Tuesday, 16 October 2018

A Mathematical Mystery by Jonathan Pinnock - The Truth About Archie and Pye

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Jonathan Pinnock. I have had the pleasure of meeting Jonathan at literary events and have always enjoyed and admired his writing skills for their originality, insight and humour. He is already the author of two short story collections, a poetry collection and a novel, Mrs Darcy Versus the Aliens. And on October 4th, Farrago published his hugely enjoyable new novel, The Truth About Archie and Pye, A Mathematical Mystery:
Something doesn't add up about Archie and Pye ...
After a disastrous day at work, disillusioned junior PR executive Tom Winscombe finds himself sharing a train carriage and a dodgy Merlot with George Burgess, biographer of the Vavasor twins, mathematicians Archimedes and Pythagoras, who both died in curious circumstances a decade ago.

Burgess himself will die tonight in an equally odd manner, leaving Tom with a locked case and a lot of unanswered questions.

Join Tom and a cast of disreputable and downright dangerous characters in this witty thriller set in a murky world of murder, mystery and complex equations, involving internet conspiracy theorists, hedge fund managers, the Belarusian mafia and a cat called µ.
To find out more about The Truth About Archie and Pye, I asked Jonathan a few questions.

·         What originally sparked the idea for The Truth About Archie and Pye?

Several things. First of all, I wrote a short story about two mathematicians in response to a competition prompt on a website called The Write Idea. That was eventually read at Liars’ League and published in my first collection Dot Dash. Then it sat in the back of my mind for several years until I was casting around for something to write on my CWMA course. On the drive home from Bath Spa one day I was thinking about the book we’d been studying on the Narrative Non-Fiction module, Janet Malcolm’s The Silent Woman, which was about her search for the truth about Sylvia Plath. I was very taken with the cast of odd literary characters she’d unearthed and it struck me that there was rich material for a novel there. Almost immediately afterwards it also struck me that I actually knew very little about literature, although I did know quite a lot about maths. And that led me to bring back Archie and Pye from that old story. By the time I got home, I knew exactly what I was going to write.

·         I love the way some short stories linger, waiting to lead their author towards a novel. Did you plan the plot in great detail first, or did the characters develop it for you?

It was very much driven by the interactions between the characters. I love the way you bring someone into existence and they develop their own motivations.

·         It's very exciting that another Mathematical Mystery is underway. What are the pros and cons of writing a sequel?

Pros: 1) the confidence gained from the fact that my publishers feel sufficiently invested in the project to commission it, 2) the opportunity to revisit and further develop old characters and to flesh out some minor characters. Cons: the scarily compressed schedule. I had years to write and refine the first book, and considerably less than a year to write the sequel.

·         You studied maths at university – how much has your mathematical background impacted on your writing in general, and on The Truth About Archie and Pye in particular?

I don’t know really. I think maths teaches you to be rigorous and to make sure that every step follows from the previous one. Which I guess is useful for avoiding plot holes.

·         Yes, it must be so useful when plotting to have that methodical and structured approach. How about your writing process? Has it changed since your first book was published?

                  Not that much. It’s still as chaotic as ever. I have a pathological aversion to planning and plotting.

         As for your intriguing characters, do you have a favourite in The Truth About Archie and Pye?

I actually like all of them, and I’d feel quite bad picking one of them as my favourite.

·         How about a favourite mathematician?

It’s got to be Paul Erdös, who collaborated with every mathematician under the sun and lived an eccentric itinerant lifestyle, where he would turn up without warning and crash on their sofas before putting together a paper with them over breakfast. You know the thing about actors having a Bacon number – the number of degrees of separation between them and Kevin Bacon? Well, Mathematicians have Erdös numbers. A select few have a Bacon-Erdös number.

·         And your favourite literary character?

Probably Sam Vimes from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. The decent, wise and incorruptible authority figure we all secretly desire. Or possibly Granny Weatherwax. She’d do just as well.

·         And finally, Jonathan, how do you make time to write around your job and family life?

I run my own business, so I have a reasonable degree of control over how I structure my day. I used to write a lot in the evenings, but I’m trying to do less of that and be a bit more sociable.

You can listen to Jonathan reading an extract of The Truth About Archie and Pye here and both the paperback and Kindle editions are available to purchase here.

Thank you so much, Jonathan, for visiting the blog. Wishing you great success with Archie and Pye and looking forward to more Mathematical Mysteries!

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