Welcome to the three hundred and seventy-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author Robert Spiller. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Robert. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
When my second marriage evaporated, I went on a three-week bike ride and brought along 5 spiral notebooks. What I wrote on this emotional excursion turned into my first novel, a science fiction piece entitled The Children of Yei. The novel won second prize at a Writing Conference but I couldn’t give that epitome of fine literature away. It wasn’t until I started writing mysteries: The Witch of Agnesi, A Calculated Demise, Irrational Numbers, Radical Equations (to be released in print copy later this month) that I became published.
Morgen: A novel in three weeks, wow. That’s better than NaNoWriMo. In the introduction I called you “multi-genre”, what genres do you write?
Robert: I write an amateur sleuth mystery series with a female Mathematics teacher who solves murders in a small Colorado town. I have written two sci-fi novels, two historic Young Adult novels, and am currently working on a horror piece that gives me nightmares.
Morgen: Ooh great, then it’ll give us nightmares… or you may not mean it like that. What have you had published to-date?
The first three were with Medallion Press, Radical Equations is through Courtney Literary.
Morgen: (they’re brilliant covers) Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Robert: I just recently threw away over a hundred rejections that I promised myself I would keep until I died. Obviously, I didn’t keep that promise. When I was trying to sell the first Bonnie Pinkwater mystery, The Witch of Agnesi, I sent out so many queries and packets that once I received 12 rejections in one day. As for how I deal with rejections, I really don’t let it get to me (I just assume they don’t understand my genius).
Morgen: Absolutely. It’s just the right thing for the wrong person, and you kept going. I only have 20-something rejections but I’ve made myself that same promise because I think any author who has had a bumpy road can see how far they’ve come… plus they get to stick their tongue out at rejectors (I don’t suppose that’s even a word but hey, if we can’t make them up, who can?) when they are successful. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?
Robert: My first novel, The Children of Yei won second prize in the Paul Gillette Writing Contest at the Pikes Peak Writing Conference.
Morgen: Oh well done. I bet you were thrilled. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Robert: I have had a few agents, but at the moment am unrepresented by a literary agent. I would love to find someone to help me find a home for my Historic YA mysteries.
Morgen: Let’s hope one’s reading you now. I’ve had three (British) tell me they’re after more historical so it is a genre that’s being sought after. Are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Robert: All of my books are available as e-books: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords. In fact the most recent, Radical Equations was published as an e-book in December but will only be available in print later in February 2012. A good friend gave me a Kindle for a retirement gift and so I’m reading more and more e-books.
Morgen: I’ve had a Kindle since January and I love it, although I’ll still read both formats. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Robert: I am working with a wonderful promoter, Deb Courtney, who has given me a marketing plan that requires me to do a list of tasks for each reiteration of the plan. I have done signings, speaking engagements, readings, interviews, taught classes at conferences, visited schools. I am actively involved with Goodreads (I have two giveaways running), have a blog: http://spillerwrites.blogspot.com, a website: http://rspiller.com, use Twitter, Facebook, and am a member of a whole slew of author sites.
Morgen: You’re certainly doing all the right things by the sound of it – you just have to keep plugging away. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Robert: Truth is I have thought of this a bunch. I always picture one particular actress playing Bonnie – Bette Midler. Annette Benning also works. My current favourite book is Radical Equations – but I’ve always liked whatever I’m working on. My favourite character besides my sleuth Bonnie Pinkwater is Rhiannon Griffith, Bonnie’s Wiccan sidekick. She’s the perfect female foil for Bonnie’s analytic nature: smart, compassionate, generous, and she doesn’t take guff from Bonnie.
Morgen: Bette Midler is great. I like Annette Benning but Bette, in my opinion anyway, has more of a stage presence… she’s cheeky. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Robert: Two books really. The next Bonnie Pinkwater mystery, Napier’s Bones. And a horror novel set in the aftermath of World War II.
Morgen: They all sound quite in depth, do you have to do much research?
Robert: Each Bonnie Pinkwater mystery features a historic mathematician, so I research their lives. Each is used in some fashion to give Bonnie that AHA moment necessary to solving the murders. The Witch of Agnesi featured Marie Agnesi, A Calculated Demise featured Hypatia of Alexandria, who herself was murdered, Irrational Numbers featured Sonya Kovalevskaya, and Radical Equations features Leonhard Euler. So along with a satisfying mystery the reader gets to learn about these fascinating people.
Morgen: I have to say I’ve not heard of them (history isn’t my strong point) but I know there are people out there who will know so you do especially have to get your facts right because they’ll be eager enough to tell you. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Robert: 1. Hypatia of Alexandria (we would have cheese, bread and seasoned olive oil). She was the daughter of the last librarian of the great library. She was an advocate of reason and many people believe her murder was orchestrated by a man who later became pope.
2. Ghandi (we would fast)
3. Tecumseh, the great Native American chief. Back when the North America had more Indians than white folks he almost succeeded in driving us out. We would dine on pemmican (whatever the heck that is).
Morgen: Um… Google tells me it’s an indigenous sausage. http://www.natureskills.com/wild-foods/recipe-pemmican Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Robert: I’ve always been partial to ‘Remember the Snodens of Yesteryear’ from Catch 22. I also like ‘Don’t Panic.’ from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe series.
Morgen: Brain the size of a planet and all they ask me to do is pick up pieces of paper. Actually Douglas Adams said one of my favourite quotes… something like ‘I love deadlines – the sound as they woosh by’. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Robert: I am currently using my blog (http://spillerwrites.blogspot.com) to develop a class on Setting. I teach writing classes in Humor, and the Care and Feeding of Critique Groups.
Morgen: I like the sound of those, especially the latter (because I belong to four). What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Robert: I believe more and more writers will go the self-publishing route, as it becomes increasingly easier to put work out yourself. I’ve heard the argument that this will precipitate a decline in quality, but I have faith that people will read what is exceptional and tell their friends. Plus there are more and more avenues of review that readers could access (Goodreads, etc) to learn what is good and what is drek.
Morgen: Exactly, that’s what I think; that the reviews will out. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Robert: First of all a reader could check my website: http://rspiller.com. All my work is available in e-book and print form on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and can be ordered through most bookstores.
Morgen: Brilliant, thank you Robert.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
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