I have an absolute treat for you today TTWers for we have an author-shaped guest to the blog! As you know, 2015 has been heralded (by me!) as the year of the debut novel and so I am delighted to introduce first-time author Sara Litchfield. I have known Sara for many a year as I was at school with her younger sister but fate and the love of books has realigned our stars once more and I was lucky enough to read and review her debut novel The Night Butterflies earlier this week. To get hold of a copy of this fabulous book, click here.
Now before we get down to the nitty gritty q&a, here’s a little introduction to the wonder that is author Sara Litchfield:
Sara is a summer writer excited to throw her fiction at the world and see where it sticks. She blogs on happiness and hope at www.rightinkonthewall.com, which is also home to her editing business and publishing division, RIW Press – all aim to make the right mark on the wall of the world.
Born in the English midlands, Sara earned a Masters in Theology at the University of Cambridge before becoming a reluctant big-four accountant in London. She is now recovering in the southern hemisphere where she devotes herself to all things words and wonderful from her base in Middle Earth (sometimes known as New Zealand).
Now, let’s go Through the Wardrobe with author of The Night Butterflies Sara Litchfield!
I have always known you as the amazingly talented older sister of my best friend at school but now I know you as an amazingly talented writer as well! Congratulations on your debut novel! How does it feel to be a published fiction writer?!
Thank you! It feels wonderful, but in a very surreal way. I still can’t quite believe that there’s a book out there in the world with my name on it. It was a dream for so long.
I know you’ve been published in academic circles but how different was writing The Night Butterflies? How did you start your journey into fiction?
My world was stories when I was growing up; I was always either reading them or scribbling down my own. But I didn’t write creatively for several years while I was at university and then working in the city. It was after I’d left London and spent a year travelling the world as a free spirit that I rediscovered the yearning and joined a writing group in New Zealand, where I’d made my home. Writing fiction again felt like finding an old friend, very different to the research-intensive writing I did academically, where my work was still heart-felt but in a much more formal context. It was beginning blogging, attending a digital writers’ conference (WANACon) and thence getting involved in National Novel Writing Month that put me on the path to writing novel-length fiction for the first time.
Did you choose to write a dystopian novel or did it just develop to fit that style/genre during the writing process?
Writing a dystopian was perhaps a choice made for me in advance. After immersing myself in utopian hopes and dreams while writing my dissertation at university, which was on the subject of whether human fulfilment is possible, the themes of hope and horror stayed with me strongly, influencing my fiction along with my life.
Were you ever worried about writing within the dystopian genre, something so popular within YA fiction? What makes your story stand above the dystopian parapet do you think?
I knew I was adding my mite to a saturated space, but it was the book that was in me and I felt I had something to contribute, so I tried not to worry about the awe-inspiring company I’d be keeping and whether people might think it was surplus. If my story stands out, I hope it’s in the experiences of a unique set of characters each undergoing their own awakening in this of all possible worlds.
I’ve said in my review that there is a strong lyrical feel throughout the turns of phrase within your novel, one of the most affecting being the title. How and why did you choose to name your debut novel The Night Butterflies?
The moths made their way into my story one night when they were tapping at my window, trying to reach the light while I was trying to write, the distraction becoming my inspiration. Their nickname, night butterflies, is a phrase that has stayed with me ever since I heard it used in simple and immediate explanation of the creature to a French-Canadian who asked for a definition. It was something that loitered, dark, brooding and beautiful, waiting to become the title when the themes of change and evolution emerged in the book.
The opening line is also incredibly powerful – ‘I remember the day they burned the babies’. Was it difficult to find the right words to begin your story?
It actually wasn’t at all – the line came out at the very beginning and didn’t change. Once it was down, I felt like I was onto something and worked on weaving strands of hope out of the horror.
Most writers struggle to find one strong character voice but you developed five! Is there a voice you found particularly hard or easy to write?
Jimmy-1’s voice was the earliest to pop into my head but the hardest to write. I worried about his corrupted speech patterns becoming annoying and worked hard on the ungrammatical rules to hit a happy medium for the triplets’ dialect.
In the reading of the book you made it seem effortless, but how did you manage to keep track of each character in order to weave them into the main storyline?!
In the first draft, everyone’s passages were all over the place, as I didn’t write the story in chronological order. It took a lot of quality time with post-its creating time-lines in a matrix across the characters to get them talking in turn – I had a very colourful wall by the time I finished!
Who is your favourite character in The Night Butterflies and why?
My choice has to be Teacher. Her struggle, self-sacrifice and steady nature form an anchor amidst the radical change happening around her.
What are your future writing plans? Is there another novel in pipeline?
There is! I’m working on the first draft of a YA fantasy called The Luminosa. I’m in the process of figuring out if the story could form a trilogy, which should keep me busy for some time to come!
Favourite book? That’s so hard! I’ll go with one of the books in my cupboard with the most worn of pages and its own hunt for utopia – Watership Down by Richard Adams
Pen and pad or screen and keyboard? Pen and pad
Favourite author? At the moment, Anne Bishop – every world she creates is a wonder to experience
Ideal reading place? Snuggled up in bed at the end of the day – nothing left to do but read and sleep and dream
Book that made you want to write? To seriously narrow it down, my want to write must have started with the Beatrix Potter books that coloured my childhood, and perhaps it was cemented with Brian Jacques’ Redwall series – the first stories I wrote were all animal adventures
Favourite bookshop and why? The second-hand bookshop at Driving Creek Cafe on the Coromandel, because it’s perched in a garden in a remote and beautiful spot in New Zealand and is somewhere you can pick something up from an eclectic mix and sit and read for hours undisturbed
Book that you wish you had written? Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – it’s a masterpiece
And that’s all folks! Thank you so much Sara for your time and for your very enjoyable book The Night Butterflies!