This week it is my pleasure to interview HL Carpenter. Please introduce yourself to my readers and share something about your life.
Nice to meet you, Rita, and thanks for the opportunity to join you on your blog. We’re Helen & Lorri Carpenter, a mother/daughter author duo. We write family-friendly fiction from our studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like our stories, is unreal but not untrue.
Do you always write in the same genre or do you mix it up?
We are multi-genre authors. So far, we’ve written five young adult novels, novellas, and novelettes, one middle grade mystery, one space opera novella, two cozy mysteries, and an allegorical short story.
That’s quite a mix, isn’t it? And quite a departure from conventional advice. We have heard from certain writing gurus that we’re limiting potential sales by not confining ourselves to a single genre. Their reasoning is that building a following is more difficult when readers don’t know what to expect.
We disagree, for several reasons.
First, no matter the genre, all of our books are clearly ours—by which we mean they all present our “author voice.” They’re alike in other ways too. In whatever world the story takes place, our books feature strong women facing adventure and adversity, and maybe finding a worthy helpmeet along the way. We also keep our books sweet and clean in terms of romance and language. With those parallels, the books are all unique, yet have enough similarities to be read as a cohesive body of work.
Second, we’re readers too, and we read around. That is, we’re equal opportunity genre samplers. We read books in all the genres in which we write, and several others besides. We’re sure this great wide wonderful world is home to plenty of other readers like us.
Finally, we have read series where the author is clearly bored with the characters and yet appears trapped by success into producing additional sequels. While we’re not against writing a trilogy or a brief series, and may do so in the future, we don’t want to put ourselves at risk of losing interest in our work.
Would you like to give us a short excerpt from one of your books?
Sure! This excerpt is from our latest mystery, Murder by the Books. The main character is Fae Childers, and in this scene she just received a letter from a grandmother she didn’t know existed. She has no idea that the letter will bring her face to face with murder, embezzlement, romance, and a hidden family legacy.
Excerpt from Murder by the Books
The letter arrived on the last Thursday in April, two weeks to the day after I got fired from the accounting firm where I worked for the past decade. August Palmer, my landlord, hand-delivered the letter in person, saying, “The mail carrier stuck this in my box by mistake, Fae.”
I took the envelope without bothering to look at it and glanced past Gus, at the patch of brilliant cloudless blue sky framing his shoulders.
Tampa, Florida on the cusp of summer, full of birdsong and the scent of warming pavement.
“Beautiful morning,” I said, as if I cared.
“Afternoon,” Gus said, his voice a low rumbly growl, the product of too many cigarettes and whiskeys in his happily misspent youth. He stood outside the tiny apartment my mother and I rented from him for the past two years and eyed me. “Still mopin’, girl?”
He had shown up on my doorstep every day since the firing with the same question.
Adhering to our new routine, I answered the same way I always did, except this time I didn’t bother pasting on a fake smile to accompany the words.
“Nope. Not my style.”
“‘Scuse me.” His tone was as dry as the month he was named for. “Forgot you’ve been hidin’ in the apartment, tap dancing with glee.”
I met his gaze. “For hours at a time. Any complaints about the noise?”
He clicked a nicotine pellet against tobacco stained teeth and kept his silence. I regretted my sarcasm. In my forbidden childhood game of describing people in colors, I would have painted Gus early-morning-yellow, the shade of the summer sun before the friendly sheltering coolness of night gave way to the brutal heat of day.
The description would have horrified him.
“How are the treatments going?”
He grunted. “They tell me I ain’t gonna croak this week.”
“Glad to hear it. You might want to keep your distance from me, though. I’m jinxed.”
Gus shook his head. “You gotta get over them fools, girl.”
“That’s no way to talk about my former bosses.” Especially since I looked at the real fool in the mirror each morning. I had believed dedication, loyalty, and hard work were appreciated by the partners of Slezia + Fyne, CPA, PA.
“Anyway, I am over them. Way over.”
“Yeah?” He was not convinced. “You over the suit, too?”
“Sure am.” Once again, I stuck with our new routine and gave him the same answer I always did. “I have moved on.”
Once again, the lie carried the bitter taste of betrayal. The suit was Scott Piper, former co-worker, fiancé, and man of my dreams. The suit dumped me the day of the firing.
Gus snorted. “Funny how much movin’ on resembles standing around feeling sorry for yourself.”
In my opinion, wallowing in self-pity was marginally more mature than throwing a temper tantrum. Even if it hadn’t been, I didn’t have the energy for a tantrum. I barely had the energy to maintain my half of the daily conversation with Gus.
“Have you been watching that big bald guy on television again?”
He stuck out his chin. “Don’t get smart. You know I’m right. You’re mopin’.”
“Only because I can’t tap dance.”
He was right. In the eight months since my mother’s death, I had slogged through an ever-darkening morass of the malady Gus called moping, and what his favorite celebrity psychologist might consider the early stages of depression. The firing and the accompanying fallout shoved me even closer to the edge of a black abyss.
My moping was self-absorbed, given the burdens others faced, but what could I say? One woman’s detour was another’s stop sign.
“You ought to call your girl pal, that one you worked with. What’s her name? Sarah? Have you heard from her?”
No. And I didn’t want to hear from her, much less call her.
I shook my head.
“Your ma would have been annoyed with you.”
A lump in my throat closed off my voice and I could only nod. He was right about that too. My irrepressible mother believed in taking the positive approach to life. To her, saying negative words or thinking negative thoughts was the same as asking them to come true. She had little patience for pity parties.
Focus on your strengths, Fae, and always keep moving.
My ability to follow her advice vanished with her death. I was slowly turning into the type of recluse the Japanese call hikikomori. Even the simple task of cleaning out Mom’s bedroom was beyond me.
“So? You gonna open the letter?” Gus asked.
I turned over the envelope in my hand.
Heavy, officious, dirty white, and mildly threatening, the envelope shrieked of the intimidation perfected by lawyers and the Internal Revenue Service and jolted me right out of my apathy. My breath hitched in my throat.
Had Gary Slezia and Richard Fyne gone back on their word? Had they decided to forego their distaste for publicity and press charges against me?
If you have owned pets, do you have a funny story you would like to share with us?
Oh, yes, lots of funny stories, though we have no pet companions in Carpenter Country at the moment. Hmmm. Which story to pick? Oh, wait! We know! We have to tell you about Woody, a German shorthair mix that we agreed to dog-sit. We soon discovered Woody is a con artist and knows without a doubt that people—all people, but most especially us—are pushovers.
Here’s how we learned about Woody’s wily ways.
Woody was officially a yard dog when he arrived. Then he hoodwinked his way into the house via a convincing limp.
He basked overnight in his newly acquired housedog status, accepting as his due treats and pats on the head and expressions of sympathy. The next morning, a trip to the veterinarian uncovered the scam. Woody, the vet said, was faking.
Woody, of course, never lost his innocent expression, as if he could not possibly imagine how the doctor had arrived at such an obviously wrong conclusion. Woody limped back to the car like a dog on his last legs. And once we were back home, he followed us inside, still limping, and sank onto the pillow we put out for him the night before.
But we had paid for the x-rays and we knew the truth.
We held the door open and said, very firmly, the word Woody least wanted to hear: Outside.
Woody knew he was caught. He sighed and struggled to his feet as if weighed down by an anchor. He inched across the room, his head and tail drooping.
Some battles are winnable, some aren’t. A down-at-the-muzzle expression and doleful brown eyes are worth a pat on the head.
A great act is priceless.
We closed the door and got out a doggy treat. Woody lifted his head, pranced over, and took the biscuit, not a limp in sight. This time when we opened the door, Woody high-stepped across the threshold. We’re certain we saw him smile. Was he thinking, “You guys are so easy“?
And he was right.
Do you have your own website?
We do! The hub for all the happenings in Carpenter Country is HLCarpenter.com. Readers can enjoy book excerpts, free reads, and essays describing Carpenter Country adventures.
Are you working on a new book?
Always! Right now we have several books in various stages of production. We have a new mystery in the draft stage; we completed the first draft of a themed collection of short stories and are letting the manuscript cool off, and we’re in the revision stage of a collection of contemporary satire. We also have a couple of completed mysteries for adult readers, along with novellas, that we’re planning to re-work.
Do you have any events or book promotions coming up that you would like to tell us about?
At the moment, we’re introducing our latest mystery, Murder by the Books, to the world. The next steps are the release of the paperback, the hardcover, and the large print versions. We’ll announce those on HLCarpenter.com, so sign up for our newsletter to get the scoop first!