Robert Spiller, Author of the Bonnie Pinkwater mystery series

Welcome, Robert. What is your book about?

Radical Equations is the fourth in the Bonnie Pinkwater mystery series. Bonnie is a small town high school math teacher who uses mathematics and her knowledge of math history to solve murders in the Colorado town of East Plains. When she and her best friend local Wiccan matriarch, Rhiannon Griffith, are out hiking they stumble across the body of Bonnie’s boss, vice-principal Clarence Murphy. Things get weird when the body disappears only to show up again seated at his desk in a tornado ravaged school. Bonnie and Rhiannon decide to nose around. What they find are killer tornados, tyranical dwarves, suspicious evangelists, land-grabbing CEO’s, high stake poker games, and a damaged math genius desperately needing Bonnie’s help.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

This is going to sound funny, but I was out taking the very hike that Bonnie and Rhiannon take in the novel (the Paint Mines near the El Paso County Fair Grounds in Calhan, CO). There are some spectacular shallow painted caves and the first thing I thought of was “these would be a great place to stash a dead body”

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Bonnie Pinkwater is a widowed high school math teacher who is also an expert in historic female mathematicians. Although on occasion a bit of a curmudgeon, she loves her students, her small town school, and the people in her (increasing shrinking) small circle of friends. A busybody by choice, she can’t resist poking her nose into homicides.

Armen Callahan is her science teacher lover (and sidekick in The Witch of Agnesi). He’s not always hot on prying into police business, but is dragged along in Bonnie’s wake.

Rhiannon Griffith is the head of a local group of Wiccans and Bonnie best friend. Rhiannon thinks Bonnie, at times, is a pain in the rear end; she is Bonnie’s sidekick in Radical Equations.

Deputy Sheriff Byron Hickman is a former student of Bonnie’s and hates when she puts herself in harm’s way by nosing around in murder. He also hates that, even in public, Bonnie calls him ‘Youngster’.

I have to confess, although I am happily married, I am secretly in love with Bonnie.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

It generally takes me about a year to write a Bonnie Pinkwater mystery. I’d love to write quicker, but in the end I’m staring at a finished product in about a year. It generally takes me that same amount of time to funnel the work through my critique group, without whose assistance, my work wouldn’t be of the same high quality. I am a gigantic advocate of critique groups. I recently finished a Sci-fi novel in less time but that is another story.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

I generally have about 40 scenes in mind before I tackle a new novel. Not all of these will see the light of day but they are the framework of the book. These will include the murders and murderer, the end, the suspects, the clues (and how they’ll be revealed), and the opening. During the course of writing the book about half again as many will demand to be included, making about 66 scenes. Of course, even things as important as the murderer can change if I think the story will be made more entertaining by the change.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

I have no grand purpose when I write a book. Whether it be a mystery, a Sci-fi, or a mainstream, I am a storyteller first and foremost. As a former stand up comic and head of the world’s worst rock and roll band, my job has always been to entertain, to put a smile on your face. From the e-mails I get from readers I think I, for the most part, succeed. I’m not out to infuse you with life’s purpose, to give you a glimpse into my personal philosophy. Bonnie has beliefs, but they are shown in how she reacts to the other characters in the books (and truth be told, I’m not always sure I would react in the same way. Bonnie is braver and definitely more outspoken than I am). I think Bob Dylan said it best when asked what he was trying to achieve with his songs. “Nothing; I’m just a song and dance man.”

What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?

It certainly hasn’t been the money. What I enjoy most is the letters I get from folks telling me what they think of the books and of Bonnie Pinkwater. My goal is to get an e-mail from all fifty states and as many foreign countries as I can. Just recently I was in an airport heading to Alabama to see my mama. A fellow from Texas sat next to me and was reading a book. We got to talking and he ended up asking me for a card so he could read my books. A few days ago he e-mailed me telling me he read The Witch of Agnesi (the first in the series) and loved it. I immediately wrote him back thanking him for his kind words and how pleased I was to get his missive. I have a running relationship with a reader in Australia who is also named Robert Spiller (his wife has the same name as my wife).

That’s quite an interesting coincidence about your names. Where can people learn more about you and your books?

You can find me at my website: http://www.rspiller.com/

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