If if isn’t personal what the heck is it?
Author Interviews That Rock
THE BUTTERFLIES CAME
Here’s to Kimberley’s brand new, beautiful, bayou book! Keep on rocking, girl!
Click the pics for awesome Kimberley links!
Okay, Kimberley, tell the readers a little bit about your book.
My darling editor wrote this for the jacket flap, Goodreads and Amazon, and I think it’s terrific:
“Everybody thinks Tara Doucet has the perfect life. But Tara’s life is anything but perfect: Her dear Grammy Claire has just passed away, her mom is depressed and distant, and she and her sister, Riley, can’t agree on anything. But when mysterious and dazzling butterflies begin to follow her around after Grammy Claire’s funeral, Tara knows in her heart that her grandmother has left her one final mystery to solve. Tara finds a stack of keys and detailed letters from Grammy Claire. Note by note, Tara learns unexpected truths about her grandmother’s life. As the letters grow more ominous and the clues harder to decipher, Tara realizes that the secrets she must uncover could lead to grave danger. And when Tara and Riley are swept away to the beautiful islands of Chuuk to hear their grandmother’s will, Tara discovers the most shocking truth of all, one that will change her life forever.
Just to get us started, how old are you?
You can’t trick me into revealing secret, coded information! *wagging my finger* Let’s just say that I’m a few years older than most people think I am . . . which is niiice. I credit Mary Kay skin care products all the way.
What inspired you to write WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME?
I/We have a cultural fascination with butterflies. I think that’s because butterflies are beautiful and extraordinary creatures. Butterflies have this magical ability to “sleep/die” when a caterpillar becomes a chrysalis and then “resurrect” into a flying flower. I also wanted to know more about my character Tara Doucet from my book Circle of Secrets. She’s a modern day Scarlett O’Hara whose family still lives in their crumbling Doucet Mansion in the South along the bayou—and who hasn’t dreamed of being Scarlett! But she’s Scarlett with a touch of OCD and a bratty older sister—and a grandmother who’s a research scientist on an island in Micronesia.
Do you have a special affinity for the bayou and its rich culture?
I’ve been visiting the bayous of Louisiana for nearly 15 years. I love the people there as well as venturing into the wild and otherworldly swamp with the local fisherman. The people have such a fascinating history, too. Combine my love of history and the setting which spoke to me so powerfully from the very first visit, I’m now an adopted daughter of Miss Olive and Mister Elward Stephens, the most darling elderly couple outside of Morgan City. It was during my very first boat trip in the swamps, that I instantly began picturing Livie Mouton, a girl who grew up there with her own pirogue and baby alligator. I worked on that book for 8 years, a labor of love, until it finally sold to Scholastic in a huge MG deal. And even then, I never dreamed I’d end up writing three more novels about the swamps. It all happened quite accidently by my Muse.
How did you get into Cajun magic?
There was a tiny mention of traiteurs (French Cajun healers) in a history of Louisiana written by a professor at the University of Louisiana. It wasn’t more than a couple of sentences about healers who used herbal medicine back in the 1600-1700s—along with prayer to heal folks. As a person of strong faith, it fascinated me. I spent months/years digging and digging to find out more. Turns out it’s not a lost art confined to that time period when there weren’t doctors and hospitals out in the wilds, but still a living breathing skill used by many trained traiteurs today. I got to meet several of them in their homes as well as meet dozens of people who have been healed by them—people I’d talk to at hotels or museums or gas stations. It seemed that everybody knew a traiteur in the local neighborhood, or was related to one.
You often write about the love between mothers and daughters, why is that topic close to your heart?
Mother, daughter relationships are difficult to explain, difficult to quantify and they are usually complicated. But full of unconditional love, too. We want our mothers to know us and love us and understand us, but we also don’t want them reading our locked and hidden diary!
What about the theme of childhood guilt and its consequences calls to you?
All good books and stories are about change of some kind for the characters. Guilt can be a powerful motivator for ill—or good. It can also be a great catalyst for change in our lives. We all feel guilty about the mistakes or trespasses we’ve made, whether we’re children or adults, and yet we also desperately need to know that we’re still valued and that we’re loved. I believe it’s a universal theme for every age and every person. Forgiveness of one’s self and forgiveness of others is crucial for self-worth and peace and good relationships, and often is the hardest thing we ever have to do.
Do you have a favorite butterfly item, token, belonging?
Oh, my, I have lots. Butterfly blouses, necklaces, candles, charms . . . Here’s a picture!
How do you get into your characters heads?
I spend a LOT of time thinking about them. I try to get to know them from many different angles; their personality quirks, habits, their relationships with friends and family, their secrets, their motivations, and their problems, big and small. Many writers find it helpful to write diary entries or letters in their character’s voice—I’ve done that, too!—which helps the author get to know them better. It takes time to create a fully rounded character that feels like a real person. For me, it’s THE hardest writing skill and one I’ve spend years learning and honing.
What is most special about your protagonist in WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME?
Tara Doucet’s life is falling apart in so many ways, a life her mother has carefully crafted so nobody knows the family’s “dirty laundry”. And yet, Tara (a modern day Scarlett O’Hara) is stronger than she realizes. Her Grammy Claire is also a strong force in Tara’s life. Grammy Claire loves Tara unconditionally, she’s a smart research scientist, and she has a great sense of humor and vivacity for life. These characteristics have a great impact on Tara and she learns that she is stronger and tougher than she ever knew she could be as a pampered Southern plantation girl.
