Monday, December 08, 2014

How Mysteries Discovered Me By Sally Carpenter

Hi Paty, thanks for hosting me today. I didn’t set out to write mysteries; the genre found me.

Having grown up on the science fiction TV shows of the 1960s and having read many of the classic SF writers, I started writing SF. But my ideas were few and publication non-existent.

I turned to playwright as I’d acted in amateur productions and found that reading a script was faster and less tedious than plowing through a 300-page novel. I had some success writing short plays for churches.

I went back to college for a theater degree. Two of the plays I wrote for class were finalists in the prestigious North American College Theater Festival One-Act Playwrighting Competition. Six finalists were selected from a region covering several states. The plays were given a staged reading at the annual conference.

One of my plays was “Star Collector,” a two-hander about an aging, frustrated pop star meeting one of his grown-up fans. The play was well liked and one of the adjudicators told me, “I see a bigger story with these characters.”

After college I moved to Los Angeles to, hopefully, break into TV wring, I pursued a number of leads and met interesting people, but nothing panned out.

To pay the rent I got a job at a community newspaper. One day a press release crossed my desk about a Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles panel of mystery authors appearing at a local library. Something inside my head said, “You should go to that.”

I went and listened to the authors discuss their books. I thought, “I could write a mystery series with my teen idol character.” When the panel finished speaking, I asked how I could join Sisters in Crime (men can become members as well).

I knew nothing about writing mysteries, so I did a crush course on the genre. I bought mystery books to read and raided the local libraries. I attended author signings at the mystery bookstore. I attended SinC meetings, which had excellent guest speakers. And I wrote.

At the time I didn’t know that cozy mysteries were suppose to follow a formula, so I wrote to please myself. Years ago I had read a fun mystery called “Bimbos of the Death Sun” about a murder at a science fiction convention. I’d attended Beatles fan conventions so I figured that’d be a good match for Sandy Fairfax, my teen idol character. Thus came my first book, “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper.”

As the old saying goes, “write what you know.” For the second book, “The Sinister Sitcom Caper,” I drew from my experiences working as a page at Paramount Pictures.

Book three is “The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper,” inspired by a Monkees fan cruise I went on years ago. This time Sandy and his sister, who is blind, are performing aboard the SS Zodiac, bound for Key West and Nassau. But there’s stormy weather ahead when Sandy finds a body in his backstage dressing room. While investigating a cast of colorful suspects he dodges an old flame, attempts to woo his choreographer away from her boyfriend, handles his sister and finds himself caught in a watery deathtrap.

What’s ahead for Sandy? In the next WIP, “The Bloody Black Tie Benefit Caper,” he tries to save his father’s orchestra, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, while competing on a TV game show, pursuing romance, parenting his kids, and yes, solving another murder.

Sally Carpenter is native Hoosier now living in Moorpark, Calif.
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, college writing instructor, theater critic, jail chaplain, and tour guide/page for Paramount Pictures. 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.
Cozy Cat Press has published “The Sinister Sitcom Caper” and “The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper.”
She has short stories in two anthologies: “Dark Nights at the Deluxe Drive-in” in “Last Exit to Murder” and “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet” in “Plan B: Omnibus.”
She’s a member of Sisters in Crime/LA. Reach her at Facebook or

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