Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Sinkhole! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what (or who) was its inspiration?
Davida Breier: Sinkhole is a suspenseful, darkly comic, coming-of-age tale immersed in 1980s Central Florida.
It all started with a narcissist – doesn’t it always? What would a teenage narcissist look like? I also wondered about psychological abuse among teenagers. At what point would the selfish behavior of a child become dangerous? How much damage could be done to an unsure person just starting to find herself? The rest of the story developed from there.
BD: What can you tell us about the creative process of bringing this story to life?
DB: At the very end of 2016, I set a goal to write a book by the end of 2017. I work full-time, publish a zine at least twice a year, and have a family and animals, so this was an ambitious goal from the start. I spent time researching places, the time period, and the psychology of my characters. I also read a great deal. I let my characters roll around in my head for months, trying to get them to start talking. I created spreadsheets with the main characters’ class schedules and another with all their birthdays and major life events. I’d create snippets of dialog or descriptive phrases.
Ultimately, I had to put myself on a 500-word-a-day goal to really get started. That spreadsheet and the ability to see daily progress, no matter how small, helped. I also plotted the main action in a spreadsheet, which also enabled me to keep track of the flashbacks with the present-day story. I can’t express my love of spreadsheets enough.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Michelle’s story will connect with and impact readers?
DB: I think Sinkhole will appeal to different people for different reasons. Some may only see the suspense and pop culture references and that’s okay. But others will find in Michelle an asexual character who is figuring herself out. It is a quiet aspect of her character that I hope readers will pick up on. It’s also part of how she connects with Morrison, and I wanted to show their friendship.
Another main theme in Sinkhole deals with class. Michelle is from a working-class family and lives in a trailer. She doesn’t think anything of that until her new best friend starts using their class differences to erode Michelle’s sense of self and family. So often in fiction, characters have all sorts of inherent privileges – be it the ability to spontaneously buy a plane ticket or live in a decent apartment in the middle of an expensive city. Writers sometimes fail to see the difference between broke and poor. There are so many constraints and barriers when you are poor and that innate mindset is often missing from working-class characters. I did my best to respect and share where Michelle comes from and how that influences her character.
Lastly, Michelle is very much a victim of psychological abuse. It damages her as a teenager and affects her as an adult. Ultimately, she is able to see the abuse for what it is and break free. I think the abuse and Michelle’s recovery will resonate with some readers.
BD: What makes University of New Orleans Press the perfect home for this story?
DB: There are so many reasons the University of New Orleans Press is the perfect publisher for Sinkhole. They are a small, mission-driven, non-profit publisher and that is where my publishing heart has always lived. On top of that, they publish books about the Southeastern United States. They work to amplify voices and characters whose stories need to be heard.
For me personally, they are the perfect home because of the staff and the way we worked together. I've known and worked with some of the UNO Press staff since 2006. GK Darby and Abram Himelstein saw something in the early draft of Sinkhole and provided the resources and support to help polish my rough manuscript and make it shine. A large publisher might not have spent the time to do that. The developmental edit that Chelsey Shannon provided was phenomenal and helped me fully realize my characters. Alex Dimeff created a fantastic cover. Christian Stenico and Alex Dimeff cleaned up all my weird writing quirks. I've worked in publishing for a long time, and know how special this experience has been. The whole collaborative process has been incredible.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the story into subsequent books (or into other entertainment mediums) if given the opportunity?
DB: I think this particular story has been told, but I am starting a new story and I can easily see some of these characters popping up in the background. I have to admit that I’ve been thinking about how easy it would be to adapt Sinkhole for film. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve watched a lot of short 4- to 8-episode series and have been daydreaming what Sinkhole might look like on screen.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
DB: I’m still publishing Xerography Debt, my zine review review (since 1999!), and we should have a new issue coming out in July (#52). I also created Backfill, a zine about the making of my novel – it is a bit like DVD extras and that is available from my website or Atomic Books. It features my love of spreadsheets, a research trip to Lorida, Florida, and an inside look at publishing in 2022.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Sinkhole?
DB: The best place to start is my website – davidabreier.com. You’ll find the usual stuff there, but there is also a soundtrack for the book, a reader’s guide, and photos of Lorida, Florida.