Monday, September 24, 2012

Interview - The Kiss of the Butterfly by James Lyon, Vampires from their historical roots!

Kiss of the Butterfly
Kiss of the Butterfly
by James Lyon
Kindle Edition, 333 pages
Published July 22nd 2012


"The smell of blood is in the air, I sense it even now. People thirst for it; the entire country is mad with desire for it. And now we are going to war with our brothers because they look like us, and because we can smell our blood coursing through their veins...” A mysterious letter starts a university student on a journey into the war-torn lands of rapidly disintegrating Yugoslavia. Naively trusting his enigmatic professor, the student unwittingly descends into a dystopian crucible of decay, destruction, passion, death, romance, lust, immorality, genocide, and forbidden knowledge promising immortality. As the journey grows ever more perilous, he realizes he must confront an ancient evil that has been once again loosed upon the earth: from medieval Bosnia to enlightenment-era Vienna, from the bright beaches of modern-day Southern California to the exotically dark cityscapes of Budapest and Belgrade, and horrors of Bosnia.

Vampires have formed an integral part of Balkan folklore for over a thousand years. "Kiss" represents a radical departure from popular vampire legend, based as it is on genuine Balkan folklore from as far back as the 14th century, not on pop culture or fantasy. "Kiss of the Butterfly" offers up the real, horrible creatures that existed long before Dracula and places them within a modern spectrum.

Meticulously researched, “Kiss of the Butterfly” weaves together intricate threads from the 15th, 18th and 20th centuries to create a rich phantasmagorical tapestry of allegory and reality. It is about divided loyalties, friendship and betrayal, virtue and innocence lost, obsession and devotion, desire and denial, the thirst for life and hunger for death, rebirth and salvation. “Kiss” blends history and the terrors of the Balkans as it explores dark corners of the soul.

“Kiss of the Butterfly” is based on true historical events. In the year of his death, 1476, the Prince of Wallachia -- Vlad III (Dracula) -- committed atrocities under the cloak of medieval Bosnia’s forested mountains, culminating in a bloody massacre in the mining town of Srebrenica. A little over 500 years later, in July 1995, history repeated itself when troops commanded by General Ratko Mladic entered Srebrenica and slaughtered nearly 8,000 people, making it the worst massacre Europe had seen since the Second World War. For most people, the two events seemed unconnected…
Kirkus Reviews: "In the glut of vampire-themed novels now on the market, Lyon’s debut stands out… skillful… authentic… fascinating… inspired… Lyon executes it perfectly... vivid... engaging... highly promising... sophisticated..."
There are a few vampire stories out there. (I'm reading through the Vampire Academy series right now!) But where does the idea come from? What about roots? I was chatting with Andreea, a two-time winner on Colorimetry, during the Olympics. Talking about London led to her country of Romania, which naturally led to where vampires started and why there aren't more books from her neck-o-the-woods. This story takes place much closer to her home. Well, closer than Montana, right? The author did a lot of research... not to mention, he lives there. I'm happy to welcome James Lyon to Colorimetry to share his newly released debut!

What inspired you to write Kiss of the Butterfly?

My inspiration was a combination of factors. First was life in the Balkans, which during the 1990s was rather surreal and phantasmagoric. At that time a country of 25 million people – Yugoslavia – was breaking up in a series of violent conflicts. These wars gave the world a new term -- ethnic cleansing  -- and brought renewed attention to an older word – genocide. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia gradually emerged from the bloody mayhem, giving us mass murder, refugee flows, rape camps, black-marketing, smuggling, mass theft, and an entire series of other frightful events. Then there was the involvement of the international community – the US, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, the European Union, etc., which was perhaps just as frightening as the actions of the ethnic warlords.

In the course of my sojourn in the Balkans, I came into contact with people from all walks of life, many of whom had participated in some of the darker activities, as well as with people who had carried out humanitarian aid work. Both the angels and devils made lasting impacts and gave me plenty of material for the characters I created in Kiss of the Butterfly.


