On Finishing a Novel

I finished my novel. I sent it to my editor in New York.

Just writing those words fills me with a sense of awe and wonder. For more than two years my life has been filled with butterflies, monarchs in particular. I was mesmerized by how this little bug migrated across thousands of miles each spring and fall like a bird or a whale. I wrote about a luminous young woman, her troubled mother, and her endearing grandmother. I put four young women in an old car and sent them on a wild road trip cross country to the mountains of Mexico. Research was intense. I rode a rangy horse up more than 9000 feet in the mountains of Mexico to the butterfly sanctuaries. I raised dozens of monarchs from eggs, watched caterpillars grow fat on milkweed, observed the miraculous transformation into the chrysalis and then wept with joy at seeing a butterfly emerge and later released to the wild. I’ve tagged butterflies and planted a butterfly garden. I know all about Aztec gods and Day of the Dead. It’s been a wonderful journey.
Now that journey has ended. My desk is cluttered with papers, news clippings, manuscripts and books. My office is a wreck. I’ve gained a few pounds—even my dogs are fat. I’m exhausted. It’s rather like having a baby. There’s the conception of an idea. Long months of development. An arduous labor and delivery. Then suddenly you are holding this beautifully formed baby in your arms. You can only stare at it and marvel, I made that?

But the driving force behind each day is gone and I look around a little dazed. There’s no shortage of work to do. All the bills, the business details, the housework, the ironing, the gardening, etc. that have been pushed aside now snag my attention and must be tended.
Soon the creative process will begin again. As I put away my research materials from the finished book, I begin to gather my ideas for the next. I already suspect I know what the subject will be. I start sniffing out leads, conduct interviews, read research materials, see what sparks. Joseph Campbell said that artists are the shamans of today and I believe this is true. We are an intuitive bunch. It is a kind of knowing that is unexplainable.

But today it’s enough that I’ve finished a book and sent it to my editor in New York. In May, The Butterfly’s Daughter will be on the book stands for sale and I’ll walk by, see it, and stop in my tracks, dazzled, with an ear to ear grin. I’ll think back on today and all the feelings of euphoria, bemusement, and satisfaction. It’s hard to believe now that I may be finishing the next book by then. Can that be true? I feel my blood flowing.

Hmmm… I’d better start tomorrow…


  1. Thanks so much for sharing this. I am anxious to read THE BUTTERFLY'S DAUGHTER. I know how much love and research you have put into this new novel. I have no doubt it will top the charts.

  2. What beautiful comparisons! I wonder what comparisons guys would relate their publishing process to? Congratulations on finishing the novel.

  3. Congratulations Mary Alice!...I can imagine how much love and hard work went into THE BUTTERFLY'S DAUGHTER...as I am an artist/painter I know all about passion for your art and the deep connection you feel out of creating...I can hardly wait for this book and look forward to following the journey you took on discovering the plight of the butterfly.

  4. My sister turned me on to your books. I have read The Four Seasons, Skyward & am currently reading The Beach House. I love your books & feel I am there experiencing what your characters are experiencing. Thank you for writing these wonderful stories. I look forward to reading the rest of your books.

  5. Congratulations Mary Alice! I am so excited about the "The Butterfly's Daughter". I have always been a Butterfly Gal. When I had my 1972 Superbeetle I had a big beautiful butterfly decal on it. Did you know Butterfly's are the animal totem of Transformation? I am just sure this book will be wonderful. I can't wait. Please let me know in advance of release party. I want to be there for this one again. I now live in Seattle area so give me notice. I will keep eye on your butterfly project. I Love it! Take Care


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All the best,
Mary Alice