THE FRINGE LIFE OF RAINBOW-BUTTERFLIES
Some people are born to fit in. You know the ones. They arrive for kindergarten in a classic pink dress and sweater set with such a deep, abiding confidence that it draws people into their light like little moth minions. Even the teachers give them special privileges such as taking notes to the office or passing out afternoon snack. Soon, the classroom ebbs and flows to their moods and wishes. Me? I showed up the first day of school wearing a bright red jumpsuit with sheer rainbow sleeves. Before I left the house, I distinctly remember thinking I looked super fly. Sure, my bangs were a fraction too high because of my mom’s overzealous tape and scissor trimming session the night before, but red was my favorite color and I loved the way the flowing sleeves landed on my shoulders like butterflies. Needless to say, there were no other rainbow-butterflies present that year. Or any other. I searched, hovering on the fringes of many different groups. But I found I was too self-aware to fit in with the geeks, not athletic enough for the jocks or dance teams, and not apathetic enough for the slackers. I was too independent for the popular clique whose moth minions had evolved into a hive minded organism that demanded complete conformity. I finally landed in the drama club, but wasn’t brave enough to fully participate in their theater productions or improvisational games, so I was relegated to backstage crews. Again, on the outside looking in. Again, feeling not good enough.
My school years, all the way through college, were not easy. I continued to struggle with feelings of inferiority. Everyone seemed to have something they were good at, something they bonded with others over, someplace where they fit in. But as I continued to search for like-minded creatives, I fell in love with and married a boy who loved science and didn’t like to read fiction (gasp!), but somehow understood me better than anyone on the planet.
However, it wasn’t until years later that I found my passion for writing and in pursing my goal to become a published author, discovered other creative, head-in-the clouds writer people. I’m not sure if any of them wore a rainbow-butterfly jumpsuit the first day of kindergarten, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they had.
Because of how my background has shaped my worldview, I tend to write characters who are on the fringes, many of them struggling with self-doubts. They are criminals, cheerleaders, royalty, and orphans, dealing with abandonment issues and aching loneliness. Like so many of us, they are searching for their purpose.
I drew on this outsider mentality when developing the characters in my upcoming historical retelling, Olivia Twist. Olivia and Jack are straddling two worlds—their dark pasts as orphan street thieves and the new glittering world of privilege they have entered. Neither of them fit in fully to either world.
As one reviewer asserted, Jack ‘The Artful Dodger’ MacCarron is “balancing a life of high social standing and finding it a bit like a sweater with sleeves too long for him”. He puts on the mask of a well-mannered gentleman while sneaking off from every party to rob his hosts of their most valuable possessions.
Olivia ‘Twist’ Brownlow was born in a workhouse and raised as a boy among thieving London street gangs, until her life goes from stealing in knickers to lavish dinners in elegant gowns as a debutante in high society. But she can’t forget the teeming slums where children just like her still scrape to survive.
Like many of us, these characters are on the outside looking in, knowing they don’t fit in and not sure they want to. What I’ve learned, and what many of my characters grow to learn, is that it’s okay to be different. In fact, it’s kind of wonderful to have a unique perspective. These are the individuals who bring the light of change, who inspire others to become more than they knew they could be.
This is why I write young adult fiction; to show all those rainbow-butterflies out there that they are not alone, to give them hope that they will find their place in the world. Even if it’s like Jack and Olivia and not quite where they expect.
OLIVIA BROWNLOW IS NO DAMSEL IN DISTRESS. Born in a workhouse and raised as a boy among thieving London street gangs, she is as tough and cunning as they come. When she is taken in by her uncle after a caper gone wrong, her life goes from fighting and stealing on the streets to lavish dinners and soirees as a debutante in high society. But she can’t seem to escape her sticky-fingered past … or forget the teeming slums where children just like her still scrape to survive.
Jack MacCarron rose from his place in London’s East End to become the adopted “nephew” of a society matron. Little does society know that MacCarron is a false name for a boy once known among London gangs as the Artful Dodger, or that he and his “aunt” are robbing them blind every chance they get.
Between plans of his next huge heist and the threat of rival street gangs, Jack encounters Olivia Brownlow in the strangest of places—no place for a female, that’s for sure. Why is an upper class girl helping homeless orphan thieves? Even more intriguing, why does she remind him so much of someone he once knew?
In a world of double-lives and double-crosses, each must make the most important decision they’ve ever faced. Is turning their backs on the posh lifestyles they have built for themselves worth it for one great love?