Featured Authors Talk About It
ATAI: Tell us a little about you.
Brett: I am your average guy! I love sports and working in my yard. I love to learn and pass on knowledge, which is why I work with children of all ages as a teacher and mentor. In particular, I work with our troubled youth and those with disabilities. When I’m not working, I volunteer my time working with children in the foster care system as a Guardian Ad Litem and at my church.
First and foremost though, my family comes first. I have a teenage son, 2 dogs, and a cat. I live in a small town out in the country and we live a quiet life. The town I live in now is much like the one I grew up in as a child and I love the fact that everyone knows everyone else.
My life has been filled with many ups and downs and I will admit that I have made some bad choices in life, but I don’t believe in regrets. I have learned from every experience and I know that God has blessed me. He has not only seen me through every trial and allowed me to grow from them, he has given me the ability to teach and write. I don’t take it lightly. I try to use the gifts He has given me every day. I try to live an honest and giving life. I believe in paying it forward and writing from my heart. I try to keep my writing like my life, completely honest.
ATAI: How long have you been writing?
Brett: I first started writing in the first grade. I’m sure that sounds a little crazy, but I actually tried to write a sequel to “Space Balls”. It ended up being more of a short story. I continued to write, but it wasn’t until middle school that I really got going, which was around 1990. This is when I really started to use my voice and began to use poetry as my outlet. I started my novel, “Voyage of the Soul”, in my junior year of high school. Throughout high school I participated in many state and local poetry contests. Writing took a backseat for a while, but I never truly walked away from it. Over the past few years I have been dedicating more time to it and making it a priority. So I guess to answer the question, I have been writing for as long as I can remember.
ATAI: What was your most recent release?
Brett: I released Voyage of the Soul and So, You Said You Wanted to Get to Know Me at about the same time. Voyage of the Soul is a novel based around the Revolutionary War time period. So, You Said You Wanted to Get to Know Me is a compilation of poetry.
ATAI: What do you love most about writing?
Brett: I love the freedom of writing. Writing theoretically has structure and rules, but I look at those as guidelines. Through writing I am able to express all of my thoughts and questions, even those that you can’t just open up about on a daily basis. I love the fact that I can share with everyone what I see and feel, along with all that I hear and perceive. I think writing gives others an access to one’s brain that is not normally easily conveyed or expressed. This is why I write from my heart and my soul. I enjoy the fact that I leave a piece of myself on every piece of paper. It is honest and pure. We live in a world that is full of correctness and limitations. Writing allows me to be free to be me.
ATAI: What do you find most challenging?
Brett: With the way my mind works, I can honestly say that I have never experienced writer’s block. I’m sure that is probably the most popular answer! Honestly for me, time is the most challenging. Between work, family, and church, I have to squeeze in time to write. Most of the time, it is late at night or when I get a five minute break. My phone has become my best friend, because I am constantly using it to jot down notes, work through ideas, or to write down a poem that popped into my head. Of course I can’t complete my stories or other longer works this way, so this is where making time to actually sit down with my laptop is crucial.
ATAI: Where do your ideas come from?
Brett: My ideas come from life. I have lived in numerous places in the country and have done extensive traveling all across it. In each place I have gone, I have tried to learn the culture and the people. I have spent most of my life working in the customer service field or as a teacher, so I have come across and talked with all sorts of people and their children. I also love to get the most out of life, so I will try just about anything. Between all of that and listening to others, a solid foundation of what happens in life and how people respond to it has been created. When I mix that with my own life experiences, which have been as low as a person can get to as high as possible, I believe that I can see life for what it is and express it to people in a way that is real. It doesn’t matter if it is about love, religion, or politics. So basically, everything is an idea, which I let my mind roll around until I figure out where I want to go with it, and then I let my heart tell the story.
ATAI: What is your writing process?
