My ALLi author guest this week is Robert Roseth, who spent his career at the University of Washington, helping to make scientific and technological breakthroughs understandable to everyday readers. After retirement, he embarked on the second part of his career, writing a combination mystery and satire called Ivy is a Weed. Robert also discovered that the best way to publish his vision is to do it the indie way.
Inspirational Indie Authors Podcast: Robert Roseth Interview
For self-publishing advice and news, alongside indie author interviews, subscribe to the ALLi podcast:On Inspirational Indie Authors, @howard_lovy interviews @robert_roseth, a mystery and satire author who discovered that the best way to publish his vision is to do it the indie way. #selfpublishing Click To Tweet
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Inspirational Indie Authors Podcast: About the Host Howard Lovy
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has spent the last eight years amplifying the voices of independent publishers and authors. He works with authors as a book editor to prepare their work to be published. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, and Longreads. Find Howard at howardlovy.com, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Inspirational Indie Authors Podcast: About the Author Robert Roseth
Robert Roseth was raised in the Chicago area and moved to Seattle in 1977. He holds a bachelor’s degree from MIT in political science and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. He worked at the University of Washington from 1977 to 2015, starting as a science writer and becoming director of the campus news office in 1984. Ivy is a Weed is his first novel. You can learn more on his website.
If you’re a published indie author who would like to be interviewed by Howard for the Inspirational Indie Authors podcast, you need to be a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors.
Then contact Howard, including your membership number, explaining why you’re an inspirational indie author and what inspires you.
If you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization.
Inspirational Indie Author Podcast: Interview Transcript: Robert Roseth
Howard Lovy: I'm Howard Lovy and you're listening to Inspirational Indie Authors.
Every week, I feature a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors to find out what inspires them and how they are an inspiration to other authors.
My guest this week is Robert Roseth, who spent his career at the university of Washington, helping to make scientific and technological breakthroughs understandable to everyday readers.
After retirement, he embarked on the second part of his career; writing a combination mystery and satire called Ivy is a Weed. Robert also discovered that the best way to publish his vision is to do it the indie way.
Robert Roseth: My name is Robert Roseth, and I am the author of Ivy is a Weed, which was self-published in June. This was the first thing I did after I retired from my day job.
I have worked for 35 years, a little more than 35 years, at the university of Washington in what we call the news office, which is not quite public relations, it's more about what the faculty are doing in terms of research and commentary on events and the news.
Towards the end of my working life, I began to think about what I would do when I didn't have to go to work in the morning, and I realized that I had an ambition, for a long time, to write something longer than a three-page news release.
Howard Lovy: Robert was born during a time in the United States when, if you could imagine it, science and technology education was emphasized as a patriotic duty, because of the space race with the Soviet Union.
Robert calls himself a Sputnik baby, which is why he decided to go to college at MIT.
Robert Roseth: I was born in 1949, and I think Sputnik was launched in the middle fifties. I grew up in one of the Chicago suburbs, Northern suburb of Highland park, right around that time, the emphasis on everything in school, kind of, shifted to science. And so did I, I read a lot about outer space. One of my favorite authors growing up in elementary school was Jules Verne, and I remember reading From The Earth To The Moon and A Trip Around It, and I was very interested in planetary science.
I was always kind of divided as a young person. At the same time, I was taking advanced classes in physics and math, a girlfriend and I were directing plays. I was very involved in theater. Nonetheless, I overrode my artistic impulses and went to MIT, but I couldn't keep them under management, and I shifted out of engineering into political science in the late sixties.
It was an interesting time to go to college.
Howard Lovy: Robert finally settled on journalism, but with his science background at MIT, he found that he was able to marry the artistic and logical parts of his brain.
Robert Roseth: There weren't many people that really understood science and math in journalism school. If people that were geared toward journalism research, you know, doctorate programs, but the rest of rest of them were really liberal arts people.
So, they sort of steered me into science journalism, and I actually was lucky enough to study with the science editor of the Associated Press. A visiting faculty member there became a friend of mine. And so, when I graduated, I had this journalism background, but I had the specialty in science, and it turned out that the best place to do those kinds of things, other than a handful of newspapers, was on a university campus where I could interview faculty and write about their research and try and interest reporters, either in the region or around the country, or eventually around the world in writing about the kinds of research that was going on there; that was my entry into university.
I would call up a professor and go to his office and, in one form or another, the question that I was always asking was, tell me about your life work. There are very few people to whom you can ask that question and they'll say no, I don't want to talk about that, you know, so you're immediately greeted with enthusiasm.
