My Goodreads Book Giveaway has been approved and is now accepting entries! Please click on the image below and Enter for a chance to win 1 of 3 **signed**First Edition Paperback copies of The Butterfly Crest. The Giveaway dates are from October 11th through November 11th. Best of Luck! Ganbare!
Sometime last week, somewhere in the middle of My Adventures Post-Publishing, I read a blog post by Tracy Cembor that’s stuck with me ever since. In her post, Geek Week: How Real Is Fiction?, Tracy asks: Do fictional characters really exist?
In Tracy’s own words: “If readers know who characters are, what attributes and desires they have, and feel the emotions from their experiences, then how can we say in the way that our mind perceives things, that they aren’t just a little bit ‘real’?”
Tracy’s post stuck with me for two reasons: (1) my past experiences with literary characters (those created by other authors, as well as my own), and (2) it reminded me of something my Philosophy 101 professor said 16 years ago that would ultimately be the catalyst for my own creations.
Now, I’m going to paraphrase here, but my professor’s sentiment was something like this:
The question ‘Does God really exist?’ is misguided. The fact that people believe in something, live their lives in accordance with it, makes that *something* real.
That sentiment stuck with me. It hovered in the back of my mind as I finished college and went on through my professional education. It gave birth to a premise that would ultimately become the foundation of my fictional writing. In Elena’s world, human belief alters the divine; what begins as abstract can have very physical manifestations.
I think the same can be said about characters. They may not be corporeal, may not exist in the physical sense, but their influence can be substantial. All I have to do is point to Atticus Finch to demonstrate just how powerful an influence a literary character can have. He is literally the epitome of a good lawyer. He is the standard to hold yourself to, and yet he does not physically exist. His influence is so strong that when I took the bar exam in 2004, you were not allowed to use his name as your chosen exam name (I’m presuming the reason was because that many people would choose it).
Tracy is spot on when she says: “The characters in our favorite stories are not two-dimensional paper cutouts; they are fully formed personas with hopes and dreams, wants and desires, strengths and weaknesses… When circumstances (and authors) conspire against them and the you-know-what hits the fan, readers worry for their safety. And when they experience the loss of friends and family, we are grieving right there beside them.”
I was working as a prosecutor when Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince was released. Several of my co-workers and I were reading it at the same time. One morning, everyone arrived at work with red swollen eyes and dressed in black. Without a word, we knew; we had all finished the book and were grieving for Harry’s loss. I have no problem admitting I was also grieving for my own loss.
So, do fictional characters really exist?
To me, 100%. I hold many of them in close esteem. Atticus Finch influenced my choice in career. Jane Eyre my view of passion and independence. Elizabeth Bennet my appreciation for integrity and wit. Simon from Lord of The Flies the importance of being comfortable in your own skin. Those characters might not exist in the physical sense, but their influence can be quantified and seen. They teach us lessons we might not otherwise learn, and inspire us the way historical figures might.
As for my own characters, the more I write about them the clearer they become. I know them as well as I know myself; can verbalize, in Tracy’s words, their “hopes and dreams, wants and desires, strengths and weaknesses”. A thought popped into my head last night while I was going to sleep. I saw the book sitting on my nightstand (Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations), and wondered what books, if any, my characters would have on their own nightstands. The answers came so fast that all I could do was laugh about it:
One glance at any of my Pinterest boards and you’ll be able to get a clear image of their personalities; their likes and dislikes in ways I can’t expound on in my books. The more I explore those personalities, the more excited I get about sharing their stories with you.
I’ll be exploring those personalities further on July 14th, when I participate in a Meet My Character Blog Tour and answer questions as one of my characters. On June 30th, I’ll also be participating in a Blog Hop, which are chained posts where authors answer questions; this particular one is about our writing process. So please stay tuned!
Last but not least, this week’s image is “Beauties Under an Umbrella“ by Utamaro Kitagawa. Utamaro was an Edo period ukiyo-e artist, famous for his portraits of female beauties known as bijin-ga. I love the richness in color and detail of this particular piece.
It’s been 16 days since The Butterfly Crest launched, and I don’t think I’ve stopped for even a second. I knew my plate would be full the second everything went live, but I couldn’t have guessed the full extent of it.
The work is never-ending. I had a game plan, but every time I finish a task three take its place. I’m learning something new with every click of the cursor, and the process seems to reinvent itself every day. That being said, I’ve enjoyed every second of it. The pace might be a little insane, but connecting directly with readers, and other writers, has been a joy. I received my first reader email halfway through the week, and it was from the mountains of Turkey!
I’ve been thinking about what to write (it’s hard to pare down the experience), and the first thing that comes to mind is the incredible support I’ve received from friends and family. I’d given the book to less than a dozen people before its launch (to assist in the revision process), and all of them went out in full force to spread the word. They’ve shared and promoted the book through social media almost as tirelessly as I have. They are fully invested in the book’s success, and I’m in complete awe of them. There’s also the ones who are doing exactly the same thing, without having been part of that peer review group, and the ones who, in spite of not owning ereaders, downloaded apps, purchased the book, and are reading it on their phones (which I can tell you from experience is NOT an easy task) and spreading the news. There aren’t sufficient words in the English language to express my gratitude for their support.
And while I’m on the topic of supportive friends and family, I can’t leave out the unexpected gift I received in the mail. On Tuesday morning, I arrived at the office to find a package waiting for me. The box had the logo of a tea retailer and weighed very little, so I imaged someone had sent me some tea (which for me is like gold). When I opened the box and removed the tissue paper, what I found wasn’t tea. Staring back at me was a white butterfly crest, in a sea of black crepe silk. It was a haori, a kimono jacket, with a singular butterfly kamon at the nape of the neck. Kamon is the Japanese word for a family crest, and the inspiration for the name of my novel. One of my dearest friends had sent me the gift to commemorate the launch of my book. And once again, there weren’t sufficient words in the English language to express my gratitude.
Which brings me to the topic of butterflies. In the email I received from Turkey, the reader described an experience she had with a swallowtail butterfly while she was reading the book. In that moment, I realized how powerful a symbol it can be, that it had resonated with her in the same way it resonated with me. I have to admit that I’ve never quite looked at a butterfly in the same way again, since finishing my book. What’s incredible about it is that I didn’t set out with the intent of the butterfly becoming the symbol for Elena’s journey, or mine for that matter. It was just one of those happy occurrences while I was writing. Now, I can’t imagine this journey without it, and every time I see one (yesterday afternoon in my backyard or the photo of one a friend posted on Facebook this morning) I can’t help but feel completely at peace. The experience of writing my first novel, of fulfilling that dream, and publishing it has been transformative, and the butterfly, for me, has become a symbol of that transformation (in the same way it was for Elena, and in the mythos of different cultures throughout history).
Speaking of Elena, it’s been a huge relief to see the warm reception she’s received as our reluctant heroine. When you’re writing a story with a large supporting cast of divine creatures, who are forces of nature in their own right, you can’t help but worry that the voice of your human protagonist might be overwhelmed. Even in my head, the cast of beasties fight for room on the page while Ele usually just sits back, but it looks like that contrast resonated with readers. Both of the editorial reviews the novel has received have commented on Elena’s strength as the protagonist, and I’m thrilled about it.
Which brings me to the second editorial review—The Butterfly Crest has received another 5 stars! I can’t think of a better way to close out this post.
Reviewed By Kathryn Bennett for Readers’ Favorite:
The Butterfly Crest by Eva Vanrell takes us between the shadows of the human world where a war that is as old as time is raging. A long-told prophecy says one human woman will change the course of the divine war and one day Elena – a seemingly regular woman living a normal life – gets a letter about a deposit box in her mother’s name. This letter and the contents of the box are a cursed inheritance and send Elena on a journey that could only be considered mythical and unbelievable. She must make choices to see where destiny takes her.
This is a great story that merges two different realms almost seamlessly into one another and makes a complex story entertaining and compelling. The action was fast and the pace of the book was perfect. Elena is a fantastic character whom I found to be intelligent and strong, but who has to find her way in an impossible situation, giving her even more depth as well. Eva Vanrell has created a strong story with a beautifully strong female main character, in a world and with a story line that is imaginative and unique. I have read many fantasy style stories that offer a similar version of wars that have been going on for all time, but this has been by far one of the most well thought out and well put together plots. If you are looking for a read for the summer that will have you hooked within the first pages and hold your interest until the very end, leaving you wanting more … then this is your book.
This week continues to be a whirlwind of activity, but I wanted to take a second to share with everyone the first editorial review of The Butterfly Crest. Hope you find it helpful! It certainly put a smile on my face. What I found most encouraging about Ms. Madhavan’s words was that she was able to hear Elena’s voice over the demands of her supporting cast (deities can be a handful, trust me). And now, without further ado, here’s the review:
Reviewed By Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite – 5 stars
The Butterfly Crest by Eva Vanrell is a fantasy filled fiction that is contemporary and exotic. Elena Vicens’ life takes a turn when she receives a letter one day regarding a deposit box belonging to her mother. This letter comes to her nineteen years after her mother’s death and the letter sends her from New Orleans to Japan. She finds herself in possession of a cursed inheritance and the story takes off from there. Readers find themselves in the midst of legends and myths, the strangeness of everyday life, a human woman who will shape the outcome of the divine war and, amid all this, Elena must choose her own destiny.