What made you want to write in the first place?
Great books were a powerful influence on me as a child. They often substituted as my “best friends” and instilled the dream from an early age.
What keeps you writing?
I have good writing days and bad ones and some days I don’t write at all because I’m lazy and the work can be daunting and hard, especially revision. Usually, it’s my characters clamoring for my attention, pushing me to write and bring them to life that keeps me going.
What is the best piece of writing advice you wish you were given?
Writing a LOT (thousands of pages) is the best factor in becoming a better writer. That 10,000 hour rule? Um, it really seems to be the main factor in seeing success. Some writers cram their 10,000 hours into 3-4 years while other writers take 10 years or more. I fall into the latter category, endlessly revising the same manuscripts at the beginning of my writing (self-taught education) – long before I knew other writers or the internet existed. I just wish I’d heard this advice or realized this fact twenty years ago! It would have saved me lots of frustration and head-banging sessions.
How do you discipline yourself to keep at the writing?
Deadlines are strong motivators, ha! It’s true, but most of the time the disciplines come because I’m eager to see my imagined world and characters come to life on the page.
When did you decide, this is what I really want to do? I want to be a writer! Was there a particular ah-ha moment?
When I was a child. Books were so magical and powerful to me, I wanted to try to create that same magic one day. I also wanted to see my name in the card catalog at the library!
What is the most important thing for a writer to remember?
We’re all born with talent and ability to write, but spend time learning the craft of a publishable novel. There’s so many elements that need to come together to make it work. Don’t be in a rush to get published, it can only make you frustrated. Find a mentor to help you, go to conferences, take classes—and write a LOT. Write a book, do your best work, then write the next book, and then the next. I would say 95% of published novelists out there did not sell their first book, but their 3rd or their 4th. It’s like going to medical school. It takes time to learn to write a publishable book. Never stop learning and trying to improve. And, I guess, the *most* important thing is to enjoy the journey.
If you were to mentor other writers what wisdom would you find most helpful.
I think I may have answered this above. Writers today are very blessed with such a terrific online community of writers and agents and editors who are so accessible to help you along the way. Go find them (Google is your BF) and make friends and have fun. And be flexible. Many writers have to reinvent themselves at various times in their careers—even the bestselling writers! This “dirty little secret” is not talked about much and when I went through a terrible 7 year slump when I couldn’t seem to sell any of my novels (even though I was selling short stories to Cricket magazine) I was so alone and discouraged. Then I discovered other writers in various writing groups that had gone through the exact same *famine*. Every career has lots of ups and downs. Keep going despite all that, if you really want to write.
Do you belong to any cool writerly groups on or off line?
I used to belong to an online critique group and I’ve had live critique groups. Most come and go, depending on the other writer’s in the group commitment, but my one constant writer friend Carolee Dean and I have been critiquing and mentoring each other and giving each other encouragement for more than 10 years now—through many ups and downs. Barbara O’Connor, an extraordinary MG writer from Boston, is also a LONG time “pen- pal”. We’ve been corresponding regularly for 15 years and have never actually met in person. I helped launch the huge MG website “From the Mixed-Up Files . . . of Middle-Grade Authors” and I co-founded SPELLBINDERS, a weekly email newsletter geared to teachers/librarians/parents/homeschoolers. I also hang out a lot on Facebook!
Just for kicks… What are some of your favorite TV shows, movies?
I confess I have a guilty pleasure for HART OF DIXIE. It’s the only TV show I’ve watched in years. But my daughter has been dragging me onto the couch to watch ONCE UPON A TIME the last couple of months. Fun stuff!
If you could be a character from a book who would you be?
Maria Merryweather from Little White Horse because I *covet* her very cool bedroom. (Another favorite from childhood.) or Elizabeth Bennet from Pride &Prejudice because I think I’m just as in love with the Pemberly Estate as I am Mr. Darcy. I definitely have a *thing* for mansion houses, ever since I was very small.
As a child what was your favorite book?
HARRIET THE SPY – and it’s a true fact that my BFF Starr and I got notebooks and ran around spying on people and writing things down. I’m not sure we fooled anybody though.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer or a librarian. I NEEDED to be near books 24/7.
If your protagonist could give one piece of advice to your readers, what would it be?
Follow the butterflies . . . and your heart.
Is there a special Cajun spell you’d like to share with us?
Those are well-guarded secrets, actually. Information about the prayers (in old French, mind you) and herbal remedies are passed from one traiteur to another. So, since we don’t have that, I suggest using some essential oils, say a prayer or meditate, and you’ll feel a whole lot better – whatever ails you!
Other than writing, what do you like to do for fun? Hobbies?
I adore baking all kinds of goodies. Brownies, cookies, cinnamon rolls, pies, cakes. And I can eat them all day long. Used to be able to get away with it in my 20s – not anymore! I’m also a pianist and a belly-dancer. I love research trips and recently returned from Jordan and Israel, research for my upcoming YA trilogy which will debut from Harpercollins Fall of 2014, a delicious story about belly dance, the goddess Temple of Ashtoreth and tribal warfare in the ancient Middle East. (No firm title yet).
Any closing words of wisdom for other author-wannabees out there?
Read what you love. Write what you love. Share the love. And treasure your supportive writing friends.
And there you have it! Personal and Real with Kimberley Griffiths Little!
“Thank you so much for this terrific interview, Pam, and to Ink & Angst for having me!” Any time Kimberley