Perhaps the second inspiration came while visiting a small bookstore in northern Serbia about 8 years ago, when the bookseller showed me an academic book about vampires in Balkan folklore and history. At this point I discovered that the word “vampire” originated in the lands of the former Yugoslavia, and that it had entered the western languages in the 1720s and 30s, thanks to officers from the Austrian Army who recorded numerous vampire-related events, including some actual autopsies of suspected vampires.

The catalyst for these two separate points of inspiration was a reference to a medieval military campaign I had found in an old dusty book long ago while researching in some archive or another. The book told of how the Prince of Wallachia, Vlad III, had conducted a massacre in the Bosnian mining town of Srebrenica in 1476. This was interesting for two reasons: in 1995, Serbian general Ratko Mladic carried out a massacre in Srebrenica of 8,000 men and boys. And for those who know their Balkan history, Vlad III is the person we know as Dracula. The combination of all these factors made me realize there was not only a ripping good yarn in all of this, but also a rather good opportunity to discuss serious issues under cover of a fast-paced thriller, while including romantic, historic and paranormal elements. Of course, such a strange mix is completely normal for the Balkans.

And speaking of normal for the Balkans, I told Laura that I might write something about tap-dancing vampires and yodeling werewolves, but the questions she sent me made this impossible, so I'll have to save that for another time.  :-)

Ah. Playing hardball, I see. And what questions was I supposed to ask where "tap dancing vampires" and "yodeling werewolves" are the answers?!  Is this Jeapardy?! "Alex, I'll take Balkan Historical Humor and Authors Who Understand It for $500 please."

Do you have a favorite scene or character?

My favorite character is Marko Slatina, who is a combination of Gandalf, Van Helsing, and Dumbledore… with a twist of James Bond thrown in for good measure. My favorite scene is where Steven and Natalija are alone in her apartment. I can’t say too much about this scene, as it would spoil the plot. However, it is an intensely electric moment that I think will be remembered one of the great dramatic and emotional scenes between a man and a woman.

Ha! Sounds like quite the scene!!

Share something personal!!  What is your favorite pastime? Favorite vacation spot?

Like Marko Slatina, I enjoy sailing. The Dalmatian coast of Croatia has not only the eponymous white dogs with black spots, but also over 1,000 islands. You can’t find a more beautiful spot for sailing on earth. The food is wonderful and homegrown – nothing genetically modified. The aromas are spectacular, particularly the fields of lavender. Have you ever tasted lavender honey on freshly-baked bread? And there are fruits of all sorts – grapes and figs – as well as some wonderful other things to eat, such as the locust bean (used for making sweets) and olives. And the island cheeses are simply wonderful. Ancient stone towns and cities with Greek and Roman ruins. I can't think of a more wonderful spot on earth. But sadly it is now being spoiled, as the world's jet-set has just discovered it. Prince Harry, Tom Cruise, and Beyonce are just some of those who have decided to descend with their mega-yachts to sully this paradise.

Um... nope. Lavender honey sounds amazing, though. Sailing around over 1,000 islands sounds heavenly. You're making me drool! I had to find a picture of this area. And wow... absolutely amazing.

Seriously, thanks for coming and sharing about your book. It sounds deep and raw and historical and I'm a little nervous. Authors don't ::razz:: me on interviews very often and that makes me wonder what you dared to write in your book!

About the Author:

James Lyon is an accidental Balkanologist, having spent the better part of 32 years studying and working with the lands of the former Yugoslavia. He has a Ph.D. in Modern Balkan History from UCLA and a B.A. in Russian from BYU.

He has lived in Germany, Russia, England, Massachusetts, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Utah, and California, and spent the better part of 18 years living in the lands of the former Yugoslavia, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia, and has worked in Macedonia and Kosovo. He has traveled widely, from Africa to Latin America to the Middle East, and all over Europe. He currently works in Sarajevo and bounces back and forth to Belgrade.

In his spare time he likes sailing through the Dalmatian islands and eating Sachertorte in Vienna at the old Habsburg Imperial Court's Confectionary Bakery, Demel. He lost his cat in the forests of Bosnia and can't find it. If you see a black and white cat that ignores you when you call the name "Cile II", a reward is being offered...provided the cat hasn't turned into a vampire.

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