Author Interview with Brett Wiens!
Hi, Brett Wiens, welcome to the Indie Publishing Group website! Introduce yourself to us. Tell everyone who you are, where you’re from, what you enjoy doing, your hobbies and interests.
I’m Brett Wiens, from Calgary, where I was born and raised. I like doing all sorts of things. These days most of my spare time is spent with my two kids (Des – 4, and Brooke – 1). I’m a geographer by training, I did my bachelor’s degree at the University of Calgary in Geography and followed it up with a master’s degree in GIS. These days I’m working as a data scientist, which is an exceptionally cool job. I like to play just about any team sport: soccer, hockey, and volleyball being the ones I have played the most recently, but I’ll play just about anything. I like learning all sorts of things, but I certainly have an aptitude and a special interest in languages. I’m fluent in French, and I can read/write/speak to some degree in Spanish, Latin, Italian, and American Sign Language. I’m interested in the world, in cultures, and different people.
When did you start writing and why?
I asked my mom, I think I was writing when I was three, but some of the letters were a little bit funny, and I don’t think my sentence structure was perfect. Honestly, I have wanted to write something for a long time, but English was actually one of my weakest subjects in school and I didn’t really pursue it until recently. I toyed with the idea for a while, thinking I might write a fantasy novel, but until I read Gulliver’s Travels to my son in his crib four years ago, I didn’t really have a solid plan. As I read the story, undoubtedly a classic, but three hundred years old, I saw a platform and voice that I could emulate and elaborate upon with a modern perspective. The satire didn’t make much sense in modern times, and some of the story elements wouldn’t be acceptable today, so I saw a cool opportunity to apply the same style to revitalize a classic novel.
Which is your favorite book you have written and what gave you the idea for it?
The only book that I’ve written so far is On Swift Wings. See #2 for my inspiration.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
The original title was “The Travails of Cygnus” which is super-clunky. It was a play on “Gulliver’s Travels” but not a very good one. My dad, in a very dad-joke way, suggested that it was “Not so Swift.” I played with the word Swift, a nod to Jonathan Swift, for a while and with the vehicle for the story being airplanes, Swift Wings seemed an appropriate and clever enough.
Who helped you with the cover? Or did you design it yourself? What was your inspiration for your cover design?
I made a mock-up of one of the islands from the story. Gulliver’s Travels is usually shown with the giants or the tiny people of Lilliput, so I thought I would try one of the lesser-known islands. After playing with some colours and a few iterations (most visible on my Facebook page) I engaged JD&J Design who really took my idea to the next level.
What are some of the themes of your story?
One of the major themes is authority. I approach this differently on each island, with some egalitarian, despotic, liberal, and conservative authorities, and the ways that people engage with power. Each act of the story really features its own themes written in a satirical manner. There are themes about fairness and equality, respect, faith, economics, and politics that are present throughout.
What’s your process when you sit down and decide to start writing a book and do you have a system?
I suppose I have inadvertently created a process for myself. I didn’t have a plan at the start, but having completed this novel, I’ve got a process with which I am comfortable.
I started by taking out a notepad and writing a list of things that I wanted to say; big themes and key messages. A lot of these came from frustrations I have with current society.
Once I had a good number of thoughts, I did a thorough read-through of the original story. It is very important to me that I respect Jonathan Swift’s work, and not change immutable things. One example of this is on the island of the Huhuneem. The yahoos in Gulliver’s Travels are black. It would have been so much easier to change that and avoid any political incorrectness, but it was a basic rule that I wouldn’t change things that can’t be changed. Some readers might note that I did change a lot of the names. I did that consciously. I decided that an 18th-century British ship’s surgeon would probably hear and spell things differently than a 21st century Canadian. Since neither of them likely were exposed to the writing of these islands in a recognizable script, I felt free to change the spelling for authenticity.
Once comfortable, I started writing out a broad outline. Basically, I wrote a paragraph or two about what I wanted to say in each act. After completing the outline, I wrote a second outline with more detail, and then a third with even more detail, weaving the key messages and themes into my plan.
After that, I started writing. Did I mention I have two kids? I only had a few minutes every day to work on the book, but I bought a folding keyboard and wrote the vast majority of the novel on my phone. I would write at lunch, on the train, whenever I had some spare time. It was basically like writing a fourth outline with full sentences and great detail at this point.
When I finished the story, I read it through several times to myself to edit it:
- The first was my idiot-read. I read it to make sure I didn’t say conflicting things like the same horse is black in one sentence and white in the next.
- Second, I did a spelling and grammar check.
- Third, I dug deep into my work and tried to add where I felt things were weak.
Ultimately, I was convinced of the value of hiring an editor, and selected Bobbi Beatty who did a great job.
Who are some of your favorite characters and why?
There are a few characters in the book that I really like. Ryuudrikje represents a really positive potential. He is friendly, loyal, and courageous. I found it easy to connect with him and write about him. I don’t want to spoil too much about the book, there is another character that I wrote in much later, after my editor got through with things, that really changes the complexion of his act. I like him because he was a real stretch for me to write, and reading it now, it doesn’t seem possible he wasn’t originally part of the story.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I’m a big fan of classics. Swift, Tolstoy, Dickens. Most of the stories I read to my kids before they could really understand are old classics. R.A. Salvatore is one modern author of whom I’m a big fan. In grade 7 I bought his book, The Legacy, and I went from barely reading recreationally to buying dozens of Forgotten Realms books. I don’t think I would have written this book if I hadn’t stumbled on that book at the school book fair.
Have you got anything you’re working on now?
Kids. I’m working on learning some Italian and developing my data science skillset right now. Depending on how this book does, I’ll probably get back and write something else sooner or later.
If you could have any superpowers what would they be?
It doesn’t really matter. I dream about teleporting myself places, especially during rush hour. It’d be awesome to be exceptionally smart or fast, but whenever I think of superpowers, I think that no matter which one I had, I’d make the best of it. I don’t want to be immortal as they are in my book and Gulliver’s travels. That is not a good super-power.
If you could travel to any location in the world where would you go?
I haven’t been to Asia yet, and that is definitely somewhere I want to visit. I would love to see every country in the world. What geographer wouldn’t say that?
Where do you hope to be in 5 years’ time?
I’m happy where I am, but I hope that my family are happy and healthy. Anything more than that is just icing. I’m hoping that my book is so well received that it wins major prizes, maybe a Nobel prize. Being such an incredible game-changer, it is scooped up and an Oscar-winning movie is made about the contents, oh, and I’m asked to star in it. In five years, I’m an Oscar-winning, Nobel laureate, and maybe even a few other award-winning person. But I’ll be happy if my family and I are happy and healthy.
Thanks, so much for taking the time to do an author interview, Brett Wiens! Take a minute and check Brett Wiens out on the links below! If you would like to do an author interview, please don’t hesitate to contact us!
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