We are thrilled to welcome guest Deb Christina Meldrum, author of the crossover novel Madapple (Alfred A. Knopf), a literary mystery released in May 2008 intended for older teens and adults. Madapple has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Kirkus Reviews and was spotlighted by Kirkus in its special edition: “Fresh Fiction: 35 Promising Debuts.” Vanity Fair also featured Madapple in its June 2008 issue as one of its “Hot Type” selections. Christina lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family. To learn more about Madapple or Christina, please visit http://www.christinameldrum.com.
What would it be like to be the emerging butterfly, easing oneself from the chrysalis, pumping life into one’s wings? Would the metamorphosis from creeping larva to flight be jarring, or would it feel like part of the natural course: another inch passed on the growth chart, undetectable but for the chart? In her beautiful book, An Obsession with Butterflies, Harman Apt Russell explores the diverse and surprising world of butterflies. I remember reading Russell’s book while researching my first novel Madapple (Alfred A. Knopf), a literary mystery released earlier this month. Russell begins her book about butterflies discussing string theory, of all things: the theory that the world is composed not of four dimensions, but of ten or eleven, most of which are outside our realm of perception. Russell says that adding butterflies to your life “is like adding another dimension.”
As Madapple took flight, passing from the creeping realm of writing and editing, breaking free of my and my publisher’s chrysalis, entering the hands—then minds—of my friends and family and beyond, I realized it, like the butterfly, had a life of its own. At readings and book signings and through emailed questions, I’ve learned that Madapple is no longer mine; at some level, perhaps, it never was mine. As a lover of literature, I’d known the power of books to transport and transform. I’d known adding books to one’s life is, as Russell says, “like adding another dimension.” But what I didn’t realize is that one’s own book also breaks free of the chrysalis, adding dimensions that were outside even the author’s realm of perception.
And so, as Madapple finds life, I also do, in a way. I’m beginning to understand what it may be like to be that emerging butterfly: it’s disorienting and scary and brilliant AND part of the natural course, undetectable, in the larger scheme of things, but for the chart—which, for me, is a measure of Madapple itself: my own novel has certainly grown an inch or two beyond what seemed before a fixed height; I’ll never read it the same way again.
Perhaps I understand now at a more visceral level what I suppose I’ve known in theory: those of us who write are in conversation. The books and poems and songs we produce are alive largely because of this conversation. Russell says this about butterflies: “Butterflies everywhere are on the move, moving toward heat, away from cold, moving toward food, away from scarcity, moving to find a mate, a nicer neighborhood, more opportunity.” And so it goes. Books everywhere are on the move, seeking new dimensions. And, because of this, we authors, too, get stripped of our chrysalises. It seems part of the natural course.