And in fact, the people are often flattered that somebody wants to talk about their life work because it's just, you know, outside of a small circle of colleagues, that doesn't really happen. And the other thing is that in an academic environment, these people are teachers, they're happy to explain things. In my job, for the most part, I would focus on the kinds of things that had some kinds of practical applications.
Not always, I mean, there's a lot of pure science at universities that just, sort of, improves our understanding of the universe. You'd get a look at things that, you know, might come down the road 5, 10, 15, 20 years later. I mean, you know, I hear, when I start to read stories about COVID and monoclonal antibodies, I knew a journalist in Seattle who probably wrote the first layman's book about monoclonal antibodies, and it was largely based, not entirely, but a lot of the people he interviewed worked at the university of Washington where I was so, you know, I got a bird's eye view of an unusual science that is now changing therapeutic medicine in major ways.
So, that's the kind of thing you see at universities, if you're lucky.
Howard Lovy: So, Robert did that for his entire career, helping to translate science for everyday readers and reporters.
A year before he retired, he looked around at his university environment, with its labyrinthine politics and separate world, and decided that it would be a great setting for a story, and that's how his book, Ivy is a Weed, was born.
Robert Roseth: It begins with a death, the head of their public relations office at a major university in the Pacific Northwest gets a call very early in the morning, very late at night from the campus police telling him that they found a body on central campus. And so, being the guy that has to work with the news media, he's obligated to go out there, and it turns out that the person whose body is found was a university vice president. And from the physical description, and reality of the situation, it looks like his last living place, other than the fall down, was out of a window in the administration building. And the story goes that the campus police investigated very quickly and conclude that, in fact, he fell out the window.
And the head of the public relations office, he doesn't have specific reasons to doubt that conclusion, but being a former news reporter, he's just a little suspicious that there's some loose ends. And so, he starts to investigate what happened and pretty early on, he develops a strong feeling that this was not an accidental death.
The question that's posed in the front of the book was, was this fellow defenestrated, right? One of my favorite words, or did he defenestrate himself, and our intrepid investigator concludes that, in fact, he was defenestrated, and he begins to investigate what might have been the reasons for this fellow's demise. And he interviews people at the university and outside the university, and a whole group of people and who are, many of them are characters in their own right. And he develops his own idea about what had happened, but it takes him in a kind of a funny direction. He has trouble, kind of, closing the loop on the mystery. There are elements of it that really don't quite fit together, but as he pursues his investigation and gets a little lucky, gets some help from people he knows, a picture of what happened begins to come together and, you know, without being the spoiler here, it's the kind of thing that, in some environments, you might not believe, but at a university it makes total sense.
Howard Lovy: After Robert completed his book, it took him about a year to discover that he'd rather not compromise his work.
So, he self-published, and he doesn't regret it. In fact, he's gathered some positive reviews, including from BookLife at Publishers Weekly.
Robert Roseth: One of the things I learned about the business of writing fiction is that there are people with some very fixed ideas about what is the right way and wrong way to do it.
I actually spent more than a year trying to work with small presses, which ended up being a kind of a disappointing experience. But there are a lot of things, if you write something and you say that it's a mystery, it has to follow certain rules or people will sniff you and say, no, that's not really a mystery, you can't do it that way. And to have a mystery that was also a satire, is not all that common either, and that's off-putting to some of the true believers in the mystery genre. So, you know, you have to sort of figure out, are you going to try and write the way people expect you to write, or are you going to write the way you feel like writing?
And fortunately, at the place I am in life, I don't have to do this for a living. And so, you know, I could write it the way I wanted to.
Howard Lovy: Robert is working on a new book. In fact, he's been working on it for three years, which he says, at the age of 71 is a long time. Meanwhile, Robert's advice to all writers is to read and then read some more.
Robert Roseth: I read all the stuff on Facebook, of writer's groups and things like that, and I mean, the only true thing I can say is, read like crazy, you know, read everything. Read everything that you possibly, you know, like, because the person that you become as a writer, I think, is formed from the experiences of what you read and what sticks with you from your reading.
And if you read good things and develop a friendship with a good editor, you'll become a good writer.
If you're a published indie author who would like to be interviewed by Howard for the Inspirational Indie Authors podcast, you need to be a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors.
Then contact Howard, including your membership number, explaining why you're an inspirational indie author and what inspires you.
If you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization.