Navigation

Living, Learning and Reflecting – An Interview with Brett Champan

 

Rearview Sunset is Wisconsin author Brett Champan’s first novel. The story is an insightful look into the mind of a troubled young man’s life and the events that shape his future. The book has life, death, love and much more interweaved in the story of Beau Jamison. Brett took some time to meet with me to discuss the novel, and his writing experience in general.

 

Amanda Veldboom (AV): You went to school for accounting. How did you make the transition from that to writing? They seem to be on opposite sides of the spectrum.

 

Brett Champan (BC): All through grade school and high school and college the writing was always there, it was part of my life since a young age. There was also a strength with numbers – I am very detail orientated, and I took a class in accounting in high school and did very well with it. I got to college and really wasn’t sure which route to go – accounting is stable and provides an income down the road. The writing was always there, and in the back of my mind I always hoped at some point I would get more time for it and would see how it went. I wouldn’t say any transition really took place up until recent months when this story started to take off a little more and I needed to invest more time in it and writing in general. There’s not a complete transition out of accounting; I still do a little on the side. I do a few taxes over tax season and I help a few friends out with some minor bookkeeping, but as far as a full-fledged 40 or 60 hour a week accounting position, I think that transaction has taken place – I am moving out of that at this point.

 

AV: What writers and books inspire you the most?

 

BC: As far as writers, JR Tolkien who wrote The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I didn’t fall upon those until the movies came out but once they did I was blown away by them and just fell in love with his writing. CS Lewis, his Narnia Series and a lot of his non-fiction works. A writer named Ted Decker who writes some fantasy and science fiction books – I really enjoy him. I don’t know how exhaustive of a list you want, but those would be the top ones. Nicholas Sparks – I always kind of considered some of my writing to be pure romance, there’s some of it in there. I think he does a great job of sharing those stories, like Message in a Bottle and The Notebook.

 

AV: Tell me a little bit about your novel, Rearview Sunset.

 

BC: I probably would have to give the back cover pitch which is the best way I’ve found to explain it. It is about a young man who has made some bad choices in life. He is at the point where he really is desperate to find a better way and is thrust into this winding journey. You find that along the way he is influenced by a number of characters including an old wise friend who is near the end of his days who really has a strong influence on his life and a beautiful young woman who captures his heart and really opens his eyes to want to see something more and gets him thinking a lot. A host of other characters too that kind of come along and stimulate the right times and how they impact his life.

 

AV: Where did you get the idea for the novel?

 

BC: It started out years ago where I actually sat down to write the whole book. I started writing one of the chapters in the book thinking that might be the story itself and then expand on it, and then as I started writing that chapter all these other kind of thoughts and ideas came to mind and wove into that chapter and it kept building.

 

AV: How important was having the setting of Rearview Sunset be Wisconsin?

 

BC: When I set out to write it, it was just a given that it would be in Wisconsin, I wasn’t debating whether it should be in another state. I debated how much to use specific names, cities and towns, versus fictionalizing everything. The setting of Wisconsin itself, in retrospect, is very important. That’s where I grew up, the way of life, the beauty of the outdoors – it’s a way of life. Even my writing style and everything that comes out of it is so shaped by the land it would be hard to put it in Minnesota or Illinois or Michigan.

 

AV: Did you encounter and difficulties while writing your book?

 

BC: Three specific ones come to mind. Number one was time, which I suppose is any writer’s challenge. Working a full-time job and just finding the time to make it happen. I feel like with writing, sometimes it takes a half an hour to an hour just to get your mind and your heart into it and then to write from there. Those times are pretty rare with working. At one point I just had to be militant about getting up early in the morning and brewing up some strong coffee. A couple times I got up North, took a vacation for 10 days, stayed in a cabin and just focused on it. I had to do that a few times to bring some things together. So time would be the number one difficulty.

