Today 2 Wild Women Authors are pleased to welcome author Sally Carpenter who brings Sandy Fairfax from “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper” a 2011 release from Oak Tree Press.
What is The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper about? It’s the story of what happens when a former ‘70s teen idol tries to make a comeback in a world that’s pretty much forgotten him except for a handful of faithful fans. My biggest fan, Bunny McAllister, invited me for a guest appearance at a small and somewhat disorganized Beatles fan convention in Evansville, Indiana. Unlike the ‘70s TV show I had starred in—Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth—things didn’t go exactly according to the script. A member of the tribute band was shot and he died in my arms (rather traumatic for me and more so for him). The local Barney Fife detective thought I did it and to prove him wrong I took on my boy sleuth persona to track down the killer. All this while dealing with the fans and filling in for the dead musician for a concert.
What made you choose teen idol as a career? Teen idols are made, not born. That particular career chose me; I didn’t pursue it. All my life I knew I’d be a musician. My father conducts a symphony orchestra and my mother was a singer before she was married. I grew up with piano and violin lessons and choir rehearsals while the other boys were out playing sports.
I went to college with the notion that I’d eventually pick up my father’s baton—at least that was his plan. But in college I fell in love with rock and roll and started a band with my school buddies. After my freshman year I quit school so I could play professionally with the band. My father was angry with me turning my back on “real” music, meaning classical.
After a few months in Los Angeles, working odd jobs and playing dives at night, an agent named Jarvis Lycowitz saw the band perform. He didn’t think we sounded that good (he was right) but he thought I had the looks and personality for pop stardom. He offered to groom me and promised me the world if I’d signed with him—just me, not the other guys. They were furious at me for quitting.
Next thing I knew Jarvis had me in front of a mike at a recording studio, in front of a camera at a movie studio, and in front of the lens of a teen magazine photographer. Pretty soon I was selling more records than Donny Osmond and Shaun Cassidy.
Knowing what you know now, if you had it to do over again, would you stick with teen idolism or do something different? That’s a loaded question. Sometimes I wonder what would my life be like if one of the other guys in my band had become the big star. One of them ended up teaching music in high school and the rest drifted off into menial jobs. Ultimately it’s pointless to play the “what if” game because I think most people, no matter where they are in life or what they do, wished their circumstances were different. And they might regret it if their wish came true. For me, stardom is a two-edged sword. It gave me my highest highs and lowest lows.
I loved performing. I loved the fans. I loved the money I was earning. I had a great time making my TV show. I met the woman I married there. I had some amazing experiences. I traveled the world and met many incredible people.
But the downside is once your time in the spotlight is over—and it will end eventually—life is hell. After my TV show was canceled and my records stopped selling, I couldn’t get work. I became an alcoholic. I went through a miserable divorce and lost the respect of my family. And being in the public eye means that when you goof up, and did I ever goof up, the whole world knows about it.
I recently sobered up and now I’m trying to get my life in order. I’m starting to get jobs and I’m trying to make amends with my family. Having the world worship me means nothing if my kids think I’m a loser.
What is your biggest fear? That I’ll end up like too many actors who die alone, destitute and drunk in some filthy Skid Row flop house.
Who is your favorite fictional character and why? I don’t read much but I love movies. When I was a kid I saw all the Gene Kelly films. That’s what got me into dancing. Gene showed that dancing wasn’t for sissies and that cool dance moves will help you get the girl. So I like any movie character than Gene Kelly played.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received? I had precious little acting experience when I started filming my TV show. I started getting up tight and worried about how I would play a scene. One of my co-stars, the man who played Buddy’s guardian, was a fantastic character actor. He told me, “Trust your instincts.” He said I should relax and react naturally to what was happening in the scene and the acting would take care of itself.
His advice is good for life in general. When I’m facing a problem and people are giving me conflicting advice, I “go with my gut,” as they say. I go with the solution that feels best for me and generally things work out right.
It's our turn to ask Sally: Which writer or character[s], from either books or movies, or both, have had a major impact on your writing? Lt. Columbo. He acts disorganized and slovenly but his mind’s razor sharp. I like the structure of the shows, how the clues are laid out with such precision and he builds the case brick by brick. Columbo doesn’t suddenly “figure it out” at the end. Sandy’s sloppy in some areas but he’s smart and can piece clues together.
Frank and Joe Hardy. The Buddy Brave TV show is blatant takeoff of The Hardy Boys Mysteries TV show. According to my book, the two shows ran simultaneously. I also use the Hardy Boy “style” to some degree—lots of action, fast pace, humor, threats on the hero’s life, stunts.
Sherlock Holmes. Natch! Not only for Sherlock’s crime solving skills but the use of the sidekick. Sandy has his “Watson” that he uses as a sounding board to figure out the case.
