Breaking Butterflies was published by Chicken House on April 3rd in the UK, and sounds like a brilliant book. I haven't read it myself just yet but it's on the cards for the next few weeks - I hope I love it! Also, isn't the cover fantastic?
Here's a small synopsis to tell you more:
Two teens are drawn together, promised to each other since childhood by their dreaming mothers. The girl is sweet, empathetic and ordinary. The boy: brilliant, charismatic and ill. No one knows it yet, but he is incapable of feeling. Their relationship twists and turns to a terrifying climax about making the ultimate sacrifice.
Huge thanks to M. Anjelais for writing this blog post for me. It's always interesting to hear about an author's writing process, and I hope you enjoy reading it.
Cadence's Point of View
I’ve always been pleased with my decision to write Breaking Butterflies in the first person. It provided me with the opportunity to really get inside the head of my main girl, and let her experience and emotions be the lens through which the whole plot is viewed. In my mind, only the voice of my main character Sphinx could properly tell this story. However, I’m the kind of person who reads books and wishes that I could read versions seen through the villain’s eyes instead of the hero’s. And occasionally, as I went through my journey of writing this book, I felt that longing for my own writing.
At least, that’s the way I occasionally felt in simplified terms.
In all truth, I consider my story to be entirely without an antagonist. Although Cadence is a terrifying presence, he’s a victim of his circumstances just as much as any other character is. Still, his point of view is something that I consider intriguing to think about. He sees the world in a way that is deeply different from the way that most people do. I always knew that his voice, should I ever attempt to write it down, would be a stark difference from Sphinx’s. Getting inside Cadence’s head would be dark and twisted and disturbing – and admittedly fascinating. But I didn’t think I’d ever have a reason to try it.
Then one day, my editor Imogen asked me to do a study on Cadence, taking a scene and rewriting it from his point of view. If I’m being quite honest, writing from Cadence’s viewpoint is an experience I’m glad not to have had a whole book’s worth of – it’s exhausting to get into his headspace! Despite that, I was admittedly thrilled to have a reason to try it out just this once. In this scene, terminally ill and unfeeling Cadence has just been informed that Sphinx plans on staying with him until his death. Her intentions are to provide him with what comfort and happiness she can. His intentions for her, on the other hand, are a fair bit more ominous.
“You're good too, Cay,” my mother said, in that weak, fading little voice of hers. She sounded like she was being pulled down a sink drain, made of water and swiftly vanishing. I felt myself involuntarily clenching my jaw. Whenever she talked to me, it sounded as though she were the one who was dying, as though the fact that I was slipping away was a reason enough for her to try it out for herself.
Often I wanted to make her realize what dying really was, because it doesn't have anything to do with watching someone else die. Just the other night, when I couldn't sleep, I'd imagined what it would be like if I could pull my disease from my bones. I'd visualized it as an amorphous black mass, pulsating in my hand. And then I'd pictured myself holding my mother against a wall and stuffing it down her throat. You don't have to cry for me anymore, I would tell her, in my softest voice. Isn't this what you want? You want me to live, you want to save me. Does it feel the way you thought it'd would? She'd be choking on the blackness and it wouldn't feel the way she'd though it would at all, of course, because she'd just want to breathe again. She'd just want to save herself, and it'd be too late by then.
“Don't say that,” I snapped. “No one is good.” My vision of her, mouth open and gasping, vanished. There was no use wasting my time thinking of her, not when there were far more important things right in front of me. I turned abruptly to face Sphinx. “Why do you want to stay? So you can have a nice vacation in England, is that it?”
“No,” she said, in her high little-girl voice. She was shaking her head back and forth, her hair swatting lightly against the sides of her face. “I just want to be here for you.”
Be here for me. People always said things like this when you were sick, as though they thought they could put your body back together if they stuck around long enough. They all let these little trembling sentences come falling out of their mouths like half-chewed food, useless. But when Sphinx said things like this, it was different. She had such a maddening softness to the way she spoke, such a ridiculous openness in the center of her widening brown eyes. She was her own stupid, naïve, clumsy self and yet somehow she managed to say these things like an art. It was maddening.
“I just want to be here for you,” she repeated. I stared at her, catching her gaze in mine and holding it there. And she didn't pull away. She was looking at me like someone on the second-to-last page of a book, on the verge of knowing the ending. She wanted to understand me. I could tell she wanted nothing more than to get inside my head and read my thoughts.
