1) What were your favorite children books, when you were growing up?
I read practically every Nancy Drew there was, plus Harriet the Spy, The Little White Horse, and I gobbled up all of Phyllis Whitney’s mysteries, A Wrinkle in Time, etc. I could go on, but I won’t. Basically, I read a book a day all during elementary school.Maybe that’s why I love writing for the middle-grade audience.
2) What was the inspiration behind writing your book?
Several things! The magical, mysterious world of butterflies . . . spooky Louisiana swamps, old plantation houses, islands in the South Pacific . . . and a girl who is connected to all those things through her Grammy Claire.
I love mysteries; too, as you can tell from my childhood favorite books, and I wanted to try my hand at writing an actual mystery that didn’t have ghosts or paranormal elements. Just a girl with a brain and secret letters and keys in a mysterious house, trying to help her grandmother who died in an untimely way and who slowly gives her secrets from beyond the grave to figure out the people who are trying to destroy the seunusual butterflies.
It was also very rewarding to write about a very smart and very cool grandmother because I never knew my own grandmothers,(and I hope I can be a very cool grandma too someday!).
3) How many Drafts and rejections did you have before your book was published?
Since this isn’t my first book and it was already under contract to Scholastic through a proposal I sent to my editor, I didn’t have any rejections—but I racked up hundreds in the year’s previous to selling my first book. And, after my first three books were orphaned, and before I landed a three-book contract with Scholastic, I had a period of 8 years where I was writing like crazy, but not selling anything.Rejections come with the territory of publishing. Now I do about 3-5 drafts of a new book, and two more with my editor and one with the copy editor so each book goes through a lot of hand and eyes.
4) Why Butterflies?
Butterflies are inherently mysterious. They start out as a little tiny egg on a leaf, turn into a creepy-crawling green caterpillar, then become a white chrysalis or cocoon –and finally, almost like magic, this gorgeous, colorful creature hatches from a white blob and can FLY! And they look like dancing flowers.
Some of the most fun I had writing this novel was researching the butterfly quotes at the beginning of each chapter and putting them in a spot where they reflected what happened in a particular chapter. But two of the quotes do not come from *famous* or well known scientists or movies. One is from my daughter and the other is from Tara’s Grammy Claire herself.
5) What can "When the Butterflies Came" teach our children?
I write a lot about families with secrets; families who are going through tough times and upheavals and changes—and show how that affects my 11-12 year old main characters. The heart of every story is the knowledge that families are important and they love each other in the end. They can be crazy sometimes, but their core belief is that they work together despite difficult and heart-wrenching events. They stand up for each other, pull together, and can come through hard times stronger than ever.
6) Can you see your book on the Big Screen?
Not yet - and movie rights are still available! I’m hoping Hollywood—or even some small director—will hear my secret wish, or discover my book when his child brings it home from the library or the Scholastic Book Fair. . . a director that has always loved butterflies and falls in love with my book. I can always dream, right?
7) What future book plans do you have?
I just turned in my fourth manuscript to my editor at Scholastic for publication summer of 2014. She’s reading it now while I wait chewing my fingernails that she will like it and I won’t have to shred it and start all over (that’s actually happened to me before so I know first-hand how crazy-making it can be). This new book is middle-grade as well and has time slipping and a cursed doll and a girl who lives in an antique store.
Fall of 2014 will be my Young Adult debut with Harpercollins for a book I’ve been researching and writing for nearly ten years so I’m pretty thrilled about finally selling it. It’s an ancient Middle Eastern story about the roots of belly dance in the women’s world, including goddess temples, tribal warfare, camels, and frankincense.
Thank you so much, David, for a great interview and featuring me on your blog!Here are a few links for your readers:
(I have some awesome book trailers on my website on the Home Page with on location filming in the swamps as well as original music by some friends of mine. Scholastic liked the one for The Healing Spell so well; they commissioned the music to put on their website.)
And I’m very active on Facebook so come findme!