litunderground

The Story Behind Of Moths and Butterflies

In Book of The Month on February 29, 2012 at 6:03 pm

How did Of Moths & Butterflies come about? Well, in all honesty, it was  inspired by a song…sort of. You see, Moths isn’t my first book. Like many authors, I have several stashed away in desk drawers and cardboard manuscript boxes. (Yes, I’m that old fashioned.) Ok, there are some on my hard drive as well. The first book I finished was about an arranged marriage that did not manage to come into fruition. But one day as I had the latest (then) Royksopp album playing, I listened, really listened, to the words of 49 Percent. There is a line that says, “Less than half? Why won’t you try to make this damage better?” I immediately thought of that first story line, and another thought came to me: “What would have happened if the marriage had come off, after all?”

But if the guy was a creep, as he was in that first story, then the end would be quite obvious. What if he wasn’t so creepy, but just fatally flawed? What if he had some redeeming qualities? What if the heroine might like him, even love him, had the circumstances surrounding their marriage been more favourable?

The main plot of Moths was at that point formed.

Of course I’ve never been known, even in my earliest writing endeavours, to construct a simple plot. Other influences necessarily went into the shaping of that story. One of which was Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I don’t think any book I’ve ever read has affected me the way that book did. I cried for Tess. I raged for the injustices heaped against her. I wanted something better for her. So, in constructing Moths’ heroine, I added in a bit of Tess, but attempted to retell her story so that the resolution was something I could live with.

And then I sat down and wrote the bloody thing. I think the first draft took me something like five months, and it was nearly 200K words. At which point I decided to make it two books. I had an agent interested, and that was the only way she would take it. So I split it, pared it down. And then she didn’t want it. It wasn’t enough of a category romance for her. And it was still too long.

Then I joined Authonomy.com and put it up there, and, to my dismay, discovered I was not the modern day answer to Dickens that I had hoped I might be. Authonomy was rough. So many people, whose only purpose is to critique everyone else’s manuscripts with the hopes that their own work will prove superior enough to land a spot on the Editor’s Desk, the prize for such an accomplishment being a critique (and hopefully consideration) from a Harper Collins editor. (To this day, to my knowledge, no one has been published by HC from the Editor’s Desk, though many from Authonomy have gone on to publication by publishing houses large, small and independent.)

And so I rewrote it. The re-written, re-plotted, re-examined, re-characterised draft took me nine months to finish. During which time I sweated and bled and prayed over the sucker. But I had, by that time, and thanks to Authonomy, more experience, greater insight, and an incredibly supportive team of friends and editors, and even an illustrator, who believed in the story I wanted to tell. So that, when at last it was finished, it was precisely what I wanted it to be, and exactly what it needed to be.

As for that first book, Cry of the Peacock will be published October 2012 by Captive Press Publishing.

I’m still no Dickens. But it is a beautiful book. And I’m satisfied with that.

Of Moths & Butterflies (read an excerpt here) is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble in hardcover and paperback form. A Kindle edition is also available.

VR Christensen is not only an official member of LitU, but an author, blogger, and resident of Appalachian Virginia. You can find her personal website HERE

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  1. Love the behind the scenes stuff! Good read!

  2. I also love the behind the scenes stuff 🙂 Glad you stuck with it.

  3. Reblogged this on NewsLetter and commented:
    Ever wanted to know more about the background to a novel you enjoyed ? V.R.Christensen tells the story behind ‘Of Moths and Butterflies’ . . .

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