Art Imitating Life
With three books published and a fourth underway, Brunswick County author Tom Rieber writes what he knows.
One ongoing debate in creative writing classes is whether all fiction writing is autobiographical. Author Tom Rieber is quick to admit that the hero of his Nick Thomas mystery series is pretty much himself. Nick is a mystery writer. Rieber has been writing since high school, interspersed with careers in construction and real estate. Nick is a Vietnam veteran, as is Rieber. Both are recovering alcoholics. Both have a strong bond with their life partners, who also happen to be very strong women. Both believe that it’s important in life to treat people kindly.
“I write the books in such a way that my mother could read them,” Rieber says. “They’re not too spicy; just enough to keep your interest. I don’t believe in getting graphic.”
Rieber’s third book in a series, Backfire, dropped on Amazon recently, selling well on the first day to his delight.
“When I checked, 800 copies had already been purchased. That’s really good,” Rieber says.
With the third novel performing well, he’s more than 100 pages into writing the fourth, and believes he’s in for a long run.
“I’m waiting for Ron Howard to pick it up,” he quips.
Rieber, who has lived in Brunswick County since 2006 with his wife, Kibbi, was born in New Mexico and raised in Connecticut. He lived there until moving south — except for 1970-71, which he spent in Vietnam as a Navy Seabee building roads and barracks.
He landed in Brunswick County quite unexpectantly when he bought a house while visiting a friend who had moved to Brick Landing.
“I went home and told Kibbi,” he says. “We had a beautiful lake house in Connecticut, but she said ‘OK!’ The taxes, the cold weather; the cold weather would kill me.”
He and Kibbi are brokers with Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage and volunteers for Brunswick Family Assistance, where he sits on the board of directors. “It’s a great organization that helps a lot of people. That’s one of my passions,” he says of BFA.
Rieber started writing in high school, mostly short stories, poems and a journal. When he moved to Brunswick County, he joined the Writer’s Block writing group.
“That group really gave me the impetus to complete my first book and publish it,” he says. “I had been working on it for a while, but when I joined that group, they showed me how to structure things and get it into a readable format.”
The first one, The Nine Irony, did well, he says. For it, and the second book, Devil’s Parody, which he published in 2011, he went through The Ingram Group, which published and promoted the book.
“I switched to Amazon for the exposure,” he says. “I don’t think there’s anyone that can beat the reach Amazon has now, especially with the Kindle.”
Because many people still like to hold a book in their hands, having the option for both formats is a plus. The paper version is available through several local bookstores as well. He’s doing some promotional events including December and February at Sunset River Marketplace in Calabash. “Jenny’s been very helpful,” he says, referring to gallery owner Jenny Lassiter.
Reflecting on his years writing, Rieber says that when he started working on these books, his main character “was everything I wasn’t: an ex-SEAL and this and that.” In part due to feedback from the writer’s group, he realized that it’s best to write what you know, so Nick became a struggling mystery writer who gets caught in situations he shouldn’t be in.
While the core characters in each book are the same, new characters are woven into each work.
“I meet new characters as I write,” Rieber says. “They just pop into my head. I enjoy the ride. I start typing, and all of a sudden I’m in a zone and enjoying the ride to see where it takes me.”
The plot lines change but the characters are a very colorful cast of people that center around the main character. “People do like them, so I keep them in the books. Nick’s love interest, she’s a lot like Kibbi. Her name is Chris,” Rieber says.
In the books there’s always that one basic theme of good versus evil. “And good will win out,” Rieber says. “I try to have my characters with a good moral fiber. Being a recovering alcoholic is nothing to be ashamed of. I’ll tell anybody. It plays into the choices Nick makes. He’s held to a higher standard. He has a pretty good moral compass because he’s been through it all.”
Medical issues and simply trying to make a living meant the third book took a back seat off and on. “I put it down for about eight years,” Rieber says. “It took shape and was finished during COVID. I had rough story ideas, but finally, I sat on my back deck with the laptop, and it became a reality.”
A network of friends helps him with review and editing.
“Kibbi is the first to read. She waits for chapters as I do them. She’s my biggest supporter without a doubt. She’s never once said ‘Don’t spend your time on that.’ If I’m writing, she’s happy.”
Want to read them?
Find Tom Rieber’s books The Nine Irony, Devil’s Parody and Backfire, on Amazon and in local bookstores.