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Friday Features

Welcomes

Voodoo Butterfly

By

Camille Faye

Today we have a timely sit down with the author of Voodoo Butterfly, Camille Faye, since Mardi Gras is upon us and her book has a close link to that time in New Orleans. Camille has stopped by to sit in the hot seat and answer our questions about her book and writing. And be sure to read the excerpt at the end of the post.

Welcome, Camille, and thanks for visiting with us.

I’m happy to be here. So ask away.

Let’s start off with a little about the book that you are showcasing with us today.

Voodoo Butterfly is a paranormal romance, but readers of romantic suspense would like it as well if they’re open to paranormal elements in their stories. My main character, Sophie Nouveau, unexpectedly inherits a New Orleans voodoo shop. The only problem? She knows nothing about voodoo or her secret powers.20150213 Voodoo Butterfly MEDIUM

Paranormal, romantic, suspense sounds just like our cup of tea since our series The Turning Stone Chronicles falls into that genre. How did you come up with the concept of mixing romance with voodoo for this book?

On a family visit to New Orleans in 2008, I actually had a dream about my main character, Sophie, who has the power to change evil people good. The other part of my dream was a vision of a plague of monarch butterflies descending upon New Orleans. That turned into the opening scene of my novel. I decided to research the voodoo religion, specifically New Orleans voodoo, and weave in that information to make the story authentic.

That sends some chills up our backs. Of course now that Voodoo Butterfly is out what are you working on now? Do you have a release date for this book?

I’m working on the second book in the Voodoo Butterfly series. No release date yet.

Dreaming about voodoo and your opening must have given you a sleepless night when you came up with your concept. We tend to write in stages: dialogue first, then go back and put in the different layers—sensory, visceral, emotional, settings—not much dreaming though. Besides dreaming what is your writing process like?

Donald and Catherine, that’s an interesting process. I might have to try that 🙂 I’m a SAHM so, with a toddler and 7-year-old to care for, I don’t have a lot of time in my day to write. My method involves keeping notebooks in my desk, car, bedside table, and kitchen junk drawer. Anytime I think of an interesting philosophical idea, conflict, scene, bit of dialogue, or fun fact, I jot it down. Then I commit to writing 15 minutes a day. Most days it turns into an hour or more, but if I can’t do more I don’t. During those 15 minutes I write fast and furious because I already know what I want to cover based on all my little notes.

We understand about keeping notes all over the place. We’ve even, since we got smart phones, started recording ideas and notes on them. We noticed your day is certainly full but we’re sure you squeeze in some time to read. What book are you reading now?

Currently I’m reading The Red Kimono by my friend, Jan Morrill, and I am absolutely loving it. It’s a story about the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, specifically the plight of Japanese Americans who lived in internment camps until the end of the war. I never knew much about those camps so it is eye-opening. Jan writes from family experience, because her mother was a Japanese American internee during WW II and her father was a redheaded American who served in the Air Force. Not only did she cover the history of that time in America, but she also brings home the big questions. What is it to be an American? How does race factor into American life? Even though it’s historical fiction, it’s very relevant in today’s world.

Sounds like a very interesting and personal book. Thinking about personal questions, we like to travel. What is the farthest place from your home that you have visited?

My husband is from Malaysia and his family still lives there, so we go to visit every few years. The food is unique and absolutely to-die-for. The culture is so foreign, but I love my new family there and the places we visit. Malaysia is interesting in that there are Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians sharing a small country and they coexist peacefully (!). I’ve gotten to attend Hindu ceremonies (including my own Hindu wedding), visit Buddhist temples, and attend Catholic Mass there.

About five years ago, my sister married an Aussie, so I was able to attend their wedding in Australia. Australians bring coffee to a whole new level because they use full cream milk for foam. (FYI: The beautiful “flat white” is now available at Starbucks if anyone wants to try that Aussie delight.) While I visited my sister, I got to surf, see a jumping koala, feed a kangaroo, and meet the adventurous people who live there. It was a beautiful trip.

One of the words you describe your book with was paranormal. What are the unusual paranormal elements in your book? (i.e. In our books our shape shifters have the ability to shift to more than one persona.)

I’m a very spiritual person and was actually going through an existential crisis while I wrote Voodoo Butterfly. Long story short, I was not finding a good life balance between career and home life, so I ended up quitting my job as a college writing instructor to stay home and raise my family. Writing a novel was a huge bucket list item for myself, so I set out to deal with all my emotional chaos through fiction. People who have read the book tell me that they notice the spiritual undercurrent in the writing. Yes, I want it to be a fun read, but I also want it to be a thought-provoking and deeply spiritual experience when people read my books. I want people to think about the big questions. Why are we here? What’s our purpose? How do we go about defining good and evil?

