Cheré Dastugue Coen
Southern Writer Spotlight: Davida G. Breier
Name: Davida G. Breier
Hometown: I moved a lot growing up, but spent much of my childhood in South Florida (Miami, Perrine, Redlands)
Gives us a brief description of your book.
“Sinkhole” is a suspenseful, darkly comic, coming-of-age tale immersed in 1980s Central Florida. Lies from the past and a dangerous present collide when, after 15 years in exile, Michelle Miller returns to her tiny hometown of Lorida, Florida. With her mother in the hospital, she’s forced to reckon with the broken relationships she left behind: with her family, with friends, and with herself.
What brought you to write these stories? For instance, was it a personal experience that inspired you, your “day job” or perhaps an overactive imagination?
Fiction is something I’ve always held in the highest regard — the ability to create characters and populate worlds with nothing but words — but writing it had always terrified me. There is something so…bad…about bad fiction. I had had ideas for books over the years, but something always held me back. I never felt qualified or ready. Then I reached an age where I was less afraid of writing a bad book than not writing a book at all.
I thought about writing a book for almost a year before I started. I read voraciously and with a critical eye for what worked (and what didn’t) and what I enjoyed.
My starting point came from watching narcissist personalities — in real life and on the news — and thinking, “I wonder what they looked like as teenagers? I wonder what kind of damage they could do to other kids who can’t see them for what they are?”
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I love to research. I would constantly fact-check myself. I worked to make sure I got the psychology correct, as well as the time and place. I even traveled to a historical society located near my setting. For the characters, they slowly formed in my head until I could hear their voices. I found that I started paying attention to people more once I started writing.
Where does the story take place?
It is set in Central Florida, largely in Lorida and Sebring. Lorida is about 165 miles northwest of Miami and 130 miles south of Orlando. If you look on a map it is in the middle of green and blue splotches.
How does setting play in the telling of the story?
There is something in Florida that is visceral, a sensory overload of sight, smell, and touch, that is both beautiful and uncomfortable. Florida can be a miserable place to live and work if you are poor. Vacationers and people with money don’t experience Florida in the same way. I wanted to explore that class tension.
I also wanted to show that there is more to Florida than tourist destinations and questionable politics. So often, there is a man against nature narrative when it comes to Florida. Without a doubt, nature needs to be respected, but it is usually human beings you need to watch out for. That is one of the underlying themes.
What do you think makes a good story/book?
For me, it all starts with character. I’ll go along for just about any ride if the characters are interesting and believable.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think it was after college when I was finally able to write what I wanted and when I wanted. It took me a long time to work up the nerve to try my hand at fiction.
When did you write your first book? And how was that experience?
I started writing it in 2017. I learned a lot in the process. Then it sat on my memory stick until early 2021 when the stars aligned and the University of New Orleans Press said they wanted to publish it. Working with them has been a fantastic experience. They took such care with the edit and cover design.
Is writing your primary job or do you have another career?
I work for Johns Hopkins University Press. I’ve spent most of my career working in publishing, specifically marketing and distribution. My experiences in those areas have been incredibly valuable. I have spent 20+ years selling other people’s books and now I have a chance to sell my own.
What does your family think of your writing?
They are super supportive. My husband is also a writer and editor, both at work and at home. My mother was an independent bookseller. They are thrilled to see me publish my first novel.
What was the most surprising thing you learned writing your stories?
The most surprising thing was finding out that I had been saying the name of the town, Lorida, wrong for nearly a year. I had been pronouncing it like Florida without the F. It is actually said La-rita. I found that out on the research trip.
Did writing your book lead you to other things?
It has led me to a whole community of mystery and crime writers that I am just starting to get to know. The writers I’ve met have been very generous with their time and some have helped promote Sinkhole.
What suggestions do you have for aspiring writers?
Write that book, don’t wait for the perfect time. Keep editing, the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. There’s no shame in asking for help.
How can readers find and purchase your books?
The best place to start is on my website: https://davidabreier.com/sinkhole/
I have linked to independent booksellers all over the country. I’m also happy to have people use their local library.