Today’s guest Deidre Knight’s Butterfly Tattoo is the first book I’ve ever bought based on a review. I knew it would be good — Angela James edited it after all, and I’ve rarely been let down by one of her books But it was even better than I’d hoped. Butterfly Tattoo was one of those books that I started reading in the evening and couldn’t put down until I’d finished it in the wee small hours of the morning. (You may remember me mentioning it on my Favorite Reads of 2009 blog post.) Deidre managed to capture Michael’s grief so perfectly I often found myself rubbing my sternum to ease the ache that formed in empathy. The rubbing of my chest didn’t stop the tears from filling my eyes in many scenes either. (Did I mention I love a book that can make me cry?)
Michael Warner has been drifting in a numb haze since his lover was killed by a drunk driver. As the anniversary of the wreck approaches, Michael’s grief grows more suffocating. Yet he must find a way through the maze of pain and secrets to live for their troubled young daughter who struggles with guilt that she survived the crash.
Out of the darkness comes a voice, a lifeline he never expected to find—Rebecca O’Neill, a development executive in the studio where Michael works as an electrician.
Rebecca, a former sitcom celebrity left scarred from a crazed fan’s attack, has retreated from the limelight and from life in general, certain no man can ever get past her disfigurement. The instant sparks between her and Michael, who arrives to help her during a power outage, come as a complete surprise—and so does her uncanny bond with his daughter.
For the first time, all three feel compelled to examine their inner and outer scars in the light of love. But trust is hard to come by, especially when you’re not sure what to believe when you look in the mirror. The scars? Or the truth?
So when I saw that Butterfly Tattoo was coming out in print, I sucked up my courage and invited Deidre to be a guest on my blog because I really wanted to introduce you to this wonderful book. Yes, even though I have my own book out in print now, I’m still awestruck by my guests, and even more blown away when they say “Yes” and write something specifically for my blog. Asking Deidre to be my guest was no exception, in fact it was even more scary because in addition to being an author, Deidre owns her own literary agency. (Yikes! Talk about intimidating!)
So despite running her agency, running around attending conferences, caring for her author clients, writing her own books AND caring for her family, I’m thrilled (and honored) that she took the time out of her schedule to answer my questions. Oh, and authors? You need to read the story of how Deidre sold Butterfly Tattoo — it’ll remind you of all those times you’ve hit your forehead against your desk…eh, I’ll let Deidre tell the story…
Leah: There are two references to butterflies in Butterfly Tattoo – the butterfly knife her stalker used that left Rebecca scared both inside and out, and Michael’s tattoo – that he describes as a ‘pure, perfect reminder’ of Alex’s love. Did you deliberately set out to write that juxtaposition or was it something that you only realized it when looking back on your finished manuscript?
Deidre: Yes, that was absolutely deliberate. I couldn’t believe that there was something so perfect as a butterfly knife, actually, when I was working on that opening line (which I rewrote and came later in the process of writing the novel). I really felt that was part of the magical way the universe moves when you’re creating art of any kind.
Leah: I am in awe of how you manage to pack such emotion into the writing, how you get the reader to feel the grief that Michael is experiencing. There’s a scene with him and Andrea meeting with their therapist where Michael’s thinking about how Andie refuses to call him Daddy anymore, instead addressing him as Michael. Every time I read that scene, my chest closes up and I find myself crying, it’s so powerful. As an author, I’ve scoured those sections trying to figure out how you did it. Who were you influences in learning to how write such emotion? Or has it come naturally for you?
Deidre: I’m not being coy when I say I haven’t had any influences when it comes to writing emotion. I think some of the power of BUTTERFLY comes from the fact that I am a mother of two daughters, and really the first little spark of the story began with Andrea and her thoughts. I never gave her a POV, but the book began with her voice. The other thing that I think brings the story to life is that it was incredibly real to me—as in, I knew these people inside and out, including all sorts of back story elements that make it onto the page (and some that don’t.) So the little snippets from the past, like when Michael remembers picking Andrea up from the hospital, the first time she called him by his first name. That scene, the vividness of it—the blue vein at her temple that looked like a bruise. Things like that really rooted these characters in reality and magnified their pain and emotions.
Leah: If Butterfly Tattoo were made into a movie, who would you cast as Michael and Rebecca? (A personal note—I think BT would make a GREAT movie!)
Deidre: Oh, how I wish someone like Ang Lee would make this book into a movie! I find the casting game hard because these characters are SO real to me, that there’s nobody who looks like them. But, just a stab at it. I think Rachel McAdams could play a great Rebecca. She’s got the right “essence” for it. Maybe Jeffrey Morgan for Michael? I’d love to hear some suggestions from your blog readers!!
Leah: Oh, you won me with Rachel McAdams — she’s Canadian same as me, eh? Last year on Dear Author, you wrote a blog about your “first sale” and said that Butterfly Tattoo was the “book of your heart.” When the publishing world declared it wasn’t ready for it and rejected it (over 30 times), even Mother Nature seemed stacked against you, throwing a hurricane that destroyed both your cars. Yet you picked yourself up, wrote another novel in a totally different genre and put yourself out there again. What made you bring Butterfly out and resubmit it again?
Deidre: I was really lucky that when I redirected about the thirty or so rejections, I hit the mark with my Parallel Series. That was as easy to sell, truthfully, as BUTTERFLY was hard. Or at least it only garnered, oh, six rejections as opposed to thirty! But I never forgot or let go of Butterfly because I believed in the book that strongly. I knew how close it had come, repeatedly, with New York publishers. So as the e-book market developed, I decided to give it a try with Samhain. A chance that obviously paid off!!
Leah: It obviously paid off (and I’m so glad it did!) Care to share your reaction when Angela told you she wanted to publish it? (I’m picturing champagne, lots of happy dancing, and maybe a few tears?)