Another kind of cool insight into my writing is that the paranormal bits are based on my family’s experience living in a haunted house. It makes the ghost story aspects more believable and interesting because I actually had these paranormal experiences myself.

Is there a specific element you had trouble creating or keeping consistent?

Sophie ends up in this magical, otherwordly city of New Orleans and I needed her to react more to what she was seeing and sensing. New Orleans should get a “Whoa!” or “Wow!” reaction out of the average person. My critique group, The Lit Ladies, helped point out where I could play with Sophie’s emotions more (which is always fun) and she’s an amazing, strong character. I love her willingness to try new things in this strange, beautiful city.

If you could have one of your characters’ powers what would it be? Why?

Sophie is a specialized voodoo priestess called a Mind Changer. Whenever someone touches a special powder she brushes on her skin, they immediately change from evil to good. For example, if a jealous husband is on his way to murder his cheating wife at her lover’s apartment, Sophie can brush against that person on the street and they will drop the gun, go home, file for divorce, and get their life in order instead of going to jail for murder.

How many times have we wanted to persuade someone to see the light? Plus our entire society is built on convincing people to see your side of something: politics, advertising, religion, etc. Mind changing is the ultimate power.

Camille, the time has just flown by and it’s been a pleasure having you here today. As you say goodbye, can you leave the readers with an encapsulation of your life’s philosophy?

My personal meditation is simple: Joy and Peace. I’ll take a deep breath in and say/think “Joy” and as I exhale I say/think “Peace.” Those are the two main states of mind I strive for in my life.

Now for a little bit more about Camille and her book:

Blurb/ Voodoo Butterfly:

When twenty-five-year old Sophie Nouveau inherits her grandmother’s voodoo shop she knows nothing about voodoo. Or her family’s history of Mind Changers who have the power to change evil people good. To complicate matters, someone doesn’t want Sophie in New Orleans and sends a series of death threats to scare her away from her new enchanted life.

Tipped off by her grandmother’s ghost, Sophie realizes her mind changing spell’s been missing one magic ingredient: true love. If Sophie cannot experience transformative love, she cannot make her spell work, and she will be powerless to fight back when confronted by the one who wants her dead.

Bio20150213 Camille Faye

Camille Faye lives in Missouri, loves on her family, and writes during the baby’s nap time. She grew up in a haunted house, which sparked her fascination with the paranormal. Before becoming a writer, she reported for an NBC affiliate and taught writing at universities in Missouri and Illinois. She found the muse for her debut novel, Voodoo Butterfly, during a family trip to New Orleans where she dreamt of a woman who had the power to change evil people good. The Northwest Houston RWA named her novel, Voodoo Butterfly, a 2013 Lone Star Contest finalist. Camille’s stories are inspired by her travels to 27 countries and counting! Follow her journey at www.camillefaye.com.

Where to find Camille and her book:

Voodoo Butterfly | Available on Amazon.com

www.camillefaye.com

www.thelitladies.com

Facebook | Twitter

 

Excerpt

Chapter 1—A Tale of Two Funerals

When I was twenty, I lost my mother. She’d died in my arms of a heart attack in our tiny bathroom in our tiny house in Saint Louis. Even though I lived with the woman for two decades, I really didn’t know her. At. All. But I’d known that for a long time.

When I was a little girl, I had found a cigar box at the back of her closet that contained: a faded photo of a woman in a shawl; a corncob pipe; a blank postcard from New Orleans; one prayer card to Saint Michael; a stack of unsigned love letters addressed to my mother tied in ribbon; a monarch butterfly preserved in a small case; and—the strangest item—a glass eye wrapped in black muslin. When I finally got up the courage to ask her about the box of secrets, she told me, “That’s none of your business.”

I’d brought the box with me to the funeral home, hoping someone would show up and explain it. Explain to me what the items meant. Explain to me who my mother was and unwrap all of her secrets just as easily as I untied the ribbon around the love letters . . . with one gentle tug. But no one came to the visitation. No one at all. I just sat there with the box on my lap, waiting, and her words pounded like a relentless wave: That’s none of your business.

Well, actually, I thought, that’s exactly my business. Since my wonderful mother left me alone, not even giving me a hint about the rest of my family (like who they were, where they were from, what they did, if any were still living), I’d have to figure it out all by myself. Like always.

