My ninja agent friend Tracey Adams of Adams Literary, the world-class boutique literary agency exclusively representing children’s and young adult authors and artists, introduced me to Kimberley Griffiths Little a little over one year ago and she and I have been forging a friendship ever since. We originally bonded over yorkshire pudding, (I made some and posted about how I added bacon to the top) and then slowly discovered the similarities in our lives despite the fact we have never met face to face and she lives in New Mexico and I’m in North Carolina. Our husbands are both named Rusty, her son is Aaron my brother has the same name- spelled different, Arin. She generously read a draft or two of my book and gave me notes, mentoring me in the art of writing. Our friendship grew and we discovered more similarities- including a spooky one…my book, What Death has Touched, deals with a terrible car crash that kills a mother and her seventeen-year-old daughter on December 18th, Kimberley had a parallel real-life experience on December 19th when her father was killed in an airplane accident when she was a young teenager. I tell you, our friendship was meant to be.
And now after reading her newest release When the Butterflies Came, I see we have more in common. I have keys, all sorts of keys and I talk to butterflies. No doubt she and I were sisters in another life or parallel universe.
When the Butterflies Came weaves a mystery with clues left from grandma in letters and magical butterflies that take the reader from a crumbling mansion in New Orleans to the exotic island of Chuuk in the South Pacific.
I’m delighted to share this Kimberley Griffiths Little interview with you- and announce we are giving away an autographed copy of When the Butterflies Came to one lucky reader.
All you have to do is leave a comment about a butterfly or key in the comments section and I will randomly select a winner on April 18th, 2013.(I promise to be fair and use a program to select the winner :))
Q: Tell us how this idea of When the Butterflies Came came to you?
A. It all started one day when my mind kept turning to one of the minor character from my book Circle of Secrets (a bayou/swamp ghost story). I found myself wanting to know more about her. She’s a 7th generation *Pantene Princess* of the Doucet family who lives in an old plantation house in the South. I mean, who doesn’t want to be Scarlett O’Hara! As I started to think about her, a very curious picture began to emerge—not one I’d originally, on the surface, assumed. 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 front hall must be perfectly laid!
The person Tara is closest to, her Grammy Claire, is a research scientist studying some unusual butterflies in Micronesia. She’s even got a laboratory in a tree house. I also *love* the name for butterfly on the island of Chuuk: nipwisipwis – and with that word ideas for the story began to burst forth. Tara receives a set of mysterious letters and keys, which leads her on a dangerous journey as she discovers more and more about the butterflies. There are bad guys, too! Tara finds out she’s smarter and tougher than she ever thought, and, of course, the relationships of the characters is always a big component in my books as well as the magical realism.
Q: Did you always know you would tie the characters of Circle of Secrets to When the Butterflies Came?
A. Nope! I NEVER planned for any of my books after The Healing Spell to end up having connections with each other. Each book can be independently read and they are about completely different characters and stories (a ghost story, a mystery, and time travel), but its fun to create those little connections – because in a small town people *are* going to know each other!
Q: Do butterflies ever follow you? Only on sunny, happy days. Or maybe butterflies *create* sunny, happy days!
A. I think that’s exactly right. When you see butterflies, or even pictures of butterflies you automatically feel good! Butterflies are magical to us because they go through this incredible metamorphosis, changing from a green, slimy caterpillar into a peculiar chrysalis and then bursting out of their cocoon into a gorgeous colorful butterfly. Sort of like reincarnation or resurrection!
Q: What excerpt do you read when you visit a school?
A. Usually, I read the first chapter or part of the first chapter. I think it sets the tone of the book and the MC’s personality as well as setting up the mystery right away.
Q: How did you discover the island of Chuuk?
A. While I was researching butterflies, I did a search for butterfly in various languages around the world. I adored the word for butterfly in Chuukese and the rest is history. I live in the desert of the Southwest so I miss the ocean of California where I grew up and it was great fun to set half of the book on the island and the beach, using some underground, spooky grottos as part of the plot. 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. 🙂 It’s got a very intriguing history from the WWII era, too. 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 see the ships.
Q: Where can someone meet you? Are you currently on a book tour?
A. I’m not on a physical book tour, but I’m being featured on various book blogs over the next month. Go here to see an interview at Literary Rambles with LOTS of book writing advice: http://www.literaryrambles.com/2013/04/kimberley-griffiths-little-interview.html?
And the amazing story of Me and Richard Peck here: http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/me-and-richard-peck-yes-the-richard-peck-by-kimberley-griffiths-little/
I’m also presenting and critiquing at the Niagara Falls Writer’s Conference May 2-5. It’s a fantastic conference with an incredible line-up of bestselling authors like Ellen Hopkins and Sara Zarr and several agents and editors. There are still slots available, and it’s very affordable since the price includes hotel room and meals. Check it out here: http://niagararetreatandconference.com/the-faculty/
Q: Do you classify this book as MG or YA? How do you decide how old to make a character?
It’s MG and I adore MG books because they’re the kind of books that turn kids into life-long readers. It’s such an important and pivotal age for kids, but they still view the world as magical and wondrous and they love a good mystery and action story. I try to oblige that love. J
Q: Did you plot the story before ever writing a word?
A. Yes, I do. It’s not a super detailed outline, but after a few weeks or months of thinking about my characters and ideas I’ll finally get serious about putting it into something that makes sense instead of trying to keep track inside my random and often very scattered brain. I grab a stack of 3×5 cards to get the main plot points down on paper. 3×5 cards aren’t very intimidating, which is one reason I like them. Once I have 20-40 cards with scenes, snippet of ideas or plot points written on them, it’s helpful to shuffle the cards around on the floor or my dining room table, which helps me put things in order. You can *see* your whole book spread out in front of you. Doing that also shows me where I have holes or weaknesses so I just brainstorm and add more cards. I love this method and have used it for my last several books. I even did a video about 3×5 Card Plotting for WriteOnCon’s online conference last summer and they put it on Youtube.
Q: Have you ever thrown out a plot?
A. Of course! Some ideas come when I’m noodling around with a new book that end up just not working in the *big picture* of where the characters are taking me. The idea or plot doesn’t go anywhere significant, or it doesn’t make sense for that particular character or setting so it’s *tossed* – or saved and kept in a folder for a future book . . . 🙂
Q: What’s the most rewarding part of being a writer?
A. Fan Mail from kids. Some of it makes me weepy.
Q: What is the most frustrating thing about being a writer?
A. Revisions! I’m constantly trying to become a better writer and it’s frustrating when my words aren’t as good as what I want them to be.
Q: What can fans expect next?
A. I’ll have another middle-grade novel with Scholastic published Summer of 2014 (time-slipping and a cursed doll!) and then Fall of 2014 will be my YA DEBUT with Harpercollins. (We don’t have a firm title yet so I’ll stay mum on that). I’m excited, thrilled, and terrified all at once. It’s a project I’ve been researching and working on for ten years so to sell it to such a wonderful publisher is incredibly satisfying. The trilogy is about belly dance in the women’s world of the ancient Middle East, including the Goddess Temples of Ashtoreth, a forbidden romance and tribal warfare.
Thank you so much for having me, Holly! These were great questions and a lot of fun.
And I’m very active on Facebook.