It is an intriguing, imaginative and very original story with many layers and that makes it a compelling read. It moves between the tangible and intangible, giving the story a surreal feel and keeping readers guessing about the outcome. The narration is descriptive and gives more clarity to the plot. It is an exceptional read. Elena is an interesting character that has been portrayed vividly and wonderfully. Her presence dominates the story throughout, holding the plot together. There is a mysterious vibe in the theme, enhanced by the description of Elena’s character.
The shifts in the story that occur between the two locations and the afterlife give it a new dimension and make it an even more attractive and exceptional book to read.
Truth be told, I don’t even know where to begin. My mind is a jumble of too many thoughts. That said, I’m just going to jot them down and hope they come out coherently. If they don’t, my apologies.
Moving onto the first thought…
After much toil and four proofs, it’s official — The Butterfly Crest is now published. It’s been distributed to the various eBook retailers and should be available at all of them within the next four weeks. It is available now through iBooks/iTunes, Amazon Kindle and the Bookshop. Barnes & Noble should have it listed in 2 to 4 weeks. It will also be available through Kobo, Oyster, Copia, Scribd, Gardners, Flipkart, Baker & Taylor, and eSentral. Keep an eye out for the Goodreads listing, which should be up soon!
If you’ve heard that announcement before, I apologize for the repetition, but I wanted to put it up as a regular post (not just a status).
Moving onto my second thought…
For the past 14 years, my cast of characters has existed in the aether. Their world was limited to the mind of the author and a single reader. That audience has expanded slowly these past 3 years, to include a few brave souls who took a leap of faith and believed me when I told them I could write (they knew my passion for it, but passion and ability are two very different things). Now, Pandora’s box is wide open. My cast of beasties (and trust me, you’ll understand why I call them that once you read) has gone public and there’s no turning back. They have shaped and colored my life these past 14 years, and if they can do a fraction of that for you, bring you the smallest bit of joy, then this journey was well worth it.
Which brings me to my third thought… how much we, as authors, put of ourselves into our books.
I never thought publishing would make me feel vulnerable, but I have to admit it did so immediately. A click of a button and suddenly (relatively speaking), your work is out there for the world to see. Yes, you expect and try to prepare yourself for criticism, but that isn’t really the flavor of vulnerable I’m experiencing right now. I poured my heart and soul into this book, and left a large part of myself in it. As you read, you’ll experience the obvious things, like my passion for mythology, my awe for Japanese culture, and my obsession with ancient Greece; but what about the not-so-obvious things? It was Plato who said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” In my case, you can substitute play with my writing. Just an hour of reading, and you’ll know more about me than you would have working beside me for five years. Of course, you won’t know which parts are me, exactly, but that doesn’t make the experience any less intimate. That intimacy might be almost entirely one-sided, but the act of sharing it is deeply personal, and a little terrifying.
What makes that deeply personal and intimate act worth sharing brings me to my fourth and final thought…
I love to be affected by what I read, and in writing I aim to do the same for my readers. As long as my words reach you, I’m satisfied. If you are able to escape, to laugh, to cry, to feel and connect with my characters, then my hope has been realized. Sales, numbers, platform—those things are necessary, but they aren’t the reason I write. The reason I write is made clear when my mother calls me defiant, refusing to read on because she can’t differentiate between me and a character; or when a friend calls to tell me he thinks of my book now every time he drives by the New Orleans Museum of Art; or when another friend uses my own characters to encourage me (“Cataline would approve,” indeed!). That is the reason I write, and those moments will be how I measure my success moving forward.
As a final note, today’s image is Kitagawa Utamaro’s “The Courtesan Ichikawa of the Matsuba Establishment.” Utamaro was an Edo period ukiyo-e artist, famous for his portraits of female beauties known as bijin-ga. His work reached Europe in the mid-ninteeth century, and even influenced the Impressionists. The reason I chose this image, other than the obvious fact that it’s quite lovely, was because of the detail in the fabric (it reminded me of a fusuma door I describe in my book).
The Butterfly Crest has officially been distributed to all eBook retailers! It is available now (for all eReaders) through BookBaby. It will be available through Amazon Kindle mid next week, and the iBookstore in 1 to 2 weeks. Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Copia, Scribd, Baker & Taylor, Gardners, eSentral, Oyster, and Flipkart will carry it in 2-4 weeks. I’ll keep you posted as the links go live. Your reviews are welcome!!
Good morning. I know this announcement is late in coming (my sincere apologies), but I’ve had to delay the book release by about two weeks (hopefully) because of some conversion issues with two special characters used in Japanese words. I’ll keep everyone posted as more info comes in. Sorry for the delay, but I held out until the last minute hoping we could fix this in time. It’s very important to me to salvage the proper spelling and usage of the language, so I hope you don’t mind. Cheers, and thanks for your support!