Today we have a guest post from Anne-Marie Conway…
Shortly after finishing my first series of books, Star Makers Club, I was out having a cup of coffee with my friend Gill. She began to tell me about how she’d taken her daughter and a friend to Butterfly World for the day. She was nattering away, describing how the two girls lay talking in the long grass for hours, skipped through the tropical butterfly house giving names to all the exotic butterflies and chased through the fields trying to find as many yellow butterflies as they could (yellow was their favourite colour apparently).
As she was describing their day out, I knew instinctively that this was going to be the setting for my new book. I also knew it was going to involve two girls who spend a summer together in a butterfly garden. I didn’t have an idea for the actual story, but I was confident it would come.
I visited the Butterfly World Project first chance I got and spent a magical day there. I wandered through the gardens, stood in the tropical butterfly house, praying that the humongous Atlas Moth wouldn’t fall off the ceiling – and chatted to the wonderful staff; collecting as many butterfly facts as I could. I knew it was the perfect setting for my story but I still needed an idea.
And then I started to do some research of my own and discovered butterfly myths and legends that go back hundreds of years. Many of them revolve around the notion that butterflies represent the souls of the dead. The Ancient Greeks believed that butterflies were the souls of the dead waiting to pass from earth to heaven, whilst the Aztecs believed that the happy dead (those who died in good circumstances) would visit their relatives in the form of a beautiful butterfly to reassure them that all was well. But those who didn’t make it to heaven were reborn as black butterflies.
I loved this idea of a butterfly representing the soul of a dead person; it’s eerie and sad and gave me the idea for my story – a haunting tale of intense friendship and family secrets set in a beautiful Butterfly Garden.
I decided to have my own original myth running through my story. I chose a butterfly called the Silver-studded Blue, mainly because I loved the name, but also because it’s native to Great Britain and quite rare, and created a myth around it: If you spot the first Silver-studded Blue of the summer, the person you love the most is on their way to see you, but if it lands on your shoulder, the person is coming to say goodbye forever.
So now I had a setting, a story idea and a myth. It was time to start writing.
Usually, when I begin a new writing project, it’s the idea that comes first. But in this case, it was definitely the setting that inspired the story.
You can find out more about Butterfly Summer on the Usborne website at www.usborne.com/butterflysummer
There is also a trailer for Butterfly Summer, which you can watch here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8rGzw_UzKw