Today, Lori Reisenbichler, author of EIGHT MINUTES, has stopped by to answer some questions and to chat with the readers of Traveling With T!
Author Interview with Lori Reisenbichler
Tell us a little about you.
I grew up in Kansas City and have lived in Dallas, Texas most of my adult life. I’m married to an architect, who you know is a great guy, because I didn’t change my name when my book came out. I am happy to spell that last name every day of my life for the last twenty-some years. We have three grown kids who all live in Dallas, close enough for us to enjoy. And more importantly, they are grown up enough that I have time to sit around in coffee shops and make things up.
Career-wise, I did a lot of other things before I started writing. I’ve always been a big reader, and writing has always come easily for me, but it wasn’t on my bucket list to write The Great American Novel. For me, writing is a great luxury. I think of myself as a storyteller as much as an author.
What’s the storytelling part?
All my life, I’ve been fascinated by stories. My sisters and I would go to the mall and make up stories about the people we saw, even to the point of doing exaggerated voice-overs of their conversations. We thought we were just being funny, but I now realize that it was great storytelling practice.
I’ve told stories onstage at The Moth in New York and at Dallas’ storytelling series, Oral Fixations. I love doing this because there’s a short turnaround between the time I write and the time the story reaches an audience. Novels are long term projects, so this is a nice break. Most cities have some version of a stories-on-stage program. Check it out; they are usually very entertaining.
I also host storytelling dinner parties, which I call “Tales Around the Table.” I invite a group of 8-12 people who don’t know each other very well, feed them a nice dinner and serve a lot of wine, and ask them to tell us a story. I wish I could tell you I invented this, but I use the True Story podcast for inspiration. They give you a wonderful set of instructions about how to have a storytelling party.
On my website (www.lorireisenbichler.com) you can get a better idea of this. I’ve got pictures of my giant, oversized dining room table (thank you to that architect husband!) and you can even hear recordings of actual stories told around my table.
Why eight minutes in the title?
On the night Shelly Buckner finally becomes a mother, she nearly becomes a widow as well. Her husband Eric gets in a car accident racing to the hospital and his heart stops for eight minutes before he’s revived.
I chose eight minutes because it was long enough that it would catch a reader’s attention – it is way too long to be unresponsive – and not so long that it would be considered a “miracle,” which is an entirely different story.
The eight minutes of Eric’s near-death experience is the first example of Shelly assigning more meaning to an event than Eric does. It sets the stage for a pattern where Shelly swears she “knows” something that she can’t prove and doesn’t make sense to her logical, rational husband.
I’m very interested in the common experience of knowing something that we can’t explain. I’m even more fascinated by people who are willing to take action based on that knowledge. I consider them to be some of the bravest people I’ve ever met.
What does it have to do with imaginary friends?
Nothing. And everything. Those eight minutes come to represent what’s wrong in their marriage, the first time Shelly believes something is important that Eric dismisses. Toby’s imaginary friend is the next one.
What are the themes of your book?
It’s about acting on what you know to be true. For many women, we feel this very strongly about our children. In our culture, we call it mother’s intuition. It feels biological, cellular, physical. It becomes real in a way that trumps anything like a hunch or a gut feeling.
It’s also about what happens to a marriage when one person begins to believe something that the other person thinks is wrong. Not just “agree-to-disagree” different, but flat-out, completely ridiculous, that where-the-hell-did-that-come-from, when-did-you-get-so-stupid, what-happened-to-your-values, that kind of wrong. Foundation-shaking.
So if one person feels she can’t be true to herself if she doesn’t act on what she knows to be true, and the other person can’t give any credence whatsoever to that position, can they stay together? And what if they have the same goal—to protect their child, whom they both love? It’s complicated.
What got you interested in imaginary friends?
The dialogue at the beginning of chapter two is almost a transcript of a conversation I had with my three-year-old son as he introduced me to John Robberson. He came home from the flight museum in Tucson (where my parents lived at the time) and told me a grown man named John Robberson talked to him, and my husband didn’t know anything about it. John Robberson wasn’t very playful or fun; he just was there and talked to my son every day. I thought it was a little creepy, but after a couple of weeks, my son stopped talking about it and John Robberson went away. Now he’s 18 years old and doesn’t remember any of it. He’s surprised I do.
After that, I did some research on imaginary friends and was surprised to find that it’s a common experience. All over the world, in all cultures, children between the ages of 3 and 6 routinely report that they see invisible people. But each culture assigns its own meaning. In Western culture, we call them imaginary friends. In some parts of India, they consider it proof of a reincarnation—the old soul is speaking through the new body. In other cultures, they believe these are demons that need to be driven out. Other cultures shame the child or dismiss it as nonsense.
So, I became interested in what would happen if an American suburban mom applied the wrong cultural lens to her child’s experience? I don’t think it would go over well in most Mommy-and-me playgroups.
What’s next for you?
I always want to write what I call “book club books.” My goal is to write in a way that’s easy to read, a good page-turner that can be enjoyed at that level. But if you want to talk about it, there’s enough in there to talk about. I love book clubs, and hardly ever meet someone in a book club that I don’t like. Give me smart, funny women who read–all day long! I have a reading guide available for any book clubs who want it, and I am very happy to visit your book club–in person, if I can make it work, or via Skype. I have a button on my website, or on my Amazon and Goodreads page, in case anyone is interested in this. I would love to meet all of you!
So up next for me, is another book club book, hopefully. I’m still in first draft phase, so I can’t talk about it yet, but I like how it’s shaping up.
Now that you have read the interview- here is where you can find Lori!
*Thanks to Kandy and Lori for the roles they played in making this interview happen!
Happy Reading and Bookishly Yours,
T @ Traveling With T