“Lost,” I whispered, afraid of the funeral home’s lonely echo. I clung to the box like it was a life preserver as the tidal wave of my emotions hit.

***

Five Years Later

At twenty-five, I lost my grandmother Seraphina. Mom had never told me that her mother was still living, but according to the last will and testament I received in the mail two days ago, I was the inheritor of the family’s voodoo shop. In New Orleans. So I’d packed myself up and boarded my first flight for my very first trip ever outside of my hometown of Saint Louis.

Now that I’d made it to New Orleans, I was searching for—of all places—Saint Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter. Ironic that Saint Louis was where I came from and where I was headed to.

As I picked my way through New Orleans’ foreign streets, I checked my watch for the eighty-seventh time, thinking there’s probably a special circle of Hell for people late to their grandmother’s funeral.

I quickened my pace. Whispers of fear slithered through me as reality settled in. I was lost. I tried the next street. Another dead end. I broke into a run. Tears stung my eyes as I remembered words like “single woman” and “statistic” from the morning paper which covered New Orleans’ recent crime wave. I gritted my teeth and stopped, straining to listen. The bells of Saint Louis Cathedral counted down.

There! I hoped my ears weren’t playing tricks. Nope, that’s people. I raced toward their voices. Turning a corner, I finally saw dozens of people one block ahead. A new noise layered itself on top of the crowd’s babbling and the bell’s tolling, a sound like millions of paper pamphlets falling from the sky.

Several people ran toward me and I slowed my pace, my knees wobbling from the rush of worry and adrenaline. I wondered what was going on up ahead because, nearing the busy street, I noticed people with hands over mouths and fingers pointed to the sky. Between the row houses that loomed over me, I glimpsed an orange cloud descending upon the city. I squinted.

“Is that . . .?” I asked under my breath.

“Yeah,” a tourist with a camera replied. “They just came outta nowhere.”

Squinting again, I tried to make sense of something that defied logic. Something . . . not natural.

The man lifted his camera to his eye and the shutter click-clicked to capture the magic.

Millions of monarch butterflies rushed down the street like a tangerine river. A dragonfly alighted on the guy’s camera lens before joining the butterflies. The bell’s final ring mellowed into silence, the plague of insects growing thicker. That final toll meant the funeral was already starting and I had to get there. Since I never actually got to meet my grandmother, this moment would be my one chance to meet a large number of people who all knew her. It was the best way to get to know her in a quick amount of time. I would not give up. Pulling my waist-length, auburn tresses into a quick ponytail and raising my arm above my glasses like a shield, I jumped into the cloud of insects.

They crawled all over me. On my skin. In my hair. I swatted. Scratched. Ran.

Peeking under my arm so that I didn’t trip, I glimpsed a man in a business suit running alongside me before retreating into a nearby building. Then I nearly slammed into a balcony support beam, sidestepping it at the last minute.

“You okay?” a woman shouted down from the balcony. I noticed her teenage kids were armed with cell phone cameras. Giving her a quick wave, I sprinted forward.

My heart thumped. My eyes watered. My breath stopped, then started. The bugs nearly flew into my mouth as I gulped short bursts of air. Drowning in the insects now—they thickened as I got closer to where I needed to be—I jumped into a niche for a moment of relief. My hands shook as I inspected the welts and scratches on my bare arms. People ran by with newspaper helmets and umbrella shields.

Protection. That’s what I need. I threw my hands up, air escaping my mouth in a laugh-cry. Oh my God, I made the worst mistake, and now I’m not even gonna make it to this damn funeral.

Something flew down my shirt and I did a jig to shake it out.

A woman chuckled from a nearby doorway.

Shielding my eyes with cupped hands, I could barely make out her face.

“Don’t you know who died, child?” She shouted with amusement in her tone, as if that explained this whole crazy phenomenon.

Wiping the tears from my eyes, I yelled back, “My grandmother, I think.”

A couple of police cars raced toward the cathedral, sirens blaring.

“I’m late,” I shouted. “And now this.” I waved my hands to indicate the end-of-days scene unfolding before us.

“Here, ma petite.” She walked over to me and not one bug touched her. Not a single one. “Take this or you’ll never make it.” She slid her shawl off and wrapped it around me. Then she placed her heavy hands on my shoulders and gazed into my eyes, before glancing across the street.

My eyes followed hers to a shop with bright blue shutters.

