LJS: What was the inspiration for Avians? Was it a concept, an action, place or person, or something quite other?
TG: I wanted to take aviation in a greener direction. I asked the question, “What would aviation look like on a world that burned no fossil fuels?” Gliders and solar-powered airships were the core elements of the story, and everything else flowed from that.
LJS: From that point of inspiration, how did the story unfold for you? Was it straight-forward, an easy linear projection, or were there digressions which occurred, characters who, or places which, became more integral to the story than anticipated?
TG: I actually wrote one of the middle scenes first, then created other action-filled vignettes fanning out from it. It was some time before I realized that I was writing a novel, but a framework began to emerge and the story took on a life of its own. Corby began as a minor character, but I found myself developing her point of view to give an adult perspective. She grew in my heart when I realized what a challenge it would be to command and care for squads of teenage pilots.
LJS: You are a pilot in real life, and you’re writing about flight in this story. Was it a conscious decision to write about flight, and if so, why?
TG: Too easy! I love flying. It offers beauty and serenity on good days, and challenges, risks, and even danger on bad ones. How could I not write about that?
LJS: From all the age demographics you could have chosen, why write for YA?
TG: The stereotypical pilot is a mature white male like me. I want to shatter that mold. Also, I have a passion for the underdog, which is why my young flyers come from unsupportive backgrounds. They are so powerless, until they start to strive. Then their strength of character begins to pull them through. I confess that I harbour a secret hope that one day a young reader will put down Avians, turn to her parents and say, “Forget the pony. I want a pilot’s licence!”
LJS: What was your aim with this story? Was there a conscious decision to share a message or thought, to explore a theme, or simply the desire to create an engaging, readable tale?
TG: I definitely set out to tell a simple tale of adventure, but a strange thing happened when I gave males and females equal treatment in reckoning family lineage. I had to wrestle with all sorts of social norms that radiated from that idea, and it became apparent that even when a society is utopian, there will be individuals who rebel against their role. And rise above.
LJS: Because Five Rivers is very much a Canadian publisher, showcasing Canadian themes and talents, would you say Avians is particularly Canadian in philosophy or outlook, and why or why not?
TG: It certainly isn’t Canadian in setting, but all of the characters have names that reflect a very multicultural background as well as the gender equality I mentioned above. I think it takes Canadian confidence to paint that society as a peaceful and harmonious one.
LJS: How many iterations did Avians go through before you felt you’d come up with a story you could market to a publisher?
TG: There were countless revisions. The initial fragmentary vignettes are lost, but whatever they comprised, it wasn’t a novel. The first version to have a beginning a middle and an end was called Skytraders. It didn’t really have a theme. A more polished version went under the working title of Flying Fish, but it still lacked cohesion and suffered from a stiff voice. At the end of that cycle, I took it to a freelance editor, Samantha Beiko, and changed the name to Avians of Celadon. She helped me clean up the writing, and I began to believe it was marketable. That’s when I began pitching it to publishers.
LJS: You’ve chosen a female protagonist for this story, the very independent and capable character of Raisa. Did the current social climate advocating feminism and representation influence your decision to write a very female perspective?
TG: No. My own upbringing was very feminist for its day, and the pro-female slant of this book is mine. I wanted to write a story with girls who face danger head on and don’t hope or need to be rescued by a man. I feel very glad that society has caught up.
LJS: What’s next for Timothy Gwyn? A sequel, another novel?
TG: Raisa will ride again. No good deed goes unpunished, and her powerful new friends demand that she go undercover to see what’s behind a wave of banditry that threatens to tear her society apart. It’s Joan of Arc versus Ghengis Khan. With parachutes.
Avians releases August 1, 2017 in both trade paperback and eBook, and is available directly through Five Rivers, and your favourite online bookseller worldwide.