This is an author interview with Karen Sargent, author of ‘Waiting for Butterflies’. If you would like to read my review, go to this post.
~ About the Book ~
Longing for her family after her sudden death, Maggie becomes a lingering spirit and returns home where she helplessly witnesses her family’s downward spiral in the aftermath of her passing.
Her husband is haunted by past mistakes and struggles to redeem himself. Her teenage daughter silently drowns in her own guilt, secretly believing she caused her mother’s death. Only her five-year-old, full of innocence, can sense her presence. Although limited by her family’s grief and lack of faith, Maggie is determined to keep a sacred promise and save her family before her second chance runs out. — A tender portrait of a mother whose love reaches beyond possible, Waiting for Butterflies will embrace your heart and not let go.
~ 10 Behind-the-Scenes Facts About the Book ~
1. This story was inspired by the death of my mother-in-law, who died suddenly and too soon at 61. I wondered, “What if a mother is taken from her family before she is ready to go?” The answer became Waiting for Butterflies.
2. My protagonist is a “lingering spirit,” which some Christian readers might question. After all, we go to Heaven when we die. But…what if God decided to allow a person (like Maggie) to return for some reason? Does the Bible clearly state that is not possible…if God wanted to allow it? I couldn’t find a clear answer, which left just enough wiggle room for my imagination to play. (For a more detailed post on this topic, you can find Karen’s guest post Waiting For Butterflies: The Unintended Controversy at Zerena Blossom’s Books)
3. It took me 11 years to decide to write Waiting for Butterflies. When I finally started, writing was easy because I had been imagining the story for so long, and it was fun to finally meet the characters who had been living in my head.
4. The original title of the book was Her Children Shall Rise Up, in reference to Proverbs 31. Then I saw a quote on a journal in a bookstore that inspired the new title. Waiting for Butterflies adds a layer of symbolism and meaning, and without it, the story would not have been the same.
5. I enjoyed naming the minor characters because I borrowed a first name or a last name from people I know. However, the characters have their own identities and personalities. I can’t wait to see if my friends, family, or former students recognize my “shout out” to them!
6. Some of the best twists in the story weren’t planned. I would be busy with something other than writing, and then an idea would suddenly pop into my head. It was always such a surprise!
7. Although it’s not the usual practice, my publisher agreed to let me submit a cover for consideration. I shared my vision with a photographer friend of mine, which inspired her even-better vision. She snapped the photo of the adorable cover model, who is the daughter of a former student. Then I sent the photo to another former student who worked her graphic art magic. I call my cover “a work of heart.” (By the way, the publisher loved it!)
8. My husband hasn’t read my book and probably never will since it’s women’s fiction, unless an ESPN sportscaster recommends it on TV. However, nobody is more proud of my book than he is.
9. People often ask if the characters in my book are similar to my family. In some ways, yes. In many ways, no. Maggie’s fear of losing a child—or being taken from her family while they still need her—are my deepest fears. Sam’s occupation and the sense of responsibility he feels to protect his family are similar to my husband’s. Rachel is an eclectic mix of my daughters—Randi’s creativity, Kelli’s perfectionism—colored by my experience with teens in crisis that I’ve encountered throughout 23 years of teaching high school students. Otherwise, the characters have their own identities, virtues, and flaws.
10. I thought I’d feel like an author once I held Waiting for Butterflies in my hand. But it doesn’t feel like my book. It just feels like I’m holding a book—someone else’s book. (I still can’t believe it.)
~ Author Interview ~
1. What or whom inspired you to become an author?
I can’t remember ever not wanting to write. As a child I was a daydreamer and a reader. I kept a diary and wrote long letters to relatives who lived in other states and to pen pals who lived in other countries. I decided to become an English teacher because I loved reading and writing. However, when I started teaching, I soon realized my reading and writing was dictated by the literature I taught and student writing that I graded. Then I became a mom, so I put my writing dreams on hold. Although I once felt being a teacher and a mom interfered with my writing dream, I realize now both prepared me to become an author. Reading great literature and teaching my students to write made me a better story teller and a better writer, and being a mom gave me something important to write about.
