TLC Book Tour: The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen

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“My past was never more than one thought, one breath, one heartbeat away. And then, on that particular October evening, it literally arrived at my doorstep.”

The Butterfly Sister

 

 

[DISCLAIMER: I both know the author personally and read/gave feedback on early chapters of this book, as Amy was in the process of revision.  I received a free review copy of the finished novel in exchange for my honest opinion. As a member of the National Book Critics Circle, I’m bound by the ethics of professional reviewing, which require I disclose any relationship with the author and the book.]

 

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I’ve known Amy for at least seven years, as I figure it. I met her when she joined the writers’ group I started up at the library where I formerly worked. I was nervous, jittery and scared out of my mind but damned if I wasn’t going to do what I could to connect area writers with each other. Myself a lover of the written word, as a newly-minted library paraprofessional with the power to do something about it, I saw the library as a natural forum for writers to meet and  there was no extant writing group in the immediate area. So I went for it, with not so much a bang as a whimper. A sweaty-palmed, who am I to do something like this, whimper.

Never would I have imagined one of the early – then long-term facilitating – members would get this far, achieve not only publication with one of the big houses but publication of a novel that’s taking off like The Butterfly Sister. I am agog, not because I don’t believe Amy would have gotten where she is on her own. I’ve met a lot of writers – aspiring and published – and can see that certain little gleam in the eye of those determined to make it. And this woman? I don’t have to finish that thought. You wouldn’t be here if she hadn’t.

When I met Amy she was a reporter for one of our local newspapers. She was in and out of the library often. She may have interviewed me, at some point. I don’t recall anymore. What I know for certain is she had the most incredible drive, a push to get the story via thoughtful, considerate questions that come naturally to born journalists. And it wasn’t in an annoying, in your face, way. It was more I’m going to grab you by the lapel – politely but firmly – and get your attention but this is as much for you as me. Talk to me and I’ll get you publicity. You’ll get me a byline.

Young, aspiring journalists, this is how it’s done.

Beyond her journalism, this woman started bringing poetry and short stories to the group, knocking me out with her ability to express a world of emotion in the most succinct, spare style. Polish, thy name is Amy Gail Hansen…

And I wept. Copiously. I was a writer, too. A quiet and largely untried one but a writer and here was this woman, younger than I was, wiping the floor with my timid self. But you know? I don’t begrudge her one bit. Amy has done the work. I wasn’t there to see it but I know she had one child, then two, then three, all the while working assiduously on what was to become The Butterfly Sister. You can ask her yourself, she’ll tell you. There is no magic formula. If you want to write well you need to get in there and you need to be ready to get dirty and break a few nails. No one’s going to hand you anything. Quite the opposite. Get out in that publishing world and join the tens or hundreds of thousands of other writers ready to run you down to get their stuff into an editor’s hands.

And Amy made that look WAY too simple.

WAY too simple… Amy… Ahem.

Woman knows her stuff, friends. She does do that.

So, The Butterfly Sister. I first read part of it long ago. Years. And it was completely different than the book you’re going to read. There are parts of that early revision I miss (beignets, Amy, and reflections and orange slices..) but the spirit remains the same. It’s the same Amy with her sleek, shining prose and the theme of women who’ve paid a very high price for their love of writing.

I’m very proud of her for how far she’s come, awed by her dedication to the craft. As a first novel, The Butterfly Sister in some ways wildly succeeds expectation for a freshman author. There’s been mention of the last quarter or so of the book feeling a bit rough but from the 3/4 point on a book is crazy hard to write. I have seen dozens of seasoned writers carry the reader to that point and then dump them, uncertain where it will go and how it will end. Oh, I know it all too well. If the difficulty weren’t so universal how much easier writing would be.

Writing is a journey and with each successive draft, or book, or story or poem things will get just that tiny bit better. If you’re lucky, easier, too but don’t hold your breath. What was glorious about Amy’s first book will no doubt be the same with her second. And better and better and better, as she keeps writing.

And I know she will.

The Butterfly Sister will speak to a lot of you, to fans of writers like Elizabeth Berg, if she had the yen to write with a bit more badassery… Themes of unrequited love, depression and the writing life will make for fantastic book group discussion. This is a woman’s book and I say that without the slightest bit of dismissal. It is different being a woman. It’s harder in a lot of ways and it’s distinctive from being a man. That doesn’t have to be a good or a bad thing. It’s a truth. And in this novel you will find – and I’m speaking to the ladies here, so gents do turn away – a part of yourself. Maybe you’re not a writer or haven’t ever experienced such grueling, gut-wrenching depression but you will see yourself somewhere, as someone who’s loved and lost.

I hope you’ll read Amy’s book. I’ve had the honor of reading her writing for several years and I am pleased to see her out there in the world, where she belongs. Keep an eye on this one… She won’t relent. We can be thankful for that.

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4 thoughts on “TLC Book Tour: The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen

  1. What an amazing experience to see Amy grow as a writer over all the years you’ve known her, especially with the end result being an amazing book like this one!

    Thank for being on the tour.

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  2. Good evening, Lisa!

    I appreciate your disclosure, as I do the same in return on my own bookish blog! In fact, I did it recently whilst I was hosting a stop for Lisa Wingate’s “The Prayer Box”! I find that there is nothing wrong with honesty, in both how we acquire or borrow the books we read, inasmuch as our connections to the authors themselves! For one thing, what I applaud about our connection to Ms. Hansen is that you had the fortitude to seek out a way to unite writers with each other, who might not have found a niche in which to grow their trade as much as their enjoyment of interacting with others who like them, spend hours inside their imaginations, digging into research at libraries, and cultivating the ability to draw out their character’s lives as only they can tell them! I found this extra tidbit fascinating, and how lovely for you to have watched this novel grow from birth to publication! 🙂 🙂

    Writers write for the pure joy of creating the work that alight’s before their eyes, and for the ability to convey their thoughts and musings in a creative vortex of narrative prose. One thing I learnt early-on as a writer, is never to cross-compare my writing life with anothers’,.. each of us is on an individual path, leading us to where we need to be and the times we are meant to be there. Where one person might take off like a hare, who is to say the tortoise’s of the writing world will not get there just as successfully in their own timing and methods of production!? Don’t be so hard on yourself! Take my advice, from what I have learnt: if you feel wholly comfortable as a writer with your ‘own writings’, holdfast to them, write your heart out, and own your work! You’ll find your own path to forge and walk! There are many windows and doors towards publication,…

    I appreciated your unique spin on enticing a reader to read this novel! Instead of focusing on the story therein, you painted a prolific and visual painting of the writer behind the words; of her journey and your journey entwined together in places, as this book took shape and was moulded into what it is today. I find that most intriguing and am grateful! We do not always get these particular insights and I, am still very much in anticipation to read this novel! Your quite right on that one accord: women and men do walk in different circles and are subjected to different trials and tribulations. A story that evokes the merit of this, but deftly defines it as well, is a book worth reading!

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  3. Pingback: Amy Gail Hansen, author of The Butterfly Sister, on tour July 2013 | TLC Book Tours

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