe because it seemed so mysterious. I started on white belt at age 39 and earned my black belt at 41. I enjoyed it and highly recommend martial arts for anyone who wants to get in shape and lose weight. I participated in many tournaments and usually did well in sparring (fighting). I plan to have my protagonist learn martial arts in an upcoming book. He needs some kind of self defense because he won’t carry a gun.
3. I’ve noticed in your bio that you are also a reviewer of local plays and a writer for a community newspaper. The term Renaissance Woman springs to mind. How do you juggle all these balls and still find time for yourself?
How do I juggle everything? Rather badly at times. Somehow everything gets done, although not always at the pace I desire. I work a day job, but when I’m off work I leave those duties at the office and concentrate on my book. My writing time is squeezed into evenings and weekends.
I find the best way to take care of tasks is write down what needs doing and prioritize. What must get done first? If it’s Tuesday and the review is done tomorrow, I work on that instead of the guest blog that’s due on Saturday. I take care of little, quick chores first—clearing the deck, I call it—before sitting down for a big writing project. I don’t have family demands tugging at me, so I plan my time to suit me and don’t get interrupted.
4. That is excellent advice for all of us. And since you have a varied background, how much of your various experiences find their way into your writing?
Bits and pieces of life experience slip in. It’s true of any writer—we write what we know, even if the character isn’t directly like the author. Some parts of my book are based on teen idol concerts and Beatles conventions I’ve attended. Some parts of my personality—or rather a grandiose idea of my self—is in the protagonist.
But much of writing is imagination. I don’t want to read a book that’s completely based on someone’s life—that’s a memoir—because the book becomes all about the author’s personal hang-ups instead of telling a story about the characters.
5. When did you first decide that you wanted to write a book?
I’ve always wanted to write a book but didn’t have the gumption to sit down and spend hours at the typewriter (now I’m dating myself). Rewriting and polishing a book takes a huge commitment of time and energy. Writing means giving up other activities. I’ve written some books in years past but they were bad and didn’t sell.
6. Now that you are marketing your new book, what have you found to be the most helpful venues for promotion?
The Internet. Blogs let writers reach beyond their immediate community to communicate literally around the world. Best of all, one doesn’t need to leave the house and spend hours in travel.
I’m also placing my books in libraries. That’s where I do my book browsing, not a bookstore. At a library I can read a book to see if I like it. If I do, I buy it. If not, I haven’t spent the money.
For me, bookstore signings are not worthwhile. Some of the local bookstores won’t carry my book, and readers only go to signings for celebrities and big-name authors. I think more readers are buying books online these days simply because bookstores carry limited stock. More people are going to blogs for reviews instead of the “big critics” in years past. The reading/publishing world is changing.
7. You are right about the changes in the reading/publishing world. Are you working on a new WIP? If so, what can you tell us about it?
I’m on the second book in the Sandy Fairfax teen idol series. This one is “The Sinister Sitcom Caper” and Sandy’s a guest star on a low-rated TV show. When an actor drops dead at his feet, he starts sleuthing with the help of a dwarf and an animal actor (that’s the technical term for those animals you see on TV).
The story was inspired by my experiences working at a major Hollywood movie studio. I worked as a page and ushered in the audiences for the sitcom shoots. I had the good fortune to meet the animal handler for the “Frasier” show, the woman who trained Eddie the dog. The cat from “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” had his own trailer on the lot—go figure.
8. What was your path to publication like?
Before I wrote this book I had a YA sci-fi action/adventure series I tried to sell. After 43 rejections I shelved it and said, “I’m not going through that again.” For my mystery, I contacted a few agents but they only wanted published authors. One agent said my book didn’t have a “strong enough hook,” although if The Beatles isn’t a hook, I don’t know what is.
Nowadays agents work for the publishers, not the writer. Publishers put out the type of material they’re looking for and agents contact their clients to see who wants to write it. I know of authors who work that way and that’s great for them and they enjoy it, but I wanted to publish my own story.
I queried small and indie presses that didn’t require agents. One publisher liked my query and read some chapters. He turned me down but gave me personal feedback on what he didn’t like. That’s highly unusual.
I asked Sunny if I could revise my book and resubmit it. She said yes and gave more comments. I studied the feedback, gutted the book, rewrote and turned it in. Sunny loved my revisions and passed it on to the publisher, who apparently read the book over a weekend and accepted it immediately. Six months later it was published.
9. I am always eager to learn about special writing spaces and inspirational techniques. Do you have a special space in which to write, and what inspires you?
I can’t write in coffeehouses or public places. I write at home and have a small house, so my writing space is more cramped than I’d like. I have a colorful calendar and items on the wall above my computer to make the workspace inviting. My 2012 calendar will have pictures from The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” movie.
What inspires me? When I’m facing a deadline I sit down and write. It’s like any type of work. The more one does it, the easier one can “get started” and do it.
If I’m working on a novel, I picture the scene in my head before writing it down. I don’t sit at a page “cold” with nothing in mind to write. Sometimes listening to favorite music jogs ideas, but I don’t play music when I’m actually writing.
10. I read on your bio that you are a Native Hoosier, now living in LA. That must have been quite an adjustment. What was that experience like for you?
I don’t live in L.A. now. I’m in a small town west of L.A. County. But moving here was culture shock. People have strange habits, such as in a store they stand a mile back from the cash registers to check out, so I can’t tell where the line starts, but in grocery stores they practically step on your cart and start unloading groceries before you finish with unpacking your cart. L.A. streets don’t have left turn arrows, so three more cars will make left turns after the light turns red so they can get through. It’s not law, just a local custom, and people can get tickets for that.
I don’t do well in an urban environment and L.A. is too spread out—one must drive for hours to get anywhere and public transportation is terrible. In the Midwest people seldom have to pay for parking, but L.A. charges to park just about anywhere. For a city built for automobiles, someone forgot to put in parking lots. It’s not an attractive city and I seldom go into L.A. these days.
11. Oh, I can totally relate to what you’re saying about LA. What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
What leisure time? I’d love to have more time for hobbies. Outside of my job, writing and marketing efforts I have a pretty dull life. I clean the house, read a daily newspaper, read books written by my friends, watch old movies and TV shows, and go to church on Sunday. I attend chapter meetings of Sisters in Crime/LA when I can. Once in a while I get into L.A. to a museum. This year I hope to get to the Grammy Museum in downtown LA for the special George Harrison exhibit.
12. Do you have any pets? We love hearing about the animal “family” members.
Yes, I have two black cats. For six years I had a 23-pound black cat named Snuggles who had various health issues but was great company. Last year he got sick and had to be put down. I hadn’t planned to get another cat right away, but cats have their own agendas. Felix was a stray cat living at my vet’s office. When I went to the vet to tend to Snuggles, Felix would rub on me and sit on my lap. Now Felix likes to wake me up in the morning by standing on me.
Some outdoor cats live in my area and they catch the rats, so the neighbors don’t mind them. After Snuggles was gone, one of those cats, Boots, started hanging out at my door and trying to get inside. I finally relented and adopted her. But that’s it. Two’s the limit.
I had a grey cat when I was a kid, so I’ve always had black cats. I guess that’s good luck for a mystery writer.
My book’s available on Amazon.com and through my publisher at www.oaktreebooks.com. I can be contacted at email@example.com.
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.
Carpenter 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 as well as for a community newspaper.
Sally, thanks so much for joining us here today. I wish you many sales of your delightful new book and hope you’ll come back to visit us from time to time.