2. What is your inspiration for writing the story of a family healing from the loss of their mother?
We received the dreaded midnight phone call that my mother-in-law had passed unexpectedly and too young at 61. A friend came right away to babysit our daughters, so my husband and I could stay with his dad. We returned home the next afternoon surprised to hear our five-month-old had slept through the night for the very first time, which she continued to do for the next week. While lying in bed on the eighth night, I whispered to my husband, “Ever since your mom died, the baby has slept through.” Moments later he softly said, “Mom, if you’re here, you can go.” That night, and for months after, the baby woke up. I’m still not sure what I believe about those eight nights, but a question began to stir my imagination: “What if a mother is taken from her family before she is ready to go?” The answer became Waiting for Butterflies.
3. What is your favorite part of the novel?
THE END. Those are the two most glorious words I have ever written! Actually, the end is one of my favorite parts because surprises occur that even I didn’t expect. My other favorite part is when Maggie is entering Heaven. I enjoyed imagining what that experience might be like for her.
4. Your complex characters are the beating heart of your novel, but which of them was the hardest for you to write? Why?
Maggie was challenging to write, not as a mother but as a spirit. I had to define her as a spirit by determining the rules that governed her existence and by justifying her abilities and limitations. Then I had to be consistent with those rules throughout the story. Sometimes I’d have an idea that Maggie should do something, but then I’d have to change the idea because it was outside the boundaries I had already established for her.
5. This is your debut novel, but you’ve been teaching writing and literature for 23 years. How does your teaching experience influence your writing?
I became an English teacher because I loved to read and write. But once I stepped into my own classroom, I discovered my reading time was dominated by the literature I taught and the essays I graded, and my writing was limited to lesson plans. Then two baby girls entered the story, so I tucked away my writing dream. And that was okay because I loved teaching my students and raising my daughters. But my writing dream wiggled every now and then to remind me it was still there. Now I realize my career and motherhood didn’t put my writing on hold. They both prepared me to write Waiting for Butterflies. Teaching my students great literature made me a storyteller. Teaching my students to write made me a better writer. And being a mom, loving my family, gave me something meaningful to say.
6. What do you ultimately want readers to take away from reading Waiting for Butterflies?
The characters in the book, Sam and Rachel especially, fight silent battles with guilt, and that guilt becomes a dividing factor in their family. But once they let go of it, they find forgiveness and redemption and their family is whole. Too often we hold on to past mistakes, our shame, because letting go seems impossible. But we have to let go and seek forgiveness in order to heal and move on. Maggie’s family exemplifies that.
~ About the Author ~
KAREN SARGENT creates characters whose imperfect faith collides with real-life conflicts, taking readers on a journey through grace and redemption to discover enduring hope. A romantic element is woven within each story. In addition to writing inspirational novels, she blogs at The MOM Journey, where moms aren’t perfect and that’s perfectly okay. Her writing has been featured on ForEveryMom.com, ModernSimplicity.org, and is forthcoming in Guidepost’s Angels on Earth magazine (March 2017). When she is not writing, she teaches high school and college English. She is a graduate of Southeast Missouri State University and resides in the beautiful Arcadia Valley with her husband and two daughters.
~ Giveaways ~
There are TWO giveaways associated with this book release. The first is through Singing Librarian, for one of three print copies of the book. You can enter this giveaway by clicking on the graphic to the left.
The second giveaway is through Karen’s website, and includes not only a physical copy of the book, but a beautiful collection of butterfly-themed items as well. You can enter this giveaway by clicking on the graphic below.
~ Tour Schedule ~
March 30–Paulette’s Papers | Faithfully Bookish
March 31–Zerina Blossom’s Books
April 3–Book by Book | Soulfully Romantic
April 4–Mel’s Shelves
April 5–Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations
April 6–Smiling Book Reviews
April 7–Singing Librarian Books
April 10–cherylbbookblog | Fiction Aficionado
April 11–Puddletown Reviews
April 12–Reading Is My SuperPower