Sunrise at Butterfly Cove it was only ever meant to be a single book. I had certain other characters who were in it from the start – notably her lovely, slightly meddling neighbours Madeline and Richard, but her sisters didn’t exist to begin with. It was only as the story developed that first Kiki, the heroine of Wedding Bells at Butterfly Cove, and finally Nee, who’s story concludes the trilogy in Christmas at Butterfly Cove, began whispering in my ear.
Keeping everyone straight in my mind proved a challenge until I wrote myself a crib list of everyone’s basic characteristics. Poor Daniel’s eyes changed colour almost every chapter during the first draft! I also had to think about timelines and lots of practical things like birthdays, anniversaries etc. to ensure the story remained consistent. There’s so much information that I as the writer need to know which never makes it onto the page.
In order to get people to invest in a set of characters across several books, it is my job to bring them as fully to life as I possibly can. To me, at least, they are living, breathing people and I am an observer watching their lives unfold. When I see reviewers say things like they wish they knew Mia and the others in real life, I feel like I have succeeded in bringing them off the page to live on in our imaginations.
One of the most important things was to ensure we followed the couples through all three books. As a reader, I’m always a bit disappointed when characters I adore in a first book fade completely into the background over later books. It was one of the reasons why I added ‘catch-up’ chapters for Mia and Daniel in book two, and again in book three, together with a peek at Kiki and Aaron. It was tough to keep the key focus of each book on a particular couple, but the secondary characters are almost as important to me as the main stars. I don’t think we’d understand the couples as deeply as we do without the likes of Mads and Richard to tease out their secrets and get to the heart of who they are.
Timing when and where to reveal things is tricky. I knew from when Nee first appeared in my mind that she and Luke were married and it was originally revealed in the first draft of Sunrise. My editor persuaded me that the readers didn’t need to know about it at that point, and she was right. Nee was very much a cipher until she appeared towards the end of book two – and her arrival shakes everything up.
I really enjoyed turning people’s perceptions of Luke on their ear. He comes across as this simple, straight-forward guy and all the time he’s been sitting on this absolute pressure cooker secret. Imagine his internal agony as he watches first his friend, and then the brother he idolises and adores fall in love with women who remind him so acutely of his own lost love. Still waters certainly run deep in him!
Writing the final book was very bittersweet, and I really struggled to complete it. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the full story mapped out in my head, it was just knowing that once I committed those final words to the page that I would have to let these lovely, funny, complicated people go, and I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
The only thing that enabled me to finish the story was the arrival in my head of three gorgeous women who have been best friends since early childhood. Beth, Eliza and Libby started to push and prod at my imagination, eager for me to tell their stories. So, although I was sad to say farewell to Butterfly Cove, I am excited at the prospect of what is going to happen over the next few months in Lavender Bay.
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When talented artist Nee Sutherland returns to Butterfly Cove for her sister’s wedding, it’s only a matter of time before she has to face her own bridegroom – Luke Spenser – the man she impulsively married, then left in the middle of the night.
Nee hasn’t picked up her paintbrushes in months, a part of her is broken. She knows Luke might never forgive her, leaving him was the biggest mistake of her life – but could coming home for Christmas be the best decision she’s ever made?
Maybe all she needs is a little Christmas miracle…