 

Another one was just discouragement in general. You still have to write this book and you don’t know how it’s going to finish and where it is going to start exactly and what is all going to go into it. Being my first novel I didn’t know the process as well. One remedy for that was just having some friends who could shoot straight with me about the writing and would give me honest feedback, and I did that to keep my balance in a sense. There were others that really helped me push forward.

 

The third one would be (I kind of mentioned it before) where to finish the story. You have all these ideas, all these things you want to get on paper, a lot of which comes as you’re writing, but at some point there has to be a beginning and an ending and I wrestled with that for a while and once I was able to make a decision to what the ending would be it really helped me to just enjoy the process.

 

AV: In what ways do you relate to Beau?

 

BC: Beau has a real appreciation for the outdoors and is shaped by it, and I’d say that I was as well. The only other thing I could add to that would be in the story, like Beau, I made some bad choices in earlier years and I came to a point in my own life where I realized that I needed to make some changes. I reached a crossroads where I had some big decisions to make and one particularly very big decision that would affect the rest of my life. In those respects there are some similarities there.

 

AV: Did you base the characters in Rearview Sunset on anyone?

 

BC: Some yes, some no, some a combination. There are a handful of characters that just were created as I was going. There were a few characters as well that were influenced by people that have crossed my path over the years. One of the characters in particular that was completely fictitious was based on someone that I would like to grow into someday and he was also influenced by a character in a story that I really appreciated. So he worked his way in there. I had no idea that he would even be part of the story when I started writing it and that he would kind of steal the show. So it’s a combination.

 

AV: There is a story in the novel about a dead raccoon. Did this really happen? If not, how did you ever think of that?

 

BC: (Laughing), I can’t say yes or no to this question. All I can say is that most authors weave in some real life stories so there is a definite possibility that the raccoon story is real. I am not ready to divulge this one.

 

AV: Someone reviewed Rearview Sunset and said, “It’s the best book I’ve ever read.” – What was your reaction to hearing that?

 

BC: I did a double take when I heard that. I wasn’t really sure how to respond to that. I even double checked to make sure that he had said the right thing. He gave me the response and I thought, “Is this really what you meant to say?” and it was. It was humbling and thrilling and encouraging to hear that kind of feedback. Obviously it was my first novel, and to have anyone read your book and invest time in it, I think is an honor. There is no shortage of books out there so for someone to put their time into it and respond to it like that is a huge encouragement.

 

AV: You’re writing another novel. Could you share a little bit about it, without giving anything away?

 

BC: The next book I have coming out, if you look at my website, it’s not actually a novel, it’s more of a shorter non-fiction work. I have done some teaching up in Canada for a small youth group and I enjoyed the preparation so much and the teaching of it and I really bonded with the group, so there were some things that I really wanted to get in book form. I wrote a rough manuscript and got some good reviews on it. It’s being published right now and will be out in the next couple months. It takes a look at things in creation, and spiritual parallels you find in the Bible and how it affects our life. Like fire, wind, water, thunder and storms – all that kind of stuff that kind of stirs our senses. It is a shorter book – I wrote it hoping someone could sit down and read it over a few cups of coffee.

 

I also recently started brainstorming for a different novel. Hopefully it will be out in the next year or two. It would be a stand-alone book but it will also be an offshoot of Rearview Sunset. Taking one of the characters from the book and sharing the story of his kind of a romantic relationship.

 

Brett Champan currently lives in White Lake, WI, a small town in the North East part of the state. He is a substitute teacher and will be going through training to teach reading to elementary school aged children who are having difficulty learning. He is active with volunteer ministry. He has a passion for seeing people grow spiritually, and speaks for various youth and college age groups on occasion.

 

He will be in Door County on Saturday, October 16th. 2010 at Book World in Sister Bay from 1 – 3 pm.

 

Rearview Sunset is available on Amazon.com. More information about Brett and his upcoming projects can be found on his website, http://www.rearviewsunset.com.

 

Amanda Veldboom lives in Seymour, WI with her husband and 18-month-old daughter. She graduated from UWGB in 2008 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature with a Women’s Studies minor