Please welcome James Lyon, author of Kiss of the Butterfly to Book Cover Justice! James has been very kind to stop by and answer a few questions!
Q: Can you please tell us a little but more about yourself and Kiss of the Butterfly?
Lately, I've been investigating an honest-to-goodness vampire scare in a village in western Serbia. ABC News ran a story on it where they mentioned “Kiss of the Butterfly” and quoted me. http://abcnews.go.com/International/vampire-threat-terrorizes-serbian-village/story?id=17831327 When I’m not chasing vampire folklore, I’m a diplomat in Sarajevo, the city where the shot was fired that started the First World War. For the past 18 years, I’ve lived and worked in the Balkans (Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo). I also have a Ph.D. in Balkan History from UCLA.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for this book?
I had an “Indiana Jones moment” during the late 1980s: while looking through an old book in a library, I discovered that Dracula had carried out a horrible massacre in Bosnia in 1476. Then, in 1995, another massacre took place at the same site (Srebrenica). The metaphysical connections were too powerful to ignore, and the use of vampires as a metaphor for some of the horrible things I had witnessed and experienced during the Balkan wars of the 1990s was compelling, but the idea lay dormant until 2005, when I wrote “Kiss of the Butterfly" over a period of about five months.
Q: There is a lot of history in this story. How long did your research take you and how much of the story was based on fact?
Almost every detail in “Kiss” – from Dracula’s physical appearance and clothing in the 1470s, the type of wallpaper on Vienna palace walls in the 1700s, to Belgrade street graffiti in 1991 – is authentic, and the historical note at the end of the book discusses this. The characteristics of the “Kiss” bloodsuckers are taken from authentic Balkan folklore and ethnography. No sparkly boyfriend material there: only real vampires. Is anyone wondering why a book about vampires is called “Kiss of the Butterfly”? For the answer (which lies in folklore), read the account of my latest vampire-hunting adventure at: http://thevampirologist.blogspot.com/2012/12/vampires-in-serbia-unraveling-fact-from.html
Q: The end of Kiss of The Butterfly leaves it open for another book to follow. Will there be a sequel or is this the beginning of a longer series?
“Kiss of the Butterfly” is the beginning of a saga that will probably fill four or five volumes. I have already written the first chapter and outlined the other chapters of the second volume. The first volume is set in San Diego, Budapest, Vienna, and Bosnia, but mostly Belgrade, and spans nearly 500 years. The second volume will also span 500 years, and take place in Pennsylvania, Budapest, Vienna, Belgrade, Paris, London, and New York, but will be set mostly in Bosnia.
Q: Is there a message in this story that you would like people to think about?
Perhaps we should ask the readers what “Kiss of the Butterfly” made them think about? “Kiss of the Butterfly” is a bit like an onion, in that it offers different layers of meaning. It might even make you cry in a place or two. What each reader uncovers will depend on his/her life experiences. In general, I wanted to write a fun book with believable characters that doesn’t insult the reader’s intelligence. I also wanted something that would let readers ask a few serious questions along the way…kind of similar to “Catch 22”. I think "Kiss" has created its own new sub-genre: Paranormal Literary Thriller. :-)
Q: What have been some of the challenges you have faced during writing and on the road to publication?
In mid-2008, I found an agent from a reputable literary agency in New York City. At the end of that summer, he began shopping “Kiss” to the major publishers. Their interest was immediate, and I began receiving trans-Atlantic phone calls from editors: one publisher even put together an editing team. Then Lehman Brothers, Wall Street and the economy collapsed, and the publishing industry panicked. By the end of October 2008, the editors had begun to pass on the book, claiming they couldn’t risk a new, unknown fiction author. My agent said he had never seen anything like it. This past July I decided to publish it as an e-book. Thus far, the response has been wonderful.
Q: Does the idea you start with as inspiration for your writing ever turn into something else entirely when you are done?
Things can change along the way, particularly as you develop characters. The manner in which I describe or express an idea is always open to change, and if I feel something isn’t working, I’ll go back and rewrite it over and over again until it feels right. Sometimes that means deleting entire scenes and strings of dialogue, or re-sequencing events. Sometimes something happens along the way, where a character begins to develop naturally along certain lines that I hadn’t planned. When that happens, I’ve just got to make certain that the character is true to his/her own nature. This means that most of my characters have very human flaws that sometimes make them do dumb things, make poor choices, or even act heroically under unusual circumstances.
Q: What was the book that most impacted your life and why?
Probably “Catch 22”. I nearly memorized it in High School.
Q: Would you like to add anything else?
I am working on a print-on-demand paper version that should be available sometime in March.