Today Sally Carpenter is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Hippie Haven Homicide, her latest novel in the Psychedelic Spy mystery series.
Welcome, Sally. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
“Hippie Haven Homicide” is book two of the Psychedelic Spy retro-cozy series. The year is 1967. Noelle McNabb is an actress at the Country Christmas Family Fun Park, the tourist draw of the rural town of Yuletide, Indiana. She gets involved with a super secret spy agency called SIAMESE (Special Intelligence Apparatus for Midwest Surveillance and Espionage).
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
I was watching a Peter Sellers movie from 1967, “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!” (Alice B. Toklas is a euphemism for marijuana). In the opening scene, an East Indian guru was chatting about the meaning of life. I thought it’d be interesting if a sect of counterculture hippies invaded the conservative town of Yuletide. In the 1960s, Americans were exposed to non-Western spiritual thought such as Transcendental Meditation and ISKON (International Society of Krishna Consciousness, better known as the orange–robed Hare Krishnas). In the book, one of the cult members seemingly dies of a drug overdose, a common tragedy of the ’60s. Noelle is the only one who thinks the death was not self-inflicted.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
I set my series in the 1960s because I find it a fascinating decade. I love the music, clothes, movies, TV, etc. of the time. There’s a spy agency because this was the James Bond era. Many of the ‘60s TV shows and movies were about spies. The Cold War was at its peak and American was in the space race with Russia.
As for an ongoing theme, Noelle discovers she’s related to a SIAMESE agent through an aunt she never knew existed. The aunt has a dark secret that will be explored more in upcoming books.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favorite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
One of my fave TV shows is the “Mission: Impossible.” The spies played different characters on each mission. I made Noelle an actress so she could go undercover in various personas. I’ve been an actress, and I studied theater in college. Trevor, a friend of Noelle, is a newspaper reporter. I work at a newspaper so this was a no-brainer.
Destiny King the most interesting character. She’s a black woman who grew up in a single-parent household in the Chicago projects. She’s had a rough upbringing. She joined SIAMESE to have her criminal record erased. She had a lover who was killed. She’s seen the seamy side of life. Personality- and lifestyle-wise, Destiny is the opposite of Noelle, which makes a nice contrast. I’m more like Noelle than Destiny, so I like exploring the difference.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
Details! I describe the food, clothing, cars, furniture, etc. It’s amazing how much has changed between the 1960s and modern day. Teens nowadays have never seen a rotary phone or a clock with hands.
I gave Christmas-related street and store names to Yuletide, which makes it unique and fun. The high school mascot is the Elves and school colors are red and green.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
I grew up in the 1960s in a small town in Indiana, so some of Yuletide and its people are based on my remembrances and experiences.
I also look up every product, car, TV show and piece of music to make sure it fits in the book’s time frame.
I have a fun book called “The Hippie Handbook” that I used to build my hippie characters, Rambler and Moonbaby. Another book, “Images of American: Holiday World,” has photos of the Santa Claus Land theme park (yes, it’s real). I used that for designing the Yuletide park. A third book is “Fashionable Clothing from the Sears Catalogs: Mid 1960s” with photos of women’s clothing from the old Sears catalogs—the type of clothes Noelle would wear.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
The story line might sound deep, but it’s a fun read with humor and a lighthearted approach. Also, you need to read the book all the way through because what you think of some of the characters may change when you reach the end.
Thanks for hosting me on your blog! This was fun.
You’re welcome, Sally, and thanks for answering my questions. Good luck with Hippie Haven Homicide, the latest book in thePsychedelic Spy Mystery series.
The novel is available at the following retailers:
About Sally Carpenter: Sally is native Hoosier 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. “Star Collector” was produced in New York City and served as the inspiration for her first mystery series.
Sally also has a Master of Divinity and a black belt in tae kwon do. She’s worked as an actress, college writing instructor, jail chaplain and tour guide/page for Paramount Pictures.
The books in her Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series are: The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper (2012 Eureka! Award finalist for best first mystery novel), The Sinister Sitcom Caper, The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper and The Quirky Quiz Show Caper, all with Cozy Cat Press. Flower Power Fatality is the first book in the Psychedelic Spy series. She has short stories in three anthologies: Last Exit to Murder, Plan B: Omnibus and Cozy Cat Shorts. She penned chapter three of the CCP group mystery Chasing the Codex.