Thursday, February 13, 2014

The sad life of a has-been pop rock star--or welcome Sally Carprenter

When I make a mistake, I do it up big. Turns out I did have a guest for last night’s blog, but I messed up the schedule on my computer. So please help me welcome Sally Carpenter, author of The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper and the new The Sinister Sitcom Caper. You’ve heard of plotters vs. pantsers? Sally sounds like a plotter to me, because here she gives us for background of her main character and how he became a has-been pop rock star.

I composed a detailed backstory about my protagonist, including the events that lead up to when my series begins. Sandy Fairfax was born Stanford Ernest Farmington Jr. on Dec. 25, 1955. Since his father went by Stanford, the son was called Ernest. Ernest was destined for a career in music, thanks to his melodious family. Stanford founded an orchestra and served as the conductor. Mother Opal sang with big bands until she married.

Brother Warren was a professional organist. Sister Celeste came close to fame as a folk singer for reasons that will be given in the third book of the series. Ernest sang in a church boys’ choir and school choir. He took lessons in piano and violin and dutifully enrolled in college with the expectation that he would eventually take over his father’s orchestra.

Then Ernest discovered rock ‘n’ roll.

In college, away from his parents, Ernest immersed himself in rock music. He started a rock band with fellow students. After finishing his freshmen year of study, he dropped out of college to perform with his band. His father was furious.

One night in a seedy dive in Hollywood, a talent scout named Jarvis Lycowitz saw the band play. The music was bad but he liked the looks and charisma of the singer. He told young Ernest that he could make him into a pop star—if he ditched the band. At age eighteen Ernest left his friends and signed a contract with SuperTonic Records. Jarvis said nobody would buy records from someone named Ernest Farmington, and he rechristened the singer as Sandy Fairfax.

Jarvis soon signed Sandy onto the pilot of a new TV show geared for teens, “Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth.” The show was a smash hit for four years. Worldwide concert tours, two Buddy Brave movies, a Buddy Brave cartoon show and ten gold records soon followed. Sandy got married and had two beautiful kids. Life seemed good.

Then came the crash.

Sandy’s fans grew up and turned to hard rock. New pop stars shoved him off the charts. Nobody wanted to hire the former pop star. Sandy turned to alcohol for comfort. His drunken antics embarrassed his family, and his wife divorced him and took the kids. For a short time he played guitar for a rock band but was fired when he fell off the stage, drunk, during a show. He was arrested for a DUI and for a bar brawl. He dated a string of neurotic girlfriends.

When a person hits rock bottom, he can only go up. And here the series begins.

 In 1993 Sandy’s ex ordered him to quit drinking and get a job or he wouldn’t see his kids again. In desperation, Sandy sobered up and began taking any and all job offers, no matter how dismal. At these gigs Sandy faced a new challenge—murder.

In The Baffled Beatlemanic Caper, a guest appearance at a Beatles fan convention turns deadly when a member of the tribute band is shot. Sandy’s diehard fans helped him find the killer.    In The Sinister Sitcom Caper, Sandy’s a guest star on the dreadful TV show, “Off-Kelter.” When one of the actors drops dead at Sandy’s feet, he snoops around with the aid of a dwarf and an animal actor.
My current WIP is “The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper” in which our hero and his estranged sister perform aboard a cruise ship and Sandy’s stumped to explain how a dead body turned up in his dressing room. More adventures are on the way as Sandy stays dry, reconnects with his family, regains his confidence, sings for his fans, and amuses his readers.

Sally Carpenter is native Hoosier now living in Moorpark, California. She has a master’s degree in theater from Indiana State University, where her plays “Star Collector” and “Common Ground” were finalists in the American College Theater Festival One-Act Playwrighting Competition. 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 first 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 2013 anthology “Last Exit to Murder.” “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet” was published in the “Plan B: Vol. 2” e-book anthology, and her short story, “The Pie-eyed Spy,” appeared in the Nov. 23, 2013, issue of Kings River Life ezine.
Sally blogs at She's a member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles. Contact her at Facebook or



marja said...

Fascinating story of your character's background. I loved your first book and now I need to move on to the next one. Thank you so much for making your character come to life.
Marja McGraw

Sally Carpenter said...

Thanks for being a reader, Marja! Writing the backstory was almost as much work as the novel.

Sally Carpenter said...

Thanks for hosting me, Judy. Yes, I'm a plotter!

Sally Carpenter said...

Hi, Marja, thanks for being a faithful reader! Yes, Sandy's fun to write about.

Theresa Varela said...

Two pivotal things happened here. Sandy finds rock and roll and his fans later find hard rock! A star is born. I totally enjoyed the first in the series and am making my way toward the second. Thanks, Sally!

Sally Carpenter said...

For me, rock and roll was my "rebellion" because my parents hated it. Thanks for stopping by, Theresa and glad you like the books.