In a world where vampires, werewolves and dystopian societies reign supreme, authors writing about real problems and relationships in the real world seem few and far between. However, all is not lost! With John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up selling in their thousands, has 2012 heralded the return of the ‘real-lifers’!? We certainly hope so. To celebrate, we asked Ireland’s own Denise Deegan, author of the highly-acclaimed Butterfly Novels, to tell us why she sticks to reality…
Why am I not writing fantasy, like everyone else? Well, I’m a rebel. I like the real world. I like writing about it. I like reading about it. I enjoy my monsters as real life people. Writing stories that happen in the real world, I get to explore things that interest me – like why people do what they do. In the second Butterfly Novel (And For Your Information…), the main character, Sarah, has to go to a psychologist to avoid a criminal record. I loved writing those scenes. There is psychology all the way through the series, just not in such an obvious way.
I love writing about the complexities of friendships. I’m a sucker for romance. I like my leading men. I also like my bad boys. And I love that these are the things that drive my plots. Michelangelo once said that every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. I feel the same about my stories. They already exist. I just have to dig them out.
I didn’t plan to write for teenagers. One day, the voice of an angry, sarcastic, but also vulnerable teenager, Alex, came into my head. It wouldn’t leave. I had to find her story, see why she was angry, see what was going to happen next. So I started writing.
That one voice has led to a series of teen books, The Butterfly Novels. They follow the stories of three friends, Alex, Sarah and Rachel. I spend half my life in their world. Sometimes, I get so lost in that world, I forget do things like collect my own kids from school. I’ve been known to answer the front door in tears.
I love my characters. Not just Alex, Sarah and Rachel, but side characters, like Alex’s rock star father, his stylist, Marsha, and bad-boy Louis. Sometimes I like characters more than others – because they develop. In the first book, I didn’t like Sarah so much. She had some growing up to do. She does that in the second novel and I fell in love with her completely.
Each book is from a different point of view. And By The Way… is Alex’s story. And For Your Information… belongs to Sarah. And Actually… is from Rachel’s point of view. What I love about this is that it shows just how different the world is in someone else’s shoes. I want people to read my books and think, “good to know I’m not the only one with friends who let me down” or “I’m not the only one who feels this way” or “OK, so I’m not a freak”.
My books are like my babies. When I send them out into the world, it is like my baby emigrating. When I wrote for adults it was a bit like that, very few people contacted me. Teenagers are different. They contact me on Facebook and Twitter to tell me that they want the series to be made into a movie. Or that they’ve dreamt about the characters. One girl when asked on a date chose to walk on the beach with her dog like Alex and David did in the first novel. Another girl told a driver to move his car from where he’d parked it – in a disabled space. You have no idea how much these mean to me. Writing for teenagers has changed my life.
- Denise Deegan
And Actually… the latest instalment in the Butterfly Novels series is now available in-store and online at Easons.com.