Today’s guest is Sally Carpenter, an author whose life experiences give her a wealth of material for her enjoyable books. Sally has the rather odd combination of a black belt in tae kwon do and a master’s degree in theology. She’s worked as an actress, jail chaplain, college writing instructor and tour guide/page for a motion picture studio. When not penning mysteries, she writes the Roots of Faith column for the Acorn Newspapers (www.theacornonline.com).
Welcome, Sally, I confess to being a little in awe of you. To what do you attribute your amazing energy and sense of adventure? – Some days I don’t feel very energetic LOL, but thanks for the compliment. All of the events you named took place over several decades, so it didn’t all happen at once. At the time it didn’t feel “adventurous.” Growing up I never aimed for a particular career, as I really didn’t want to do anything except read and tell stories! I guess that’s why I’ve worked a number of jobs, just trying to find the one that “fit.” The best preparation a writer can have is to travel and have a wide variety of experiences and learn as much as possible about everything. The more a writer has in her “well,” the more she can draw from when writing.
You are a member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles. How did you join this group and what has membership done for your writing career? – I started out as a playwright but didn’t have much success with that. In 2008, at my job at the newspaper, a press release came across my desk about a Sisters in Crime (SinC) author panel at a nearby library. Something clicked in my head and I thought, “I need to go to that.” At that time I wasn’t a mystery writer/reader at all. I went, listened to the authors talk about their books, and when the panel finished I asked someone how I could join the group. I had created a character in one of my plays and thought he’d make a good amateur sleuth. Through SinC I found great resources on writing, began reading mysteries, found support for my efforts, learned about publicity and made some good friends. I couldn’t have written my books without SinC.
The main character in these mysteries is a man. How do you get inside your character’s head and the male perspective so well? – I wish I knew. The character of Sandy Fairfax comes easily to me, which worries me a little (chuckle). Seriously, before I started writing I read autobiographies of some real teen idols and picked up on their mentality and way of looking at the world. A male friend of mine read the early drafts of my first book (the first with Sandy) and he gave me pointers if the character wasn’t acting or talking like “a man.” Besides, I’ve been around guys all my life (including two brothers), and most books, films and TV shows are written from a man’s perspective, so the male POV wasn’t that hard to learn.
You write for Cozy Cat Press. Would you ever consider becoming an indie author? – I have such a great publisher that going indie doesn’t appeal to me. My publisher, Patricia Rockwell, does the “heavy lifting” as I call it, the work of getting a manuscript ready for publication, including hiring and paying the cover artist. I’m allowed input into the cover art, and I choose the book title. Patricia does publicity beyond what I can do, including placing ads in mystery publication. Last year 24 CCP authors each wrote a chapter for a group mystery novel, “Chasing the Codex.” That was fun and something I could not have done as an indie. Also, the CCP authors are supportive of one other and help with cross promotion. I have so many advantages with CCP I see no reason to change. As an indie author I’d be spending more time on tasks that would take me away from my already limited writing time.
You began your career as a playwright. What attracted you to writing novels, instead? –Unless a person is part of a theater company or runs a college/school drama department, getting a play produced in highly improbably. Making any money at all at playwrighting is impossible. I even offered to write plays for a local church that had a drama ministry, and was ignored. It’s not worth my time or energy to spend working on a script that may never be produced when I have a publisher for my novels.
How does the regional ambiance of LA impact your writing? Would you write the same books if you were still living in the Midwest? – My Sandy Fairfax books would not have been possible if I was still living in the Midwest. Sandy lives and mostly works in L.A., so I had to become familiar with the way life on the West Coast operates. where various restaurants, stores and offices are located, how long it takes to drive places, what the various neighborhoods are like (I don’t think I ever saw a gated community in the Midwest). My second book, “The Sinister Sitcom Caper,” could not have been written at all without my experience working as a page at Paramount Studio. My fourth book has a black tie benefit gala in it; I never heard of such an affair in the Midwest. As far as a “regional ambiance,” I’m not into Raymond Chandler or noir or inner city crime. The dark side of L.A. I don’t deal with. In fact, I’m starting a new cozy series set in the Midwest! Going back to my roots, I guess, or at least an idealized version of a rural town.
Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Sally. It has been a fun and interesting visit. I am looking forward to your new Midwester series.
Readers can learn more about you and your writing by following the links below.
My blog: http://sandyfairfaxauthor.com/
Books on Amazon: