The Styling Librarian

In my opinion, books are the best accessory.

Styling Librarian The Black Butterfly Review and Author Interview

The Black Butterfly by Shirley Reva Vernick – Really enjoyed this novel. What happens when you have no control in your life? When you’re mother’s passion brings you from one home to another throughout the years? Would you be able to make friends and connect with people? Penny grew up feeling disconnected and frustrated with her life situation. When Penny’s mom’s obsession sends her on a mission on the other side of the U.S., Penny is sent to an inn run by her mom’s old friend for the Christmas holiday. This inn is packed with mystery, ghosts, and some romance. Quite an interesting adventure to read with lovely character development. What would push you over the emotional edge? I sat wondering how much I could handle when it came to threats on my life, sanity?

There were a few special moments I wanted to note:
First line of the book: “One thing you might as well know about me: I’m a collector…. I collect something that’s legal and takes up a lot less space: quotes.” I adored how powerful quotes were naturally mingled throughout The Black Butterfly. Reminded me of how John Green sprinkled famous last lines quotes into his wonderful book Looking for Alaska. I’ve also enjoyed famous quotes in Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.  I also appreciated how important writing and reading is to Penny throughout the book, lovely to see how she is able to sit down and get lost in books. One warning I have: do not read this book when you’re hungry. There are numerous delicious treats and cooking scenes throughout the book that make your mouth water!

black butterfly

Goodreads Summary: “Penny is furious, and who can blame her? She has to spend Christmas break alone at the Black Butterfly, an old inn at the coldest, bleakest edge of America—the coast of Maine. This “vacation” is the brainchild of Penny’s flaky mother, who’s on the other side of the country hunting ghosts. Penny most definitely does not believe in spirits. Or love. Or family. Until, that is, she discovers two very real apparitions which only she can see… and meets George, the handsome son of the inn’s owner… and crashes into some staggering family secrets. If only Ghost Girl didn’t want Penny dead. If only George were the tiniest bit open to believing. If only she could tell her mother. Then maybe this could still be a vacation. But it’s not. It’s a race for her life, her first love, and her sanity.”

SVernickThank you to Shirley for this interview, I was fascinated by many layers within the story and loved getting answers to questions!:

Do you enjoy cooking? Did you need to research different recipes? The food scenes in the books are mouthwatering.
I love cooking (and eating!) and even minored in food chemistry in college. I did need to research the recipes in the book, as they are outside of my repertoire, and that step was a lot of fun. Creating dishes is the closest I’ll ever come to being an artist, and I relish the colors, textures, aromas and flavors.

What inspired you to go down the path of ghosts haunting an inn? Did you research about paranormal experiences?
The two things that first “came” to me as inspiration for the story were Penny’s voice and the setting (i.e., an inn on a small island off the coast of Maine). Once I put Penny, who is something of an outcast, and the secret-laiden inn together, the ghosts simply demanded entry. I did a lot of research on paranormal experiences, which was a fascinating exercise — there’s so much history and controversy out there. I researched famous ghosts, not-so-famous ghosts, paranormal documentation techniques, myths and realities. The research was important because, whether or not a reader believes in ghosts in the real world, I needed to make ghosts believable in the book.Why did you write this book for YA vs. another age?
I love the YA perspective. When else in life is everything so fresh, so vivid, so full of risks and opportunities? The teen years are when we confront some of life’s most compelling questions for the first time, and it’s a wonderful place for me as a writer to dive in and experiment. Plus, I’m still very much in touch with my inner young adult, and we work well together on the page.
JiffyWhat inspired you to write this book?
Penny’s voice had been knocking around in my mind for a while. I got to know her — her personality, her attitudes, her gripes — and realized that she needed to get out of her current situation. I wanted to let her stretch her wings in a place that was outside — way outside — her comfort zone. At the Black Butterfly Inn, Penny has the chance to fall in love, discover the meaning of family, define herself, and possibly even die. It’s up to her. But not completely up to her.Do you have any key writing tips for children or others developing their writing skills?

First, keep on writing! Write what you like, whether it’s short stories, limericks, journal entries, or cartoon captions. It keeps the creative juices flowing.

Second, revise. It’s fine to “dump” everything onto paper when the inspiration strikes. But then go back and improve it. Tighten it, spice it up, use imagery, vary your sentence sturcture, whatever will make it a better read. Take you time. Editing can feel like a pain, but it’s worth it.

What was your favorite childhood book memory?
I had a pop-up Wizard of Oz book that mesmerized me. It wasn’t the only pop-up book I owned, but somehow it swept me away like nothing else. It was the first book that really felt like a friend.

Are there any authors or books that you liked as a child that you still read now?
I have a penchant for Maurice Sendak, whose books I still delight in, although perhaps for different reasons than when I was small. Before, they were just fun stories with cool pictures. Now they’re also political, anarchic and hilarious.

Have you read any children’s literature books recently?
I recently read Mary Poppins, which is charmingly different from the Disney movie. I also read and very much enjoyed Andrew Clements’ Frindle, about a boy who makes up a new word for pen.

Did you always plan on a writing career or if not…?
I did. I always knew, or at least always hoped, I’d become a writer. When I was a preschooler, I used to scribble on a piece of paper and then ask Mom what I’d written. Genius that she was, she’d “read” lovely prose or poetry back to me. At the ripe old age of four, I thought to myself, “Wow, if I can turn out stuff like this now, just think what I’ll be able to do when I actually learn how to make my letters!” Yeah, I always loved creating stories.

*Do you have any favorite topping you like on your pizza? 
Mushrooms! I am a mushroom-philiac. Everything is better with a little fungus on top.
black butterfly

The best advice I’ve received for my profession was….

Give every villain at least one sympathetic moment, and let your heroes behave badly once in a while. You’re asking readers to spend a whole book with these characters — make it worth their while.

The habit I never break for my writing practice is…
I don’t allow “but I have no ideas today” keep me from sitting down to write.

If someone had told me…
…how many drafts my first novel would go through, I probably would have laughed in their face.

Why do people always assume…
…that writers find writing easy?
Debbie, you forgot to ask me…  (if you could include your answer too, that would be lovely!)
 …what my next big idea is? I’m working on a YA novel about a girl who discovers something evil about her father. Except that it’s not what it appears. It’s worse. She wants to fix things, but she’s up against forces she never even knew existed. And time is of the essence. 

SVernickShirley Reva Vernick
Shirley has been writing since she learned how to hold a pencil. Her first professional publication, when she was a high school senior, was a pun in Reader’s Digest. The Black Butterfly is her third young adult novel, following the award-winning The Blood Lie and Remember Dippy. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Salon, Good Housekeeping, and newspapers nationwide.
Shirley is a graduate of Cornell University and an alumna of the Radcliffe Writing Seminars. The first paranormal novel she ever read was Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and it remains one of her favorites. She lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband, two daughters, and two frisky dogs.

Shirley’s muse: Jiffy:

Jiffy
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