An Interview with Lisa Heathfield

When I read Paper Butterflies, I completely fell in love. So of course, with me rebooting my book blog, I couldn’t help but ask Lisa Heathfield, the author, if she would let me interview her about it. And here’s that interview.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I always wanted to write. Words and books are completely magical to me. I used to dream that one day I’d write a novel at my type-writer, looking out over a garden - it feels completely unbelievable that I’m now a published author and my dreams have come true!
Do you have an all time favourite book?
I have three all-time favourite books - ‘The Enchanted Forest’ by Enid Blyton feels as brilliant to me now as it did as a child. I’ve re-read it to all of our three sons and I never, ever get tired of it. 'The Book Thief’, by Markus Zusak completely stole my heart. And William Faulkner’s 'As I Lay Dying’ is, for me, perfection.
What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
'Swan Boy’ by Nikki Sheehan should have been snapped up by schools across the country to be taught on the curriculum - there is so much to explore in there. And Sue Durrant’s 'Little Bits Of Sky’ is remarkable for its understated, powerful writing.
Paper Butterflies takes place in an abusive household. Did you find it emotionally hard to write about this?
I did find June’s story hard to write - I wrote it in just a few weeks, so I lived and breathed her world and at times it broke me emotionally.
How did you come up with the idea for Paper Butterflies?
I’d seen something on television a couple of years ago that really struck a cord with me. I didn’t think for a second that it had inspired a book. Then one day June walked into my mind and demanded that I tell her story and it had strong echoes of what I’d seen.
June is a POC character. How important do you feel it is to reflect different ethnicities in literature, and do you feel like they are represented enough in YA?
It couldn’t be more important to reflect different ethnicities in literature - we live in a beautiful world where every single person has a valid place and should have a valid voice. But I don’t think that everyone is represented enough in YA literature - things are getting better, but we’re not there yet. We need to reach a place where everything is so balanced that we don’t even talk about it.
Throughout the novel, I found myself feeling sorry for Megan. Do you feel sorry for her and her situation?
I do feel sorry for Megan. She was a young child who was made an accomplice in some of the abuse that June suffered. I don’t excuse her cruelty, but in many ways she didn’t have a choice. She was terrified.
Does the book have a message?
I never intended for the book to have a message, I was simply telling June’s story. However, I think there is hope at the heart of it. Hope and the power of love.
What would you say to aspiring writers?
To aspiring writers I would say just keep writing and keep loving it. Don’t make being published the 'end goal’ - the act of writing is the most important. And I know it’s unpopular to say it to teens today, but look up from your phones!! Otherwise you miss so much - you don’t see the tiny, detailed bits of life. You need to observe people to be able to write about them. If you’re on a train or somewhere, just put your phone down for a bit and look around you. There’s nothing more important for a writer than to open your eyes.
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Read my review of Paper Butterflies here.
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