How did you come up with the concept of mixing romance with voodoo for this book?
On a family visit to New Orleans in 2008, I actually had a dream about my main character, Sophie, who has the power to change evil people good. The other part of my dream was a vision of a plague of monarch butterflies descending upon New Orleans. That turned into the opening scene of my novel. I decided to research the voodoo religion, specifically New Orleans voodoo, and weave in that information to make the story authentic.
That sends some chills up our backs. Of course now that Voodoo Butterfly is out what are you working on now? Do you have a release date for this book?
I’m working on the second book in the Voodoo Butterfly series. No release date yet.
Dreaming about voodoo and your opening must have given you a sleepless night when you came up with your concept. We tend to write in stages: dialogue first, then go back and put in the different layers—sensory, visceral, emotional, settings—not much dreaming though. Besides dreaming what is your writing process like?
Donald and Catherine, that’s an interesting process. I might have to try that :) I’m a SAHM so, with a toddler and 7-year-old to care for, I don’t have a lot of time in my day to write. My method involves keeping notebooks in my desk, car, bedside table, and kitchen junk drawer. Anytime I think of an interesting philosophical idea, conflict, scene, bit of dialogue, or fun fact, I jot it down. Then I commit to writing 15 minutes a day. Most days it turns into an hour or more, but if I can’t do more I don’t. During those 15 minutes I write fast and furious because I already know what I want to cover based on all my little notes.
We understand about keeping notes all over the place. We’ve even, since we got smart phones, started recording ideas and notes on them. We noticed your day is certainly full but we’re sure you squeeze in some time to read. What book are you reading now?
Currently I’m reading The Red Kimono by my friend, Jan Morrill, and I am absolutely loving it. It’s a story about the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, specifically the plight of Japanese Americans who lived in internment camps until the end of the war. I never knew much about those camps so it is eye-opening. Jan writes from family experience, because her mother was a Japanese American internee during WW II and her father was a redheaded American who served in the Air Force. Not only did she cover the history of that time in America, but she also brings home the big questions. What is it to be an American? How does race factor into American life? Even though it’s historical fiction, it’s very relevant in today’s world.
Sounds like a very interesting and personal book. Thinking about personal questions, we like to travel. What is the farthest place from your home that you have visited?
My husband is from Malaysia and his family still lives there, so we go to visit every few years. The food is unique and absolutely to-die-for. The culture is so foreign, but I love my new family there and the places we visit. Malaysia is interesting in that there are Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians sharing a small country and they coexist peacefully (!). I’ve gotten to attend Hindu ceremonies (including my own Hindu wedding), visit Buddhist temples, and attend Catholic Mass there.
About five years ago, my sister married an Aussie, so I was able to attend their wedding in Australia. Australians bring coffee to a whole new level because they use full cream milk for foam. (FYI: The beautiful “flat white” is now available at Starbucks if anyone wants to try that Aussie delight.) While I visited my sister, I got to surf, see a jumping koala, feed a kangaroo, and meet the adventurous people who live there. It was a beautiful trip.
One of the words you describe your book with was paranormal. What are the unusual paranormal elements in your book? (i.e. In our books our shape shifters have the ability to shift to more than one persona.)
I’m a very spiritual person and was actually going through an existential crisis while I wrote Voodoo Butterfly. Long story short, I was not finding a good life balance between career and home life, so I ended up quitting my job as a college writing instructor to stay home and raise my family. Writing a novel was a huge bucket list item for myself, so I set out to deal with all my emotional chaos through fiction. People who have read the book tell me that they notice the spiritual undercurrent in the writing. Yes, I want it to be a fun read, but I also want it to be a thought-provoking and deeply spiritual experience when people read my books. I want people to think about the big questions. Why are we here? What’s our purpose? How do we go about defining good and evil?
Another kind of cool insight into my writing is that the paranormal bits are based on my family’s experience living in a haunted house. It makes the ghost story aspects more believable and interesting because I actually had these paranormal experiences myself.
Is there a specific element you had trouble creating or keeping consistent?
Sophie ends up in this magical, otherwordly city of New Orleans and I needed her to react more to what she was seeing and sensing. New Orleans should get a “Whoa!” or “Wow!” reaction out of the average person. My critique group, The Lit Ladies, helped point out where I could play with Sophie’s emotions more (which is always fun) and she’s an amazing, strong character. I love her willingness to try new things in this strange, beautiful city.
If you could have one of your characters’ powers what would it be? Why?
Sophie is a specialized voodoo priestess called a Mind Changer. Whenever someone touches a special powder she brushes on her skin, they immediately change from evil to good. For example, if a jealous husband is on his way to murder his cheating wife at her lover’s apartment, Sophie can brush against that person on the street and they will drop the gun, go home, file for divorce, and get their life in order instead of going to jail for murder.
How many times have we wanted to persuade someone to see the light? Plus our entire society is built on convincing people to see your side of something: politics, advertising, religion, etc. Mind changing is the ultimate power.
Camille, the time has just flown by and it’s been a pleasure having you here today. As you say goodbye, can you leave the readers with an encapsulation of your life’s philosophy?
My personal meditation is simple: Joy and Peace. I’ll take a deep breath in and say/think “Joy” and as I exhale I say/think “Peace.” Those are the two main states of mind I strive for in my life.