“God bless you, honey. Now hurry up,” she said before turning her eyes to where the swarm flew.

Draping the shawl over my head, I shouted a thank you over my shoulder, leaving the woman framed in her doorway. Wrapping the long fabric around my arms and torso, I ran through the plague, feeling protected by the soft shawl that smelled, vaguely, of pipe tobacco.

As I entered Jackson Square, a little bird of a girl fell over from the force of the wind. I scooped the toddler up. A woman with wild eyes forced her way through the crowd and the girl shouted, “Mommy!” I handed the tiny girl into the safe arms of her mama and the two retreated into a nearby store.

Raising my eyes to the sky, I saw the winged creatures swirling overhead like a growing hurricane; the mass of them actually churned the air making me feel as if I was inside a swirling cauldron filled with thick, steaming stew. Clouds spun toward this supernatural force, unable to escape the eye of this storm brewing in the heart of the city. Lightning illuminated the freakish scene as the clouds leaked, threatening to rip open.

“What in the hell?” I asked no one in particular.

“You mean Heaven? Because I think an angel has come to save us.” Seeming to materialize from thin air, a man with a slick, dark ponytail and a gold watch the size of New Jersey held his hand out to me. “I’m Nico. Nice to meet you, sweetie.”

I shook his hand out of courtesy, but he smelled like garlic and smiled like a used car salesman. Nico held my hand for a socially unacceptable amount of time and I literally had to wriggle loose from his grasp.

Just then, the rain clouds burst open, and I turned to run into the shelter of the cathedral and saw that it, too, was swarmed. Monarch butterflies crawled over every square inch of the building’s exterior, making the church come alive. The building twisted and turned with the movement of muscles and joints underneath a skin of orange and black iridescent wings.

“Hey!” a burly guy, shouldering a news camera, shouted at me. “You’re blocking my shot.”

People pushed past me to get out of the storm and it seemed that the butterflies were trying to move within, too. My adrenaline hammered me one more time and I almost decided to run. All the way back to Saint Louis. Instead, I surrendered to the push of the crowd, which forced me into the mouth of the living building.

***

I hadn’t stepped foot in a church since my mother’s funeral. Instantly, my hatred for her bubbled to the surface. Immediately followed by guilt. Then sadness pinned my heart to my chest. Taking a deep breath, I searched for a place to sit and saw hundreds of people jammed into pews and standing along the walls. I didn’t know a single one.

Why am I here? I thought for the thousandth time. I didn’t even know this woman, even if she was my grandmother.

As I scanned the room, I saw emotion flow and break like waves across the bereaved faces. Confusion. Shock. Fear. All while the butterflies flitted around us, some even alighting peacefully on the casket.

At least this is better than the ten plagues of Egypt going on outside.

Mass had already started, so an usher led me to some standing room up front, between the casket and rows of lit votives. After drying my glasses on the shawl, I glanced across the hundreds of holy candles flickering in tall clear jars, the wax hovering at different levels depending on when the penitent lit it. Each light represented a person’s hope. Each light yearned to shine bright enough to get God’s attention. I stared at the dancing flames not knowing if I believed that God could come to the rescue. Not anymore.

Anger choked me. She told me that her mother had died before I was born. Flat. Out. Lie. That was what my mother had always been. A liar.

I shook my head and, with stupid faith and a flicker of hope, grabbed some money from my pocket. Shoving my offering into the candle collection box and using the flame from another person’s prayer, I lit the long matchstick, transferring the fire to my candle and my wish. As the wick caught fire, I thought about what I wanted. Answers about my family, a job would be great, and a shot at a decent, loving relationship.

Turning back toward the casket, I pulled the worn picture from my pocket, the one from the cigar box. The only thing identifying the woman in the picture was the name Mother scrawled across the back in my mother’s handwriting. I studied the features of this woman who was a mystery to me and yet had the potential to be a huge part of me. She wore her mahogany hair in short curls framing her heart-shaped face. Now I knew that her glowing caramel skin, the same as my mother’s, came from the mixing of cultures here in New Orleans: French, Spanish, African, and Native American. I glanced at the skin on the back of my hand, a shade or two lighter than theirs but with the same olive undertones.

And her violet eyes, the same rare shade as mine, danced with spirit and wanted to tell me about my family. I rubbed my thumb lightly over her face. She stood tall and proud with her hands on her hips and a red and gold shawl draped over her curvy frame. I looked closer at the picture and then down at the fabric wrapped around me.

The same shawl.

 

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