Hello everybody! Today, I’m so excited to be part of the blog tour for Victoria Williamson’s second book, the Boy with the Butterfly Mind. Onto the post!
1. Can you describe The Boy with the Butterfly Mind in 5 words?
I’m not a big fan of singing my own praises, so here are five words that reviewers used to describe the book!
Insightful – Lisa Thompson
Moving – Juliette Forest
Inspiring – Shari Green
Hopeful – Mala Con
Sensational – Scott Evans
2.The Book is the story of Jamie, who has ADHD, and Elin, who is struggling to adapt to her new blended family. What sort of research did you do on these topics to prepare for writing?
A lot of the inspiration for my stories comes from the real-life experiences of children I have taught in primary schools. Many children are members of blended families, and some of them initially struggle with the changes and transitions that a changing home life can bring about. Some of these children share how they’re feeling with their class teacher, so I’ve heard a number of real-life stories from them over the years of jealousies, power struggles, arguments, and ultimately acceptance, although nothing as extreme as Elin and Jamie’s story! I’ve also taught a number of children with additional support needs, including ADHD, so I felt it was really important for them to see a child with ADHD portrayed positively in a story that they could relate to.
3. Like with your debut, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, it’s a dual narrative from both perspectives. What are your favourite and least favourite things about writing this way?
In dual narrative stories, I enjoy portraying the thoughts and feelings of both main characters, and helping readers to see events through the eyes of two children who have very different perspectives. This is a great way to promote reading for empathy. The only thing that’s a little tricky is ensuring the characters have very different narrative voices – sometimes it’s easy to slip into writing with the wrong voice, and then a paragraph – or sometimes a whole chapter – has to be rewritten!
4. I really like that you get both sides of the story with dual narration, and I thought you did it so well in The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle. What tips would you give to any writers who wanted to write a dual narrative perspective story or novel?
Ensure that your characters have clear and distinct narrative voices. This is particularly important if your characters have a lot in common and would otherwise sound alike. In The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, despite Caylin and Reema both being girls of nearly the same age, because Caylin comes from a rough part of Glasgow, and Reema is an Arabic speaker from Syria learning English, it was easy to make their voices different. Caylin speaks with contractions, and uses a lot of colloquial Scottish words and phrases. Reema narrates her side of the story without contractions as there aren’t any in Arabic, and her English speech is more halting and stilted. Jamie and Elin in The Boy with the Butterfly Mind were a little more difficult to differentiate, as not only are they the same age, they also come from very similar backgrounds. I got round this by having careful, meticulous and introspective Elin narrate her chapters in the past tense, while Jamie – creative but disorganised and focused mainly on the here and now – narrates in the present tense.
5. Something I really liked in your first book that also seems like it might be present in your second is an unlikely friendship between your two narrators. Who are your top three unlikely friendship pairs in fiction?
I really enjoyed reading graphic novels as a child, so I’ll nominate Asterix and Obelix, and Tintin and Captain Haddock as my first two choices. It’s hard to pick a third pair as there are so many great unlikely friendships depicted in children’s middle grade fiction, but I think an enduring favourite will always be the unlikely duo of Wilbur and Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web.
6. It’s been just over a year since your debut was published now, at the time of writing this interview. What has been the most surreal moment since the book hit the shelves?
It’s been really exciting seeing The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle being sold in bookshops and online in the UK, but one of the most surreal moments came when an American friend sent me this picture of my book on the shelves of her local bookstore in Minneapolis earlier this year
The most recent surreal moment was on Empathy Day, which this year fell on my birthday – June 11th. The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle was one of the books included in the EmpathyLab’s Read for Empathy 2019 guide, and so I was invited to their Empathy Day event in Waterstones Piccadilly. It’s hard for me to imagine a more surreal way to spend my 40th birthday than chatting to Malorie Blackman and drinking wine with a host of talented authors who I’ve admired for years!
7. Going back to the theme of writing, what is your writing process like? Do you have any unusual habits or quirks?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, both from my own writing and from other authors, it’s that there is no one ‘correct’ or even ‘normal’ way to write – everyone’s process is so different. Some authors find writing in small chunks of as little as two hundred words a day slotted between other work is what adds up to a novel, others sit down and hammer out a novel in a couple of weeks, working from morning till night without a break, and then spend months editing and polishing. I like to spend time on plotting and characterisation before I start writing anything – I have to hear the characters’ voices clearly in my head before I begin, and know where the main peaks and troughs of the plot will be. Once I start, I like to write a chapter a day if possible – this can be anything from about 1,800 words to 4,000 words, depending on what I’m writing. I find the story harder to pick up if I leave off halfway through a chapter, and like to start each writing day with a fresh page and a new chapter – I find it easier to keep the pace of the story up if each day’s writing has a new beginning.
8. Finally, can you tell me anything about what you’re working on at the moment or might be released next?
My next work’s still hush-hush at the moment, but what I can say is that it’s Scottish historical middle grade, featuring a famous real-life person. More to follow – watch this space!
1. Favourite ice cream flavour?
I’ve been vegan for years, but fortunately there are some great vegan ice creams out there, though I still can’t make up my mind between vegan chocolate or raspberry ripple!
2. Would you rather be a fox, gazelle, or butterfly for the day?
Ooh, that’s a tough one! Probably not a gazelle, as I don’t fancy running from lions! Either a fox in the wilds of Scotland (not an urban fox dodging cars like Hurriyah in my first book), or a butterfly fluttering through a field of flowers on a summer’s day.
3. Favourite season?
Autumn, definitely. I love the atmosphere, the golden light, and the misty days when ghosts drift through the trees on a long country walk. Most of all, I love curling up on the sofa with a good book when the sky is grey and the rain is pattering against the window.
4. Three random facts about you?
Anyone reading my books can probably pick up random facts about me that I’ve drawn from my own childhood experiences.
– Like Caylin in The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, I spent time as a child fishing for sticklebacks with nets in the canal between Drumchapel and Maryhill in Glasgow, and feeding the squirrels in Dawsholme Park.
– Like Elin, I once made a pair of butterfly wings with my mother to wear as a costume on a float at a local gala.
– Like Jamie, my father used to do all sorts of science experiments with me, like burning leaves with a magnifying glass, or making a lava lamps out of liquids with different viscosities.
5. Top 3 books of 2019 so far?
Is it cheating if I pick a book that was published in 2018 but I only read this year? Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon is amazing, and definitely needs to be on my list. I also loved reading Fire Girl, Forest Boy by Chloe Daykin this year, and The True Colours of Coral Glen by the very talented Juliette Forest.
Have you read any of Victoria’s books? Are you planning to? I’d love to hear in the comments!