Continuing the series of Reading Glasses Author Interviews is Ray Rebmann. Ray is the author of “Sifkin’s Fence,” the story of a man trying to escape his past mistakes. He happens upon a dried up bayside settlement with unfinished business of its own. The South Jersey Writers’ Group’s “Steampunk Granny” Marie Gilbert sat down to ask him a bit about his work.
Marie Gilbert: I really enjoyed reading “Sifkin’s Fence.” I’m so happy to interview you. Why don’t you tell our readers a bit about yourself and why you wanted to become a writer?
Ray Rebmann: Because my father said I couldn’t. Just kidding. I’ve always wanted to write and after many detours along the way, I’m finally getting to do it. I’m 60 years old, retired after 30+ years in a government management position. Since retiring, I’ve published three books and have three more in the pipeline. I think what first sparked my interest in writing was reading the stories of Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle.
MG: What was the inspiration for Sifkin? Is it based on your own personal relationship to your father?
RR: It’s not based on my relationship with my father. He died at a young age (49). We did have our tumultuous times together…me growing up in “the 60′s” and all. But he tried to be supportive. His idea was always for me to work at the regular job to make a living and then once that part was covered, write for the enjoyment of it. That’s what I’m doing. “Sifkin’s Fence” came to me in a dream.
MG: What genre do you prefer to write?
RR: Fiction. I lean toward the fantasy but I like to make it “realistic”.
MG: I’ve read your bio and see that you’ve published a story about the Jersey Devil (which I can’t wait to read now). Is George from “Sifkin’s Fence” based somewhat on what we know of the Jersey Devil? Your take of the myth?
RR: I wasn’t thinking about JD when I wrote it. I guess there’s a connection with southern New Jersey history and all. I live in the Pine Barrens. There are nights out there when it is very easy to believe in the Jersey Devil.
I think the JD story is vastly under-appreciated. I’m also fascinated by the Blue Hole story (up around Ancora I believe) and how it connects with the JD. I used it in my story about the devil.
MG: What are you working on now?
RR: A book based on Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee”. I’m the curator of a museum in Dennisville NJ and there’s an old house in the area that Poe was said to have visited. The house was owned by the Townsend family and one of the daughters was named Annabelle. She later married a man named Lee, hence the connection. Saying the poem is based on her due to the similarity of names is a stretch since she didn’t become Mrs. Lee until after Poe died. But in fiction, all is possible isn’t it? For instance, there are scenes in the book that are set in the future. The narrative actually works along three separate plot lines. I’m having fun with it.
I’m also working on a sequel to my nonfiction book “How Can You Give Up That Adorable Puppy?” The first book was about a family’s adventures raising nine puppies to become guide dogs for the sight impaired. (Our family volunteers for the Seeing Eye in Morristown). The sequel centers on Leah, one of the nine, who returns to live with her family after “retiring” from SE.
MG: What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking of becoming a writer?
RR: Real simple. Read widely and write about whatever interests you. As an exercise in self-discipline, read and write about stuff that doesn’t interest you too. For years, I did newspaper work covering tourist events in Wildwood…I hated it. But it paid well and I got to practice my craft, or exorcise my demons…whatever.
MG: Thank you so much, Ray for sharing with us and I know our readers will be looking to reading your story in Reading Glasses.
You can read more about Ray here. And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Reading Glasses: Stories Through an Unpredictable Lens on September 24, 2014!
About the interviewer:
Marie Gilbert is a ghost-hunting, zombie-fighting, steampunk comic book superhero in disguise as a grandma from South Philadelphia. She blogs about television and film for Biff Bam Pop and Go Jane News, and served as co-editor of Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey. Her book Roof Oasis, the first in a series of apocalyptic tales with a twist, is now available. You can read more about her adventures at her not-so-top-secret online HQ, Gilbert Curiosities.