The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper by Sally Carpenter – Interview

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Cunning_Cruise_ebookThe Cunning Cruise Ship Caper by Sally Carpenter
Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol mysteries Book 3

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?

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A big thank you to Sally Carpenter for stopping by Brooke Blogs and answering my author interview questions, today. I love getting to learn more about the author and had a lot of fun reading through Sally’s answers. Thank you, Sally!

1) How do you research when writing your books?

My series protagonist is a former teen idol, now in his 30s and making a comeback. The fact that I’m a teen idol fan (The Monkees in particular) generated the idea. When I started writing the first book in the series (“The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper”) I’d already been immersed in the fan culture, met many fans, attended concerts, and had read books about the Monkees and The Beatles. Of course I had all of their albums and movies. I read the autobiographies of several real life teen idols. I wrote the book as if my hero was dictating his autobiography and the words just flew off the pen.

For my current book, which is set aboard a cruise ship, I remembered a cruise I took some years ago. I’d saved every brochure I had of the ship, the daily calendars of events and all the information I had about the destination (Nassau). I also had tons of photos of the ship and the island. Research is fun!

2) What do you like about writing in the cozy mystery genre?

I only write the type of books I want to read: no gore or explicit sex, very little profanity, likeable characters, humor, a bit of “fantasy,” adventure, a nice tidy wrap-up and an intelligent ending that “plays fair” with the reader. The cozy genre fits these requirements.

By not writing a police procedural, I don’t have to be so technical about the investigation process or know the details about how a police department works. With an amateur sleuth I have more leeway in solving the case. I also feel procedurals are a bit dry. Procedurals often read like police reports, which make for dull reading material. Cozies are full of fun human interest.

3) How long does it take you to write a book from the time you get the idea until you are done editing?

The first book in the series took about two years to write mainly because I didn’t know what I was doing! I’d never written a mystery before and also I spent a good deal of time crafting my protagonist. I didn’t even know what a “cozy” was. My next two books took about a year or a little less. By then I had a better idea of how to craft the story and I had my central characters in place. I didn’t have to build up the groundwork as if my first book. With the second and third books I was more focused on writing and had fewer external distractions. I’m hoping to write two books this year or at least finish one and half of the second.

4) Where is your favorite place to write?

At home. First drafts are written by pen while sitting on the couch and then I type up my squiggles on the computer. I have some inspirational items on the wall over my computer and a window that looks out to greenery.

5) What does a typical writing day look like for you?

I work a full-time day job, so that takes up most of the weekday. I write in the evenings and weekends. Nothing special about my writing day. I usually read emails first, make tweaks to the previous day’s work, and type up and edit new pages.

6) Do you plot your books out or just sit down and write?

I always plot first. That keeps the story from going off track and from running out of steam halfway through the book. I have many characters and if I didn’t plot first I’d forgot about half of them. I make sure I alternate scenes regarding the mystery with the hero’s personal life so the two streams are balanced. I usually start with several key scenes, including the ending, and fill in around those. I can’t plant the clues and red hearings unless I know who dunnit.

7) Who are some of your favorite authors? Any book recommendations?

Frank Dixon and Carolyn Keene. Seriously, it’s hard to name a few. I have many friends who are writers so I’d hate to overlook one of them. Rod Serling was an inspiration as well as William Link and Richard Levinson. Of course Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

8) Do you have any writing assistants (furry friends)? 🙂

I have two black cats but their idea of “assisting” is to stand in front of the monitor while I type or beg for food. There’s a wicker basket on my desk and sometimes Boots will curl up in it while I write. Otherwise the cats are out in the yard and out of my way.

9) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Um, sleep? Since I work a day job I don’t have much down time. I like to read, of course. I have a huge collection of favorite TV shows and movies that I like to watch as well as a collection of music, mostly ‘60s and ‘70s pop and rock. I go to live plays at the local theater. I attend Mass and Bible study. And I feed the cats, numerous times daily.

10) What is next for you? What are you currently working on?

The next Sandy Fairfax book is “The Bloody Black Tie Benefit Caper.” Sandy is trying to help save his father’s orchestra from bankruptcy as well as clear his father as a suspect in a murder. Sandy’s also is appearing on a TV game show, trying to woo his girlfriend, handling issues with his kids and his ex, and getting back on speaking terms with his brother.

I also plan to start a new cozy series, this one set in the late 1960s, a time of love, peace, hippies, groovy clothes, social upheaval, rock music—and murder! I’m still working out the details but it should be a far out scene. Can you dig it?

Thank you!

Thanks for hosting me!

About the Author

Carpenter photo_WEB gifSally Carpenter is native Hoosier now living in Moorpark, California.

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.

She blogs at

She’s a member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles chapter. Contact her at Facebook or



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