Last year I attended a conference full of amazingly talented women. It was there that I met Reba Birmingham, author of Floodlight and Words on a Plate. Her gentle aura and genuine respect for our craft drew me to her, and by the end of our time in PA I considered her my friend. This year we cannot gather at a conference or celebrate Pride in a large group of connected friends and strangers, but we can celebrate those who have meaning in our lives. Today, I celebrate Reba.
Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us! To start, introduce yourself to us in whatever way feels most comfortable to you.
I am a Native Californian, and live 15 miles from my birthplace. My parents were from the South, so I have always felt an affinity for the Southern culture. My wife was born in Chatanooga, and encourages my writing. “Do you have something to read to me?” She often says upon waking. We are both attorneys.
If you could live anywhere on this planet, and take everything that you love with you, where would you choose to live?
I’m torn between Costa Rica, the Pacific Northwest and an old house with land in the Southern U.S.
Well, you know I would vote for the southern U. S., but Costa Rica is a great, too. Speaking about places to live, you have two books out in a series that deal with the mingling of our world and the fairy world, an intertwining of ordinary and magical. Tell us about Floodlight and Words on A Plate. How did you come to write them? Why a series?
My friend Jennifer withdrew and I was trying to coax her out of isolation. I wrote the opening to Floodlight which involves a restaurant, Utopia, we all once enjoyed (She with her wife, me with mine). She sent back two words by email. “More story.” So I kept feeding that until the characters started talking to me nonstop. Eventually, it felt they were busy even when I was away. Jennifer still has an Emily Dickinson quality to her, frail and otherworldly muse.
I have heard that readers like things in threes.
Will there be a third in the series?
Yes, “The Wolf You Feed” has been written and is going through the first round of “content” editing. This process has been slowed considerably by the pandemic.
Great title! You write fantasy. What kind of research does this genre demand, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I Google. I read Popul Vuh, the origin story for Mayans (much like the Adam and Eve myth but theirs) for the second book, which involves a Jungle trek in Peru, the rest is pretty much what I see swirling around me in Southern California.
Speaking of research, what are you working on now?
I can’t tell you the title, because it is so good I might trademark it! It is a new story about a woman who has a special ability. She lives in Los Angeles and it is a murder mystery. Sorry to be so cryptic but the I am 25,878 words in and can’t wait to share it in due time.
I so want to hear more, but I get the need to share only when the work is ready to be shared! I understand you have dipped your toe into audiobook creation. How did you come to be exploring this new world?
Some people told me “I want to read your book but I just don’t read. Let me know when you have it on audio! Another said, “I want you to read to me.” Since it was impractical to go to their homes, audio book seemed the next natural step.
Give those of us who are also considering it some pointers, please.
Choose a quality studio to do your audio book. It is a lot of work and your voice will be raw. Stay in a hotel while you do it (it may take three days) and don’t bring anyone with you. Save your voice. I was in a studio near my son and we went out after my first six hour day of reading and had barbeque and talked in a noisy restaurant. Don’t do that.
Good advice. I really dig some of your name choices for your characters, especially Panda. How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
The first two books have at least three strong stories interwoven through them. Lots going on! One of the stories is about an art exhibit at the local museum. Floodlight is the exhibit in the first book (obviously) where “International performance artist Fiona Castlebaum lights up alleys and photographs what she finds.” The second is Words on a Plate. The idea for this one, also named after an art exhibit, stuck in my mind and wouldn’t let me go. People have these awkward conversations, where they process their words and calculate the effect before speaking. The art show paired these type of slogans, comments and vows with images (pictures) that reveal the true meaning underlying them. Sometimes in, especially, a politically charged situation, I see people measuring their words and picture them on plates–but that’s just me, lol.
Venturing away from writing a bit, tell us, are you a morning person or a night person?
Easy. I start writing at 5:45 a.m.
If you had your own talk show, who would be your first three guests?
You and Patty Schramm and Lori Lake all in a pile would be show one. (I know I’m cheating). Assuming they would say yes, Karin Slaughter and then Juliet Blackwell.
What’s your favorite material object that you already own?
So many! My handmade cowboy boots come to mind.
Okay, one more: Where can we find you on social media?
Thank you so much for hanging out with me. I cannot wait to read The Wolf You Feed!