Guests at book launch treated to great surprise
PHOTO COURTESY MONTOOTH PRESS Robert J. Shindler,
Anna Maria, reveals himself as the author of
"Montooth and the Canfield Witch" at a gala launch
party Friday at the Columbia restaurant in Ybor City.
Robert Shindler was a man who always read to his children. Every night. At one point, his daughter asked him to tell her stories that he made up, not ones that he read.
So Shindler began dooing so, even going so far as to write the stories down and send them to his daughter when he was in Germany working and his children were in the U.S.
That was years ago. More recently, Shindler and Meghan founded a publishing company, Montooth Press. It’s under the umbrella of Cloverleaf Corp., a highway safety products company run by Shindler and his son.
Last Friday was the launch of the company’s first book.
Friends, relatives and guests of Shindler, of Anna Maria, and his daughter, Meghan Shindler Christian, who now lives in Virginia, surprised and delighted their guests when they revealed the author of the first book to be launched by Montooth Press, which the two founded.
To backtrack just a bit, Shindler attended a mystery conference in Sarasota last year and got interested in the business of publishing. That was the front story.
He also met an author at the conference who was looking for a publisher.
This author, or so it’s been said, had a very good young adult book nearly ready. It featured a strong young female character, her friends, a witch and Florida in the years after World War II — not to mention a huge legendary alligator named Montooth.
Shindler and Christian, both being astute business people, organized focus groups to read the book and give their opinions as they worked to target their audience and fine-tune the novel, "Montooth and the Canfield Witch."
The book was officially launched Aug. 1 at Columbia restaurant in Ybor City. Shindler and Christian specifically chose that restaurant because it figured in the book as a hang out for Cruz Cruz, the Cuban, a U.S. Marine veteran and Tampa native who is a bad guy in the story.
Friends and relatives from the Island, Bradenton, Virginia and even Austria were put on a bus and taken to the gala.
"Oh my gosh! This was so well orchestrated," noted Bill Iseman, of Anna Maria. "Did you hear about the highlight of the evening?"
"It was dramatic," said Hildegard Shindler, Bob’s wife and Meghan’s mother. "They got around to passing out bound copies of the book as gifts to the focus readers. There were introductions. Then they finally introduced the author, Robert Jay, of Sarasota."
The author played the room, shaking hands and hugging the family. The focus group members were asked to unwrap their books.
At that point, Hildegard said she looked at the back of the brand new book, saw her husband’s picture and got confused.
"I thought that was sort of nice of the author to allow Bob to put his picture on the back, but it’s supposed to be the author’s picture on the back of the book."
Meanwhile, around the room, the picture is beginning to come clear.
Shindler himself is the author.
"We didn’t start out to keep it a secret," Shindler said. "Meghan and I just didn’t say anything publicly, and then as time went on, we decided it would be fun to keep the author under wraps until the book was actually launched."
And by the end of the evening, even the waiters at the restaurant were lining up to buy the book, according to Hildegard.
Only a few people, including Jolie Bell, of Holmes Beach, figured out the author. Bell and Hildegard Shindler have been friends since freshman year in high school. One character in the book, Miss Cowden, the librarian, is based on Bell.
"I was a librarian, and my name was Cowden," Bell said. "So then I knew it was Robert. I promised not to tell, and I didn’t."
Adele Barnes, a friend and neighbor, said she was thoroughly surprised to learn Shindler was the author, but she wasn’t surprised that he would play such a trick.
"He’s a very funny man," she said. "He has a great sense of humor. Sometimes when I’m out doing gardening, he squirts me with the hose. You never know what he’ll do."
The book has been described by several readers as a sort of Island and Florida Harry Potter.
Shindler has several other books in the series already planned out. No one knows what additional surprises he’s plotting.
"Montooth and the Canfield Witch" is available from Montooth Press for $22.95. Log onto Montooth Press, click on the bookstore link on the left, then click on the book.