Sunday, January 8, 2012

35 Years of Math, A Few Books, A Few Witches, and a Pot of Gruel

Earlier today at Go Indie – Read Indies on Blogspot ( I was talking with Robert Spiller about his book, Radical Equations, and decided to continue the discussion here at Around the Town Books. Let's see if I can get him to admit he's a Ruin Mist fan, or will he go to the dark side. Hmm...

Robert Spiller taught mathematics for 35 years, all the while writing both Sci-Fi and Mystery.  Now that he’s retired he hopes to write full time.  As I've been writing stories for 30 years, nearly 20 full-time, I was intruiged and hoped to help get Robert off to a good start as an indie. Most intruiging to me is the numerical significance of the number 4. 4 being unlucky and all in some parts of the world, and 4 being the number of books in the Ruin Mist, Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches, and In the Service of Dragons series too. Hmm... 4.

Robert Stanek: What can you tell us about the Bonnie Pinkwater series?

Robert Spiller: The Bonnie Pinkwater series is four books so far: The Witch of Agnesi, A Calculated Demise, Irrational Numbers, and Radical Equations.
Bonnie Pinkwater is a teacher and a good one. She cares about her students. So when Peyton Newlin, a thirteen-year old math genius, disappears, Bonnie decides to nose around and that’s how The Witch of Agnesi starts.

One by one, students who were competing with the young genius start turning up dead and Bonnie suspects Peyton may be narrowing the field. Then Peyton himself is murdered. Bonnie's investigation ratchets up.

What she discovers is a coven of witches, a teenage comic book magnate, a skinhead neanderthal with violent propensities, an abusive father, an amorous science teacher, and a mistranslated medieval mathematics manuscript. Somehow, all the pieces have intersected in the tragically brief life of her math protege.

As the body count mounts, Bonnie realizes she may have bitten off more than she can chew. Because whoever is eliminating her beloved students has now decided East Plains, Colorado would be better off without one aging math teacher.

Can you tell us more about the book and what motivated you to publish it now?

I recently parted company with the publisher of the first Bonnie books and couldn't find a new publisher.  The decision to venture into the world of managed self-publishing seemed ideal for my situation.

I believe I like self-publishing several increments better than the traditional track I was on for a number of years.  Of course I am responsible for promotion decisions (actually, I share responsibility with Deb Courtney), cover art, editing, and the quality of the final product, but the truth is, I was responsible for most of these even when I had a publisher.  I am at the moment heady with this new experience and intend to enjoy it to the utmost.

What’s your favorite indie book that you’ve read in the past 12 months?
I have recently read a non-fiction book about addiction, The Other Side of Hell, by Charles Bynum.  It was a fascinating look into the world of meth addiction and one man's journey through prison, rehabilitation, and eventual spiritual rebirth.

What’s your favorite book of all time?
The Lord of the Rings without a doubt.  I also have read the Count of Monte Cristo more than few times.

Geez, really? *grins* I know you wanted to say The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches or maybe Into the Stone Land, right? *grins* Do you have any advice for new writers?
With the way publishing is changing and more and more folks getting into self-publishing, I would find ways to make sure of the quality of your writing.  Critique groups are helpful here—readers who tell you the truth and who know what they're talking about.  Don't put low-quality stuff out there just because you can.

What’s next for you?

I am working on the next Bonnie Pinkwater novel, a YA Fantasy, and my first incursion into Horror (this one gives me nightmares).  I also have a historic YA mystery series with two novels in the bag.  I would love to see these in the hands of teenagers everywhere.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I teach classes in humor, critique groups, YA literature, and female mathematicians.  I am not averse to travelling to speak—within reason.  Also, I would invite teachers to give the Bonnie books a look-see.  Having taught for an eternity, I've infused these books with a feel for the world of the high school hall.  Lastly, I want to thank you for this opportunity.

You're welcome, Robert. Good luck with the books, and watch out for Number 5, er... 4. ;-)

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