Deidre: This story is funny. She called and told me that she couldn’t publish it because they didn’t wind up together in the end. I was like, “What?? I sent you THAT version? Oh, I only wrote that for an editor who wanted to see a less happy ending, and then they passed.” And she was essentially, “So they DO get together?” I laughed and said, “Oh, heck yeah. Let me send you the right version.” So to me that’s just uproariously funny. That the “Smart” agent managed to send the totally wrong version, which could’ve ended in a pass if we’d not talked thru the ending issue! Anyway, the next day she called me and offered and I squealed and, yes, we went to dinner and drank champagne!
Leah: I can’t tell you how many authors are sighing and thinking “Thank Heavens I’m not the only one. Because I found a mistake after I hit send too.” To know that an agent can make a mistake like that will make us all feel a bit better, I know. Now for the next question: what’s the most interesting/unusual thing you’ve done for the sake of research?
Deidre: First of all, I LOVE research. So I’ve tackled all sorts of things. For BUTTERFLY I actually took a surf lesson with a hunky little surfer boy. He gave me a lot of good information for the book, which is part of why the surfing aspects ring true. I also visited Malibu several times, drove around in Studio City (and “found” Michael’s house), went on several studio lots—even was an audience guest for WILL AND GRACE. And, best part of all, I walked past and saw the electrical construction department—which really did have a mounted deer head like Michael’s dept does. Oh, and with that surfing lesson? Wound up with a dinner-sized plate on my thigh that didn’t go away for a year and a half! But I can say that I’ve tried it. I also spent time in Santa Cruz, but that was before I started the book—but I returned while writing. Would you believe I have a picture of the house that I modeled the Richardson family home after? It’s not actually Victorian, but retro, still…it was inspiring. Not only that, but I’ve stood on those slippery cliffs and watched the surfers on Steamer’s Lane. (Leah here — the picture to the left is Steamer’s Lane, and it’s just as I pictured it in the book even though I’d never seen it before.) In short? I lived this book, breathed it, and then my imagination took every bit of research and wove it together in an entirely different way. Leah again — it comes through in the writing.
Leah: So tell me when you first realized you wanted to try getting published? Was it an Aha! moment? Or was it a dream from when you’d been little? Or were you dragged into it kicking and screaming?
Deidre: I was first published in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution when I was nine years old. I’d written an essay about Barbie that got picked up for the paper in an article about my school’s gifted program. Later in high school, I was published in a couple of poetry journals. After college, my real dream was to write screenplays (I worked in film production at the time), but I soon found myself so limited by the spare nature of the genre. But I didn’t start writing novels until 2000, and I wrote for four years before even thinking about shopping something. I’d say the reason why was pretty simple—I felt ready. I’ d spent millions of words perfecting and learning my craft by then, and I was ready to see if I was publishable.
Leah: To give us a glimpse into a side of Deidre Knight when she’s not an author or an agent, what is something unusual that you do or have done that people normally don’t know or would be surprised to know about you?
Deidre: Well, in the “life achievement” column, my biking trip across Europe when I was in college definitely tops the charts. Five countries, a thousand miles, all in 30 days. It changed me in a big way, made me realize that I could tackle almost anything—especially when you realize that I was not exactly Jock Girl. It also put a burn in me to return to Europe again, and ultimately I did a study abroad in London, but then later returned and waited tables at a pub and wine bar in London while living in a one room flat!
Leah: And finally, what’s your favorite memory from when you were a child?
Deidre: I grew up in Atlanta during a different time. When it was still a bit of a sleepy world (think DRIVING MISS DAISY). I lived in an apple pie kind of neighborhood until I was eleven, and I have many awesome memories of the 1970’s there. Playing Kick the Can until dark, when my mom would turn on the post lamp as our sign to go home. That sting of bug spray on your lips because you were wearing so much Off just to fight the mosquito bites while you hunted and searched for each other in the twilight bushes and yards. Very happy, innocent times.
Thank you SO much for taking the time to be my guest today, Deidre. Readers — want to know more about this awesome book? Read an excerpt on Deidre’s website (where you can find out more about her other books) You can buy Butterfly Tattoo at Amazon.com, Powells, Samhain’s own My Bookstore and More, Books-a-Million or The Book Depository. (The Butterfly Tattoo is also available as an e-book here.)
As per FCC regulations, no, I’ve received no kickbacks from Amazon or any of the above stores. No, Deidre never sent me her book for free – in fact I’ve bought both my ebook copy AND my print copy (yes, I own both–I love it that much) with my own hard-earned money. Although I do get royalties from Samhain, they’re payment for sales of my own books, so I’m not getting paid to feature Deidre’s book (or any book) on my blog.I feature them because I like to feature authors I love, and pay some book-loving forward.
Because I love Butterfly Tattoo so much that I want to share it with you, I’m giving away both a print copy AND an e-copy.
Want to win the print copy? You have to work for it a bit. Go read the excerpt, then EMAIL me at leah DOT Braemel @gmail DOT com and tell me who thinks they’re Cinderella and is still searching for Prince Charming. THEN leave me a comment here. You have to both leave a comment here AND email me the correct answer to be eligible. (PLEASE don’t leave the answer here. No, you won’t be added to my newsletter mailing list by entering.)
If you don’t want to go through the trouble of reading the excerpt and emailing me, you can still win your own e-copy of Butterfly Tattoo by leaving a comment here, but tell us what you’d do if you just sold the book of your dreams. Just leaving a comment of “Hi, enter me” won’t enter you in the contest. You have to say what you’d do to celebrate.
You have until 10 AM EST March 2nd to enter either or both contests — but you can only win one copy. And yes, it’s open to everyone, not just those in the US and Canada.