Updated: Jan 19
The heart of Ella B. Grayson's Butterflies At Night is a journey of self-discovery and love. In the author's debut novel, we follow Ericka as she flees an abusive relationship and is forced to leave her son behind. She finds solace in a house with a dark and peculiar past. Ericka uncovers a renewed sense of purpose as she learns about the places past and takes on a new job caring for an elderly man struggling with dementia. Caught between her own troubled past and the new life she is building, she bravely tries to start over.
To learn more about the story behind the story, read A Good Book To End The Day’s interview with the author below.
When did your love of writing begin?
For me, writing is more of a compulsion. When I took a writing class in my last semester of college, I remember a student asking the professor, “How do you know if you’re a writer?” The professor replied, “You have to write if you’re a writer.” That’s how it is for me. I’ve always written. When I read books, I’m usually thinking about another story I’d like to write.
Tell us about Butterflies At Night and the inspiration behind the novel.
I started writing “Butterflies At Night” because I was reading a pretty awful romance novel to kill time while I was caregiving. I don’t know where the book came from. Maybe someone had left it at the house where I was working. I remember thinking repeatedly, “I can write a better book than this.” And that book had been accepted by a publisher. So I started an outline, and before I knew it, a book was unfolding. This was many years ago, long before Kindle Direct Publishing made self-publishing possible. I was working, raising my kids, and homeschooling, all at the same time. I did most of my writing during the late hours in the evening after my client had gone to bed. There wasn’t much time to pursue having it published once it was finished, so it just stayed in my computer for years. Every now and then I would open it and do some editing, and I’d think, “This is actually pretty good.” I can’t say that I had an inspiration for the book, but there were aspects of my life that I pulled some of my story from. I would take something real that happened to me, but I would have it happen in the book in a very different way, or to a very different kind of character.
Do you have a favorite line or passage from the book?
I recently opened the book quite randomly to a scene that I especially like. The main character, Ericka, has a rare moment of speaking her mind. She is a pretty timid person, so this is unusual for her. In this scene, she tells Andrew, the son of the man she is caregiving for, that he is possibly losing his chance to see how much his father cares about him. She tells Andrew how proud his father is of him, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. I like this scene because Ericka is standing up for something she believes is important, even though life has torn her down. It is a moment when her convictions are stronger than her fear, and that can often be pivotal in people’s lives.
What were the challenges in bringing this book to life?
My biggest challenge was that I didn’t have anyone to read the book. When I got it to the point where I thought it was ready to be read by someone else, I finally started sending one chapter at a time to my mother, who has always been an avid reader. About halfway through, I got a new computer and put my entire book file onto Google Docs, and we just never made the transition for her, so she never read the whole book until I published it. I edited it at least eight times on my own, and then my husband did the final computerized check for anything I’d missed, and he did the formatting. I think the biggest challenge for me was putting the book out into the world knowing that nobody had ever read the whole thing. My mother and my mother-in-law were the first two people to ever read it, and they both really enjoyed it, so that was very encouraging. (My mother-in-law is also an avid reader.)
Do you have any other projects in the works at this time?
I do have two other books in the works. I started writing one called, “The Secret Coast” about a widow who rents a cabin in the Northern California redwoods and discovers a terrible secret nearby. However, I have put that book on hold to write a YA book about a troubled thirteen-year-old boy who gets lost in the fog at night in the Northern California forest, and he transitions from being lost to becoming a runaway when he starts to think his parents’ lives would be easier without him.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
People on Facebook writers’ groups often ask how to start writing a story. I could never imagine coming up with a whole story when I was younger, but once I started writing “Butterflies At Night”, the characters themselves sort of took over the story and shaped it. This is also what’s happening in the other two books I’m working on. It’s like the characters are real people in my mind, and I create a pretty detailed setting so that I’m not dealing with a bunch of loose ends. So I guess the advice is, to get the details figured out ahead of time. Know what your characters look like, how they’d think or act in a certain situation and know where their lives are taking place. You can be flexible, but imagine they’re actual people and actual places and write from there. Also, I’ve always held to the advice of one of my writing teachers, “Write what you know.” I find it a lot easier to write about places I’m familiar with, and about problems I’ve faced myself.
What does literary success look like to you?
I never published my book expecting it to be an amazing success as an author. For me, it was more about just accomplishing the task of publishing the book I wrote so many years ago. It has become about more than that since I published it, though, because there are people who have read my book and think I need to keep writing. I have faced some very serious difficulties in my life, and some of what I write has the potential to help others facing similar problems. That is why I am shifting my focus right now to the YA book. I’m hoping that if a 12 or 13-year-old boy picks up my YA book and starts reading, he will see that he’s not alone in his struggle. If it keeps one kid from running away from home, or maybe helps him see that there are better options, that’s literary success to me. I raised three boys, one of whom was adopted, and dealt with early-childhood trauma issues, so I think my experiences as a parent are valuable in my writing.
Thanks so much for being part of the A Good Book To End The Day family! Is there
anything else you’d like to add?
One of the hardest things for me, now that I have published my book, is pushing forward on social media and marketing, or just getting up every day and believing that what I’m doing is worthwhile. If you make a meal and sell it to someone, you can see the results immediately. It’s an “If this, then that” sort of thing. But the reward from writing is not tangible, and when you put as much effort in as it takes to write a book, and then edit it seven or eight times, and then put your soul out into the world when you publish your book, there is no visible outcome other than the reviews you read. In the beginning, which is where I am, those are few and far between. Even some of the people I know who have read “Butterflies At Night”, and told me they enjoyed the book, have not posted a public review. I am not a thick-skinned person, so this is especially difficult for me. In order to overcome this, I am considering a cross-country road trip with stops at bookshops to do book signings along the way, if I can arrange it. I do better when I can talk to people face to face. By the time I do this, I plan to have my YA book already published as well. This will help me set a goal, and I love to travel, so this plan would give me a good excuse to make a road trip!
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