Monday, May 10, 2010

I interview local mystery author: Robert Spiller

Good morning! Today I'm please to share an interview I had with Robert Spiller, a local mystery writer.

Robert Spiller is a mathematician by trade and weaves his profession into his mysteries. He is the author of the Bonnie Pinkwater mysteries (The Witch of Agnesi, A Calculated Demise, Irrational Numbers). His high school teacher sleuth uses mathematica and her knowledge of historic female mathematicians to solve murders in the small Colorado town of East Plains. Robert lives in the Pikes Peak region with his wife Barbara.

1. What’s the most unexpected thing that happened to you when you became a published writer?

I got to speak to groups of other writers--and they actually listened to what I had to say. They laughed at my jokes. They wrote down my opinions. They wrote me e-mails asking for clarification of something I said in some workshop I led. And did I have a handout from that workshop. Don't get me wrong, having an ego the size of Texas, I enjoyed the notoriety, but I'm the same guy I was before I got published.

2. What’s the coolest thing that happened to you because you had a book published?

Well, I don't have a fan club but lots of folks have bought me drinks and dinner. The coolest thing is still when after a book tour, I get a couple a dozen e-mails from all the places I traveled to from folks telling me how much they enjoyed my books and how they can't wait to read the next one. I never get tired of that.

3. Have you ever had a negative response to something you wrote?

Believe it or not, the most negative response to my books came from my mother. She is a devout Christian and objected to the curse words in my novels (I really don't curse all that much--readers believe me). She said she couldn't finish the Witch of Agnesi because my female math teacher sleuth Bonnie Pinkwater said she was “too old for this S**T.

4. You write about a woman. What is your response from your female readers? Do they feel you capture what it’s like to be a woman? Why did you chose to make your protagonist a woman? Wouldn’t it have been easier to write from a man’s perspective?

I get e-mail from many female readers and their responses have always been positive. They think Bonnie acts like a strong woman would act in the situations she finds herself in (danger, in trouble with her bosses, chasing down murderers). I do write other material with male main characters, but they are no more fun to write for than my female leads, and definitely no easier to control.

5. Are you what you wanted to be when you grew up?

Actually, I have become two out of the three things I wanted to be when I grew up. I got to teach math (I retire at the end of this year after thirty-five wonderful years). I got to write--and still am writing. I never got to be a spy.

6. If you could wake up tomorrow as a different person who would you want to be?

What a great question! I asked one of my eighth grade Algebra classes the same thing this week. Mostly all of them just wanted to be themselves. I think I feel the same way. I love what I do in both my occupations (writing and teaching). I'm still in love with my wife, after 17 years. I love my children and my grandchildren (I have a brand new grandson.) I love the few friends I have.

7. If you could beat the world over the head with a lesson, what would it be?

Perhaps two lessons. Keep your word, once you give it. It may be painful sometimes but in the long run it will be worth it. The second lesson is a close relative to the first. You have no more precious possession than your integrity. Be faithful to those that count on you. Be someone who is fair and honest in all his doings. Okay maybe a third lesson. Laugh as much as you can.

8. What advice do you have for new writers?

First of all write. That was the advice Twain gave to writers and there is none better. Second, always be working on your craft. Always be learning, improving. Writing is like Zen--best approached with a beginner's mind. Lastly, I wouldn't write to trends. Write what you want to write, what you need to write.

9. What are the titles of your books, where can we buy them, for how much, and what's next?

The Witch of Agnesi, A Calculated Demise, and Irrational Numbers. You should be able to get them (although they might not all be on the shelves) at any bookstore, or Amazon. (Here's a link to buy them.) Being paperbacks, they are generally under ten dollars. As for what's next, my agent is currently trying to find a home for a YA series I have and am penning.

10. Anything else you'd like to share with us?

I am very grateful to be a member of this fabulous writing community we call the Pikes Peak Writers. In it I became acquainted with my current critique group, have broken bread and laughed with other writers, have learned so much that I can't even quantify it. I don't think I would be where I am today if I hadn't attended that first Pikes Peak Writers Conference in 1999 (I attended my tenth conference last month in May). In addition to this, I am grateful to be counted a writer. It occupies my time and fills my senses. I love what I do.

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