If only she knew that I was imagining opening her up to see what she was made of. Perhaps I'd re-open the white line of scar tissue on her cheek and see light pouring out and finally understand what she was made of, finally come to know how someone like her could possess something that I didn't. No matter how many times I'd ever stared at myself in my bathroom mirror and arranged my face into a semblance of gentleness, no matter how many times I had exaggerated my soft voice, no matter how lightly I had ever forced my finger to slink down the collarbone of one of the girls at school – no matter what, I had never come close to this warmth that Sphinx had. I was always cold. When I was littler, I had been satisfied to imitate her, but now I understood that what I really wanted to do was dig my fingers into her hair and pull open her head, remove that unnamed thing from her and put it inside of myself, like a self-repairing robot. The fact that I couldn't do that was beyond frustrating.
How dare she keep it from me all these years, I thought, as I watched it swimming around in her eyes, like a golden koi fish, just far enough under the surface of the pond that I couldn't reach down and touch it. All of them were keeping it from me, everyone in the kitchen, everyone I'd ever known – but Sphinx was the worst offender, because she had the most of it. She was practically made of it. I'd realized before I'd asked for her, before I'd made her come here that what I'd have to do was own her. It was the closest I could get.
And now, slowly, I was realizing that whatever she had that I didn't was making her give herself up to my ownership, leading her right into my hands.
Don't you realize I'm going to take you with me, Sphinxie? And you're such a good girl. You're not even fighting me. You're making it so easy. I couldn't help smiling a little bit. She'd kept it from me for so long and now it was yearning for me, pulling her towards me, magnetized. What a perfect ending.
Suddenly, I realized how long I'd been staring. It was time to stop. I released her and straightened up. In any case, I couldn't assume that she was always going to be this willing to give herself up. People, although they tend to do the same things over and over, can still be unpredictable. You have to perform little tests on them to make sure your understanding of them is correct.
“Sphinx,” I said sternly. “There is no reason for you to want to stay with me.” It was the ideal test to give her. Did her intentions to stay with me run so deep that she wouldn't leave me no matter what I did to her? And was she going to turn rational on me and want to run, or was she going to stay this way, perfectly devoted?
“But that's the whole point,” she told me, and I heard the thickness of unshed tears in her voice. “That's why it matters so much, that's why I want to be here so badly.”
It was an illogical answer, of course, but that didn't matter. She'd passed my test, and that was all I cared about. I turned to my mother and beamed, momentarily pleased with her. The way she acted around me was infuriating, but I couldn't deny that she'd been useful; she'd orchestrated Sphinx's visit here when I'd asked, after all.
“She's a good girl,” I said, still grinning. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Sphinx looking at me, at my smile. There was a slight yearning visible in her eyes. She wanted me to smile at her, not at my mother. Good. I didn't look back at her again. It was better for her to be kept waiting, tantalized.
Meanwhile, my mother was standing there silently, looking as if she were about to faint.
“I would love if-” she began finally, and then paused to take a shaky breath, overdramatic. “I would love if you would stay, Sphinxie.” My mother was staring at Sarah with wide, babyish eyes. “But of course, that's really up to you, Sarah.”
I looked at the clock. Enough of the hysterics, Mother, I thought, vaguely irked because she was about to cry again. And she was being blind, anyhow. Sphinx wasn't going anywhere. There was no need to convince Sarah of anything. Sphinx had never belonged to me more than she had in this moment, and she would keep belonging to me, more and more and more, until she'd given her last breath. Until I owned her and that essence of hers, and slipped away with them both.
“It's close to dinner time,” I said, switching to my conversational voice. “What are we having?”
“I thought we could order in,” my mother said, still using the weak voice.
I turned my back on her and walked over to the table, taking my seat casually. I took a breath and felt a twinge of pain in my side. No matter how measured I made my movements these days, something was always hurting me. For a flashing moment, I was angry, disgusted with the weakening of my body, livid because everyone was still in the kitchen lingering like flies over a piece of meat, even though the purpose of the conversation had been accomplished. I inclined my head to ensure that no one would be able to see pain crossing my face and grimaced as I carefully adjusted the way I was slouching in the chair. And then, to console myself, I imagined Sphinx on her knees in front of me, big eyes looking up, and that thing, that light in her – mine. All mine, every last little piece.
Sugar and spice and all things nice, that's what little girls are made of.
Breaking Butterflies by M. Anjelais, out now, £7.99, published by Chicken House.
Follow M. Anjelais on twitter @ANJELAIS and find out more at www.doublecluck.com