This novel is a follow-up to The Sun, the Moon, and Maybe the Trains, Rodney's debut novel which we featured in this blog post. That novel is a beautifully-told time travel romance/adventure, and introduces us to John and Tess as they are hurled between the 1870s and modern times. We're delighted to see their stories continue, and Rodney again shows his skill in crafting a plausible and highly entertaining story. In Butterflies, the twosome face new perils as John returns to his time period and... well, read the blurb for a taste of what happens, and download the book for a worthwhile read from a born story-teller.
Also, the blog tour for All the Butterflies in the World is wrapping up soon! You can enter for prizes with the form at the bottom of this post.
Now, on to our conversation with Rodney!
Welcome back, Rodney! And congratulations on the release of "All the Butterflies in the World." The novel is a follow-on story to "The Sun, the Moon, and Maybe the Trains." Tell us about the experience of writing a story that builds on an earlier novel. Were there special considerations related to that for you as an author?
Oh yes. First, when I wrote “The Sun, the Moon,” I had intended for it to be a stand-alone, I had never imagined that I’d ever write a series. Series have rarely impressed me as anything but disappointing. I’ve written many stories, and they all tend to end on a note of further possibility. I have a fondness for that type of ending. So, when my publisher asked for a sequel, I said, “Why ruin the story?” I of course accepted the challenge (though somewhat reluctantly,) but vowed that if the sequel was not significantly better than the first, then no one would ever see it.
We're happy to see John and Tess again in this book, although they're often separated by circumstances (and time!) as they work to unravel the situation surrounding Tess's murder. Their interplay is charming. How would you describe their relationship in this book?
John is carrying over his love from the first book; he enters this story with a clear mission. Tess, however, having no idea who this crazy character is, goes through the same process she did in the first story: sympathy, curiosity, respect, admiration, then caring and love—the same slow process, but with a big difference. In “All the Butterflies in the World,” the reader experiences her emotional evolution from her point of view. It’s a fresh perspective, much more immediate.
As with "Maybe the Trains," the plot of "Butterflies" has a time travel aspect to it. We appreciated how you make the time travel angle work in both stories... exploring the repercussions of changing historical events, and doing so in a way that seems logical and plausible. Tell us about how you approached the challenge of crafting a time travel story.
With “Maybe the Trains,” I was interested in the idea of discovery. How would a person from 1875 come to realize they were in our time? The clues are absolutely everywhere, even in remote areas such as the Green Mountains of Vermont—all the everyday details we take for granted. I explore this aspect in “Butterflies,” only in reverse—Tess’s encounters with the past. “All the Butterflies,” however, focuses more on the ‘butterfly effect,’ than “Maybe the Trains” did. And the science? This is a story about love, not science.
Reviewers have described the book as "a wonderful adventure," "brilliant," and "a great sequel to a unique series." Are there any reviews that have particularly stood out for you?
I am particularly pleased with Kelly Smith's review of “The Sun, the Moon,” as she brought attention to the development and depth of the characters. I also enjoyed her review of “Butterflies,” as she draws attention to the ‘emotional’ aspect of the story. I’ve seen a few reviews that mention the humor in both books. I especially like that. It makes me think that some readers are paying attention to the smaller details. I am honored by that.
Readers and reviewers are, of course, already asking about a book three! Do you have plans for more adventures with John and Tess?
I’m sorry… but no. I’m working on a number of other stories (novels,) all new and different. Perhaps in ten years…
The point of view of the narration shifts between John and Tess throughout the book. Did that structure present any challenges to you in the writing of the book?
Other than the challenge of keeping their activities tied chronologically… no. It felt perfectly natural to me. When writing “The Sun, the Moon,” although I was writing the entire story from John’s POV, I was in Tess’s head a lot of the time. I know that girl so well, and I was dying to take the reader there and uncover a bit more of her mystery. So, writing her POV in “Butterflies” helped carry me through the story. Writing the shifting point of views—a break from Tess’s issues, then a break from John’s, back and forth—was energizing.
Both characters have distinct voices that match their personalities and their 1870s/2000s time periods. For Tess in particular, how did you go about channeling the thinking and feeling of a young girl so effectively?
I raised daughters… no sons. But to be fair, I believe that if you were to drop a modern 17 year old girl into 1875 America, you’ll more likely end up with a lost, terrified, blubbering, broken down wretch—not the sharply focused character that Tess is. The broken down wretch, however, would not have been so effective in moving the plot forward, or as much fun. John’s fate would have been sadly different. So, I took a few liberties with her 1875 experiences, for the sake of tone and plot. I offer enough hints at a more likely truth, to give the story credibility. John’s character was a best guess, based upon letters I read that were written by young men during the Civil War. You will not find much in the way of personality traits expressed in letters of that time, though; those required a bit of imagination.
The epilogue is impressive and touching. And reviewers are raving about the surprise twist at the end. Did you plan from the start for some of the book's twists and turns, or were those things that came about during the writing process?
The whole story was planned out (with an outline) before I started on the manuscript, with the exception of that last sentence, the final twist, which came to me upon my arriving there.
Rodney, thank you for talking with us today, and for creating this wonderful story!
Thank you, Harvey. I welcome the opportunity to confess… what a relief, getting all this off my chest. :)
All the Butterflies in the World is available now to download to your Kindle!
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