I am so excited today because I get to reveal the trailer for Kimberley Griffiths Little’s WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME, plus I have an interview AND a giveaway!
I met Kimberley right here on my blog through Marvelous Middle Grade Monday. Her comment on one of my posts inspired me to read CIRCLE OF SECRETS, and we’ve corresponded a number of times since. She’s just lovely. Without further ado, here’s the trailer:
Instead of my normal review, I’ve combined the five things I loved best with a Q&A with Kimberley. Details on the giveaway are at the bottom of the post.
1. I love that you took the “mean girl” from CIRCLE OF SECRETS and told us her story. What made you decide Tara needed her own book?
I never planned to do a book about Tara and when I found myself daydreaming about her one day, it really took me by surprise. I wanted to know more about this 7th generation *Pantene Princess* of the Doucet family who lives in an old plantation house in the South.
A curious picture began to emerge—the most popular girl at school with silky waterfall hair was actually living in a crumbling mansion house (the trust fund is gone and they’re trying to “keep up appearances”) with a bratty older sister—and she’s got a touch of OCD. The rug fringe in the fading front hall must be perfectly laid! I loved getting to know her as well as giving her a chance to redeem herself, too.
And, I mean, who doesn’t dream of being a modern-day Scarlett O’Hara!
2. The butterflies are so fascinating. Do you have a background in this area of study, or did you research butterflies for the book?
One of the great things about being a writer is the research – I love it. Everyone loves butterflies, they’re mysterious and beautiful. I did a search for the word “butterfly” in languages around the world and adored the word for butterfly in Chuukese—nipwisipwis—I knew the story had to be set on an island in Micronesia. I live in the desert of the Southwest and miss the ocean of California where I grew up. It was great fun to set half of the book on the island, and include an underground, spooky grotto as part of the plot. (Think a touch of The Count of Monte Cristo).
Luckily, I found a few people that had lived on the Island of Chuuk and I was able to interview them and see their pictures and ask lots of questions. Plus I watched a lot of Youtube videos set on Chuuk. The island has a very intriguing history from WWII. Dozens of Japanese ships were sunk in the last year of the war and now lie off the coastline in their watery graves. People from around the world travel there to scuba dive and explore the ships. You can still see Japanese tea sets sitting on the tables!
I stumbled across some tree house hotels when I was researching the islands. Here’s a few pictures!
This isn’t on Chuuk itself but an island right next door. I don’t believe it is a common practice to have tree houses, but I wouldn’t be surprised if hidden away in spots around the hundreds of islands that make up Micronesia, that there aren’t some tree houses hidden away we don’t even know about. Immediately, I thought, “How awesome would it be to make Grammy Claire’s house and laboratory a tree-house?”
Secret: As a child I loved exploring the giant tree-house for The Swiss Family Robinson at Disneyland. (My parents were Disneyland nuts and we went often drove down from northern California.) I loved to daydream that I lived in that tree-house and imagined what life would be like if that was really my very own house.
4. The mystery is so well done. What tips do you have for writing an effective mystery?
Thank you! This is quite a compliment because even though I ADORED mysteries growing up (Nancy Drew, The Westing Game, Phyllis Whitney, Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, etc) I could never seem to write one of my own.
True Story: When I first began writing I did what newbies often do: I tried to copy one of my favorite writers, and the one I chose was a la THE WESTING GAME because I was so inspired by that book. But my draft was such an obvious copy – although good writing practice! – that I never did much with it. One agent expressed interest and told me that it reminded her of THE WESTING GAME – ha, ha! but it didn’t go anywhere.
I wrote a ghost story (CIRCLE OF SECRETS) but a true mystery is difficult. The mystery part of WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME grew organically from Grammy Claire’s research and her character and realization that she needed to let her granddaughters know that her life might be in danger because of her butterfly research. I also have a *thing* for secret letters and old-fashioned keys so it was easy to incorporate those coming from Tara’s very dynamic Grammy Claire. I never set out on purpose to write a mystery and it wasn’t even until we were finished with copy edits that I realized the book was actually a bit of a mystery. And I thought, “Cool!” I had come at it through a back door, by accident. If I set out purposely I’m not sure it would have worked. I’ve recently learned that Scholastic has nominated it to be considered for the 2013 Edgar Award, for which I’m thrilled. Yay! Congrats!
5. The relationships in the story are so real. What do you hope writers learn from your characters?
This gives my heart a very happy tug, Michelle. I SUFFERED through YEARS struggling to develop my characters in all the many practice manuscripts (of which there are an embarrassing number tucked away in drawers and filing cabinets all over the house; dusty, yellowing after two decades). Setting usually comes fairly easily to me and I love unique houses and terrains. Plot points I can figure out eventually—albeit with lots of brainstorming—but CHARACTERS! Oh, my. It is really hard work.
So can you see how I’m stalling here . . . ? LOL.
Writing good characters with depth really comes down to practice, practice, practice. I spend a LOT of time thinking about my characters from many different angles before I even begin to write. I think about their relationships, their motivations, their quirks, their personality, their past. ALL those elements must tie into the PLOT somehow; the MC’s problems, goals, desires—and what is going to happen during the story; that story ARC where, over the course of the story, they grow and change in some way; they’ve learned something very important about themselves or others. They cannot be the same person they were on page 1 when you write The End. Character and plot are very much interwoven and one springs from the other. I think about and plan and discover both character and plot simultaneously when I start daydreaming a new book.
My other piece of advice is to study the best MG and YA books. Pay attention to how the author develops their main character. Dissect a scene. Pick out the lines that *show* character (not tell!) and also the lines where character and plot intersect.
No matter what your writing weakness is, whether it’s characterization, plotting, setting, dialogue, hooks, pacing or voice, it can be learned. You can get better at it.
I love this tidbit from the Writers in the Storm blog, and a post by Jane Porter:
“We have to stop thinking in terms of what we can’t do, but of what we can.”
We can learn. We can grow. We can improve. We can master new skills. We can be great. We can be brilliant. We can sell. We can be bestsellers.
Thank you so much, Kimberley!
I strongly urge you to go pick up Kimberley’s books. Here’s where you can find her online:http://www.kimberleygriffithslittle.com/ http://www.kimberleygriffithslittle.blogspot.com/ Twitter: @KimberleyGLittl Facebook. CIRCLE OF SECRETS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiTQhFXi0uo THE HEALING SPELL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5k4VaODgUuA
Kimberley is giving away a signed hardcover of WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME. North America only, please. To enter, just leave a comment here by Sunday, June 9, at noon. I’ll announce the winner on next week’s MMGM post. Good luck!