Saturday, May 13, 2017

0 JJ Flowers, author of JUAN PABLO AND THE BUTTERFLIES, on Juan Pablo showing up and needing her help

We have butterflies over the opportunity to sit down and talk to JJ Flowers about her latest novel, JUAN PABLO AND THE BUTTERFLIES.

JJ, what was your inspiration for writing JUAN PABLO AND THE BUTTERFLIES?

I lost my husband of thirty-five years and eleven months later our twenty-three year old son, the two brightest lights in my life, and my heart busted wide open. Soon afterwards I began reading about the desperation of migrant children fleeing drug cartel and gang violence south of our border. One thing about loss, you become extremely conscious of the suffering of other people.

Suddenly Juan Pablo showed up on my keyboard.

He was a young man who was a classical violinist and growing up at the Monarch Butterfly sanctuary in Mexico and he soon needed my help.


What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

The scene that was hardest for me to write was when the Hunter, the most feared bounty hunter working for the Cartels, finally captures Juan Pablo and our hero must confront both the inevitability of his death and the gift brought by his grandmother’s faith that we are all spirits having a physical experience here on earth. These are seemingly incongruent subjects to show up in a thriller, but there they were.

To tell you the truth (and why not?) the only time I am proud of my writing is when it makes people laugh. I confess that really puffs up my chest, so to speak. Until I realize… I am the only one laughing. Sigh. Then it is just color me red.

However, if I had to name a scene I love the most it is when Juan Pablo and Rocio save the baby whale. Saving a baby whale would be some kind of heroism, for sure. I mean you can believe I’d be bragging about that.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

I think of Juan Pablo and the Butterflies as a spiritual thriller. So, if you feel there is a purpose to life, that indeed we came from the spiritual realm to this, our material plane of earth and that one day we will return, this is a novel for you. Or, if you just like a story that rips beginning to end, you will want to crack open the cover.

How long did you work on JUAN PABLO AND THE BUTTERFLIES?

It was about two months. I find usually the easier it is to tell a story, the better the story. (Though unfortunately not always the prose. Sigh.) It is my hope this is true about Juan Pablo and the Butterflies.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

This novel taught me how to write suspense and this is a fun exercise. Every time Juan Pablo thought he was somewhat safe for the moment, the Hunter and his almost (but not quite) supernatural determination and reach kicked into high gear. I learned that writing a fast paced novel is a lot more exciting than… well, a more leisurely paced novel.

What do you hope readers will take away from JUAN PABLO AND THE BUTTERFLIES?

This is a big question. I want readers to root for Juan Pablo and by extension for all the children who face difficult and dangerous circumstances, to realize that what happens south of the border also happens north, that what happens to one happens to all. If this is too large a take away, which, okay, I can believe it is, I’d like my readers to feel they had just shared an incredible journey.

And it is for the first reason that all royalties will be donated to the dudamelfoundation.org, which gives underprivileged kids around the world the gift of a musical education and saveourmonarchs.org.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

I used to write popular romance novels (Avon Books, Zebra Books under the name Jennifer Horsman) but I stopped being able to write those books, as began having increasingly vivid fantasies of killing off my heroines-- in really dreadful ways. I wrote a couple of children’s novels, MG fiction, and though they have come very close to being published, not yet. I have also written quite a few screenplays, which is probably my best work and while I’ve gotten paid for many of them, they too, have not yet been produced. The best thing about being a writer is you are always hopeful your stories will find an audience; it’s an astonishing fact that hope alone can sustain us.

Jackie Mitchard of Merit Press, S&S found Juan Pablo almost immediately. Coincidentally (if you believe such things) this great writer and now editor had a role in my life before she became my editor. I have always been a voracious reader and as I was trying to understand my loss, I wrote down all the books that had the theme of losing a child, but after William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice, the only one that had knocked my socks off was Jackie’s haunting novel The Deep End of the Ocean. I went back and reread it and cried all over again. About two weeks later, she picked up Juan Pablo and the Butterflies.

It was… kind of like magic.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

Yes! First Juan Pablo showed up, but then the Butterflies.

Again, coincidentally, (if you believe such things) my earliest memory is of catching a giant Monarch butterfly at age four, letting it free in my small bedroom. Soon, my mom showed up to explain that (okay, this might sound corny, but there it is) “Butterflies, like all living things, must be free…”

We opened the window and out it journeyed.

Butterflies have always symbolized the transformation of the soul; they transform from a lowly caterpillar to the magnificent winged creature we know. Science has just started trying to understand the mystery they present; and the more they examine this transformation on the cellular level, butterflies’ fascinating imaginal cells, the more mystical the transformation seems.

Here is an excerpt from Anodea Judith's book, Waking the Global Heart:

"When a caterpillar nears its transformation time, it begins to eat ravenously, consuming everything in sight. (It is interesting to note that individuals are often called “consumers” and one of the largest manufacturers of heavy construction machinery is called “Caterpillar,” Inc.) The caterpillar body then becomes heavy, outgrowing its own skin many times, until it is too bloated to move. Attaching to a branch (upside down, where everything is turned on its head) it forms a chrysalis—an enclosing shell that limits the caterpillar’s freedom for the duration of the transformation.

Within the chrysalis a miracle occurs. Tiny cells, that biologists actually call “imaginal cells,” begin to appear. These cells are wholly different from caterpillar cells, carrying different information, vibrating to a different frequency–the frequency of the emerging butterfly. At first, the caterpillar’s immune system perceives these new cells as enemies, and attacks them, much as new ideas in science, medicine, politics, and social behavior are viciously denounced by the powers now considered mainstream. But the imaginal cells are not deterred. They continue to appear, in even greater numbers, recognizing each other, bonding together, until the new cells are numerous enough to organize into clumps. When enough cells have formed to make structures along the new organizational lines, the caterpillar’s immune system is overwhelmed. The caterpillar body then becomes a nutritious soup for the growth of the butterfly.

When the butterfly is ready to hatch, the chrysalis becomes transparent. The need for restriction has been outgrown. Yet the struggle toward freedom has an organic timing."

And is connected to the breath. A children's book that I read stated that the butterfly "pops" it's chrysalis by taking a deep, full breath. As the butterfly emerges, it's upside down. It immediately turns right side up and it proceeds to holds its chrysalis with such reverence… When we've been through troubles of trauma, it can be difficult to find the gratitude for where we came from. It may be empowering to pause in this reading and give thanks to your self and to all the sentient beings who supported you through the times of loss.”

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I practice Ashtanga yoga in the early hours of the morning, preparation for hours of sitting. I write after practice. I read and write (the two are linked in my mind) until my giant Newfoundland puppy Paris (named because I finally reached the place in my life where I could go live in Paris and instead I got her, so she is my Paris) sticks her nose on my keyboard, wags her tail and says, “Enough! Let’s bust out of here!”

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Read, read, read. Reading opens doors for writers than any agent ever will and that’s a fact. It informs your writing, growing your talent and making it better.

Also, this might not be the space for it, but there is a spiritual aspect to writing. I believe you can find it through a meditation or meditative prayer practice. Research has shown meditation enhances cognitive function, sometimes dramatically so. Even, or maybe especially, a walking meditation is a great idea for writers.

What are you working on now?

Richard Harding of Six Sense Productions hired me to write the Emma Edmonds story. It is the true story of a woman who disguised herself as a man and fought heroically in the civil war. (If she were a man we’d all know about her!) I just finished this and am excited about its prospects.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Juan Pablo and The Butterflies
by JJ Flowers
Hardcover
Merit Press
Released 5/9/2017

After facing problems with a local drug cartel in Mexico, a man and his best friend must flee to California for their freedom and a chance for survival.

In the small town of El Rosario, Mexico’s butterfly sanctuary, drug traffickers begin to take over and disrupt the life of the community. As Juan Pablo’s grandmother, the medicine woman of the town, lies on her deathbed, she tells her grandson that he must follow the migration of butterflies to Pacific Grove, California—to another butterfly sanctuary—where someone will be waiting for him. When Juan Pablo uses one of his grandmother’s poisons on members of the cartel, he and his best friend Rocio must leave for California as soon as they can and follow the butterflies. But is he following the wings of freedom? Or death?

Purchase Juan Pablo and The Butterflies at Amazon
Purchase Juan Pablo and The Butterflies at IndieBound
View Juan Pablo and The Butterflies on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Most of JJ Flowers' published books are historical romance novels (Avon Books, Zebra Books, written under the name Jennifer Horsman) many of which actually won awards and one of these awards was almost considered prestigious. She finally stopped being able to write these novels when she started having fantasies of killing off her heroines—in really dreadful ways. 

JJ's screenplays have been optioned at Warner Bros., Julian Krainin Productions, Bright Light Pictures among other production companies and recently Richard Harding hired me to write the Emma Edmonds story, a true story about a woman who disguised herself as a man and fought heroically in the Civil War. As we all became increasingly aware of the world's refugee population, Juan Pablo showed up on her keyboard to share his story.

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Have you had a chance to read JUAN PABLO AND THE BUTTERFLIES yet? Have you considered donating all of your royalties to a charity? How often do you read during a week? Are you only writing your own novel, or are you also reading others' work? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Emily, Jocelyn, Anisaa, Sam, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, and Lori Ann

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