With regard to research, where did you start for this novel? Did that lead you down different paths, thereby changing the original concept? The concept didn’t change, no. I knew pretty much what kind of protagonist I wanted. The best research I did was reading autobiographies of real teen idols, not only for the factual information but insights into their personalities. That’s why my book is in first person—it’s Sandy relating his own memoir.
I also had first-hand experience in attending concerts, talking to other fans, the collectibles and all that. I was doing this long before I started the book. When I decided to set the story at a Beatles fan convention, I re-played all my Beatles records (on vinyl!) and re-watched the movies and re-read my Beatles books. Who says research isn’t fun? I used Beatles references for the clues.
Here's a blurb for The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper:
Detective Braxton turned over a fresh leaf in his journal. I had a feeling he wouldn’t let me go until he filled every stinking page in that stupid notebook. “How well did you know the victim?”
Exhausted, I sat in the easy chair and clasped my hands. “Not well. I only met him today.”
“Why did you come to the room?”
“Earlier this evening he wasn’t feeling well and I wanted to stop by and see if he was okay and . . . “ The more I said, the lamer I sounded. Braxton crossed his arms and shot me a disapproving look that spoke volumes. “It’s not what you think.”
“Uh huh. Just checking up on him. Is that all you had in mind?”
I tried to give the Sherlock Holmes wannabe an outraged scowl, but with my pretty boy face the best I could muster up was a peevish frown. Damn my good looks. In school the girls I dated didn’t take me seriously because they thought I looked like a kid brother and the boys beat me up because they said I looked like a sissy.
Before I could say something to the detective that might land me on the wrong end of a police baton, Bunny screamed. She had sneaked past the police and now stood outside the door of the crime scene. She stared through the open doorway at the body, her hands over her mouth. I jumped up and pushed my way past the cops to reach her. I grabbed her shoulders and turned her away from the unpleasantness.
“Don’t look at it, Bunny,” I said.
“Is he really dead?”
“I’m afraid so. I’m so sorry.”
I handed her my linen handkerchief. She gripped it in a fist as the tears kept flowing. She cried so hard that I wrapped my arms around her and patted her on the back.
“Shhhhh, now. It’s all right. Everything will be all right.”
She hugged my waist and rested her head on my chest. Her tears dampened my shirt. “Sandy, what are we going to do?”
Her words triggered something deep in my subconscious. I answered her loudly, full of confidence. “Don’t worry! I’ll think of something!”
Bunny gazed up at me and grinned through the tears. “That’s your catch phrase from your TV show!”
My frazzled brain must have checked out for the night without leaving a forwarding address. And I can’t explain why I did what I did next. Maybe I felt sorry for Bunny as she gazed at me with those sad eyes. Or perhaps old habits are tough to break. Whenever Buddy found himself in a tight jam, he always kissed the girl before pulling off a fantastic escape. So I leaned over and bussed Bunny. A gentle peck on the check.
From a few feet away a camera shutter clicked.
I raised my head and stared straight into a telephoto lens. The only paparazzo in the Midwest and he’d found me.
Tell us a bit about your publisher, Sally. How did you hear about them? Oak Tree Press is a mid-size independent publisher that puts out trade paperback and e-books. I first heard the name on the Sisters in Crime list serv where some of the other members were talking about the good experiences they had with that press.
What influenced your decision to submit to them? When I started marketing my book, I contacted some agents but nowadays the Big Six publishers and most agents won’t handle unpublished writers. That’s why small presses and self-publishing is booming—the major publishers are shutting out writers.
Tell us a bit about their submission process. How long did it take from query to release? To submit to OTP, one first emails a query to Sunny Frazier, the acquisitions editor. Like most small presses, OTP does everything electronically, which was a change for me as I was used to the ol’ paper and stamps routine. Sunny liked my query and I sent in some chapters. At first she turned it down and told me why. I asked if she would read my manuscript again if I made revisions. She said okay and sent me more feedback. I did some extensive surgery on the opening chapters and sent it back. Sunny liked my rewrite. I might mention that very few publishers will read a mss. a second time even with revisions. Some publishers even say so in their submission guidelines.
Sunny then passed on my story to the publisher, Billie Johnson, on a Thursday or Friday. The following Monday I received a “yes.” Billie must have read the book over the weekend! The book came out six months later—most publishers take 12 to 18 months. I don’t know if OTP publishes all of its books so quickly but I was impressed.
Veronica and I appreciate Sally taking the time to blog with us today—as well as giving our visitors more information about Oak Tree Press. Thanks, Sally—and much luck in your career.
To learn more about Sally Carpenter and the stories she creates go to Facebook or scwriter.com or www.sandyfairfax.com.
To purchase “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper,” go to amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com or www.oaktreebooks.com (available in paper, Kindle and Nook).