‘Paper Butterflies’ author Lisa Heathfield on writing dark fiction and why “June’s story was too important to remain hidden.”

Lisa Heathfield is the author of ‘Seed’ and now ‘Paper Butterflies’. These books have two things in common. First, a gorgeous cover. Second, dark, but intensely compelling stories that leave us wanting to read more.


Here Lisa talks about that darkness, influences, examples, and why June’s story in ‘Paper Butterflies’ “isn’t all bleak”.

I never set out to write dark fiction, yet I don’t suppose it’s a surprise that it’s the direction my books take. When I was growing up, I’d spend hours devouring books that contained all things sinister and I’ve no doubt that their influence slipped into my bones.


And now I have two of my stories in bookshops, both of which have disturbing edges of their own.

With ‘Seed’, the darkness is almost always just out of sight – it slides beneath the surface and covers the family’s supposed utopia with a thin film of unease.


Yet in ‘Paper Butterflies’, the horror sits very much on the page – there’s no escaping it. And whilst the scenes where June is mistreated are very difficult to read, I believe it’s incredibly important that they are not glossed over.

There’s darkness at the core of so many YA books – from traumatic stories about the holocaust (Markus Zusak’s ‘The Book Thief’, Vanessa Curtis’ ‘The Earth is Singing’) to the impossible heartbreak of terminal illness (Jenny Downham’s ‘Before I Die’ and John Green’s ‘The Fault In Our Stars’).


YA books delve into the disturbing territory of imprisonment (Kevin Brooks’ ‘The Bunker Diary’) and obsessive friendships (Jess Vallance’s ‘Birdy’).

But child abuse often seems to be off-radar, the secret that shouldn’t be named. It’s been suggested that maybe it doesn’t have a place in books for teenagers. Why is that?

Surely one of the reasons that child abuse continues to happen is because of the very fact that it’s hidden. It needs to be read about, written about and talked about, until it’s blasted into the open and no longer has a place to hide. It’s one way that we can empower those who are suffering.


Many people who have read ‘Paper Butterflies’ feel that it highlights the reality that none of us know what happens behind other people’s closed doors. And they’re right. We can never see into the lives and homes of everyone around us. Yet if we read more about child abuse, maybe we can all be more aware that it might be happening in the places we least expect it.

June’s story isn’t all bleak. She is gutsy and strong, refusing to be beaten down. She finds respite in her own secret of Blister and his family and she seeks refuge in their warmth. It was important that through the horror of some of her experiences, beauty and hope found its way through.


I didn’t choose to write this book – June found me and she pestered me and pestered me until I caved in and wrote her story. It was an intense, overwhelming four weeks of writing. June was adamant that I did not stop to rest until I reached the end. And whilst it was incredibly traumatic to write at times (and yes, I cried, a lot) it was an experience I wouldn’t change. June’s story was too important to remain hidden. 

You can get your copy of the beautiful ‘Paper Butterflies’ right here, right now.


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Written by Sarah Clare

Sarah is the Lead Writer and Design Queen here at Maximum Pop! Sarah holds an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University, and a BA in Creative Writing with English Literature from Marjon (BIG UP THE MARJON MASSIVE!). Sarah joined MP! after seeing an advertisement for writers on Instagram – because where else would a design master find their dream job?

Sarah is currently working on an expose on Draco Malfoy in her spare time. But not if his father hears about it.

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