Brett: I really can’t say that I have a set process. I am most comfortable, when I just simply write. I tend not to have an agenda or set schedule for anything. I know some people like to use outlines, but I have found that using them actually hinders my thoughts. So if I am working on a long piece, then I will have notes and nothing else. The notes simply help me to make sure that I don’t miss a detail somewhere along the way. I will have normally worked out the whole story line in my head before I ever start to write. This will include names and basic information that I want to include about the main characters. Then once I start writing, I let my thoughts go where they may and I simply write. I will usually let it then sit for a little while, before I will look it back over. I try to keep my editing to a minimum, because I don’t want to change the context or meaning behind what I wrote, just because my mood may be different at the time I look it back over. I will add to it though. Mainly I look for structural issues, grammar, and holes in the story or characters. When I am writing poetry or short stories, they normally start with a word or a phrase. I will then simply write it down and let the words flow. I look at structure less with these and primarily just look at grammar and spelling. This is especially true with my poetry. I like to keep it raw.
I will normally let others read my works, just to get a feel for their thoughts. I really don’t look for ideas about what I wrote, but I appreciate having another set of eyes to look for any errors I missed. I like to have others ask questions about my writing, because it actually helps me to take my characters further and to deepen the story. While we are conversing about the piece at hand, I will be working through my answers and be thinking about ideas I can add or if need be take out. The reason I prefer to have someone ask me questions and not state their thoughts, is because I want my works to be true to me and not influenced by outside sources.
So as you can see, I will admit that I am not a structured writer. I am most comfortable when I am writing free and keeping my thoughts free from outside influence.
ATAI: Do your characters (or message) ever seem to have a life of their own or an agenda of their own?
Brett: I try to write about life and all that it entails. I try to create characters that are not only relatable, but also believable. Because of this, they will at times have a life of their own and have their own agendas. This is also why I write the way I do, when it comes to process. I try to write as the character as much as possible and I put myself in their mind. I attempt to have them react honestly to their surroundings and circumstances. So I head into it with an idea, but as I’m writing I will let the character take me and the story where they will. I think by doing this, the characters become real.
I have had messages go to places I haven’t expected. I think this is the beauty of doing my best to shut off my mind and simply letting my heart and soul do the writing. It is also why I try not to write when I am in a dark place mentally. I fill in details, after I have let the story play out. Because of this, there are times that I look at the end product and find it interesting how simply a word or thought led to it.
ATAI: What’s your favorite part of your book (or one of your books)?
Brett: I cannot put my finger on any one part of Voyage of the Soul that stands out as my favorite part. Within the book, we watch as people evolve and come to realizations about themselves that they may have never expected. This is what I enjoy about it. The book touches on topics that transverse time and are just as relatable today as they were 300 years ago. That in itself is my favorite part. It is getting to know these people and how they become who they want to be, while they face all that life throws at them.
ATAI: What are you working on next?
Brett: I enjoy writing in different genres. Because of this, I have multiple pieces going at the same time. I have another novel in the works, which is centered around the Vietnam War era. There is a second poetry compilation that is almost complete. I have been working on a collection of short stories. Most of my time though, has been put into a Devotional. It is not your normal Devotional though. It consists of my story, along with the stories of others, poetry, and a selection of passages that have helped others get through life.
ATAI: Where can people find you online?
Brett: This is something that I have been trying to really build. People can find me on most social media sites and many writing or readers sites. For all of them, I either go by Brett A. Reif or reifba. The sites include Goodreads, Amazon, Allpoetry, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, Instragram, and Facebook. Readers can also visit my website. Here are just a few:
Twitter – @brettareif
Instagram – @brettareif
ATAI: Thank you for sharing with us and our audience.
Brett: I want to say thank you for this opportunity! I appreciate all of the readers out there and the feedback that they have given me. I love to write and I hope that I am able to reach all of you on some level. Nothing in life is guaranteed and I am here just trying to live life to the fullest. I am glad to have all of you with me on the journey.
*NOTE: ATAI does not edit the responses of the authors.
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