Interview with James Lyon, author of Kiss of the Butterfly

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Publish Date: July 22, 2012

Order From:  Amazon

Synopsis: In the year of his death, 1476, the Vojvoda of Wallachia -- Vlad III (Dracula) -- committed atrocities under the cloak of medieval Bosnia’s forested mountains, culminating in a bloody massacre in the mining town of Srebrenica.

A little over 500 years later, in July 1995, history repeated itself when troops commanded by General Ratko Mladic entered Srebrenica and slaughtered nearly 8,000 people, making it the worst massacre Europe had seen since the Second World War.

For most people, the two events seemed unconnected…

Meticulously researched and based on real events, “Kiss” descends into the chaos of Yugoslavia's breakup, creating a phantasmagorical tapestry of allegory and reality,divided loyalties, friendship and betrayal, Good vs. Evil, virtue and innocence lost, obsession and devotion, desire and denial, lust and rejection. It is about the thirst for life and the hunger for death, rebirth and salvation, and the search for faith. From Bosnia to California, to Belgrade, Budapest, Novi Sad, and back to ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, “Kiss” blends history and the terrors of the Balkans as it explores the darker corners of the human soul.

And there just may be some vampires. But not the sparkly, gothic romance kind. These are "real", Balkan vampires, based on authentic folklore from the region that first introduced the word "vampir" to the world.

Author Bio: James Lyon is an accidental Balkanologist, having spent the better part of 32 years studying and working with the lands of the former Yugoslavia. He has a Ph.D. in Modern Balkan History from UCLA and a B.A. in Russian from BYU. He has lived in Germany, Russia, England, Massachusetts, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Utah, and California, and spent the better part of 18 years living in the lands of the former Yugoslavia, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia, and has worked in Macedonia and Kosovo. He has traveled widely, from Africa to Latin America to the Middle East, and all over Europe. He currently works in Sarajevo and bounces back and forth to Belgrade. In his spare time he likes sailing through the Dalmatian islands and eating Sachertorte in Vienna at the old Habsburg Imperial Court’s Confectionary Bakery, Demel. He lost his cat in the forests of Bosnia and can’t find it. If you see a black and white cat that ignores you when you call the name “Cile II”, a reward is being offered…provided the cat hasn’t turned into a vampire.

Interview: Q. How did you come up with the idea for Kiss of the Butterfly?

It’s all Dracula’s fault. In the course of my Ph.D. studies at UCLA (Balkan History), I stumbled upon an old book that described a long-forgotten incident: in the year of his death, 1476, Vlad III (Dracula) conducted a military campaign in Bosnia and carried out a horrible massacre in Srebrenica, impaling people. I promptly forgot all about it. Then in 1995, the infamous Srebrenica massacre took place, with 8,000 men and boys murdered over a couple of days. It seemed like a vampire feast was taking place, and I began to wonder if the two might somehow be connected. Then I discovered accounts of Austrian Army units escorting military surgeons to conduct autopsies of suspected vampires in Serbia in 1730-31, and of vampire trials between 1736-1744. It seemed to me that there was a good story in all of this, one that would combine elements of Da Vinci Code, Indiana Jones, Gone With The Wind, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Q. Is there a message in Kiss of the Butterfly that you want readers to grasp?

There are quite a few messages, but none of them are in-your-face. I can tell you that there are some things about love, Good vs. Evil, guilt, betrayal, faith, and loyalty. Because the book is multi-layered, the message the reader takes away will depend on his life experiences.

Q. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about the book?

I enhance a couple of scenes with small details to enrich them. I would also strengthen the character of Steven. On the other hand, I needed Steven to be human and exhibit weaknesses…

Q. What was the hardest part of writing Kiss of the Butterfly?

Revising and editing. That’s the hardest and most crucial part

Q. Did you learn anything from writing Kiss of the Butterfly and what was it?

The publishing world is mixed up. The entire e-book and indie phenomenon is caused by the publishing industry using outmoded models of bringing books to market. It is skewed by the tastes and values of the editors, many of who have lost touch with the tastes and values of the vast silent majority of Americana. They don’t recognize that most people want books to entertain them, enlighten them, inform them, make them think, make them laugh and make them cry – all at the same time.

Q. Did you have a musical playlist you listen to when writing? If so, what kind of music?

Yes. Balkan Gypsy music, Serbian “staro-gradske pesme”, Bosnian “sevdalinke”, Dalmatian “klapa”, Macedonian ethno-jazz, as well as Classical music, Opera, Jazz, Yugoslav rock, and Big Band mixed in with crooners (Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, etc.). Occasionally I would turn on some surfing music from the ‘60s (heavy on the reverb), such as Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, Trashmen, Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, etc. Interestingly, almost all of it is music from before I was born.

Q. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

When I was in High School I couldn’t write a grammatically correct sentence if my life depended on it. Then, when I was 19 I began writing in a journal. As I got in the habit of writing every day, I noticed that I got better at it. The university and graduate school enhanced my writing skills and I actually won a prize for fiction in a writing contest in college. I have been writing professionally ever since then and have written two books, chapters in several scholarly books, many scholarly articles, and numerous political analysis papers. Kiss of the Butterfly is my first novel-length foray into fiction.

Q. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I enjoy Tony Hillerman’s mysteries that are set on the Four Corners Indian Reservation with Navajo detectives. Hillerman brings the Native American world to life and subtly teaches us about their culture, their religious beliefs and way of life, without ever coming across as preachy. Afterwards I feel as though I’ve not only enjoyed a fun mystery, but also learned something. Carl Hiaasen does the same with south Florida, but in a tongue-in-cheek manner. I tried to emulate both styles of story-telling in Kiss of the Butterfly.

Q. Tell us your latest news.

I’ve written the first chapter of the sequel to Kiss of the Butterfly and have written the first half of an espionage/thriller about the Wall Street collapse of 2008. I have recently finished a chapter on Serbia’s Artillery in World War I that will appear shortly in a book entitled “King of Battle: Artillery in World War I”.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Publishers and book-sellers dislike books that don’t fit neatly into one specific genre. If you think about it, the perfect book would be fun to read, the story would move quickly, the characters would all be fully developed, and it would deal with numerous life topics on numerous levels. Instead, we are forced to fit our books into silly categories such as historical fiction, romance, thriller, mystery, horror, paranormal, etc. But what if a book contains all of these elements? Is it a vampire book? Is it a romance? Is it horror? Is it paranormal? Is it mystery? Where does Kiss of the Butterfly fit in?


  1. Patty,

    Glad you like the cover. It was designed by a top-notch designer in London -- David Grogan -- who has numerous best-sellers to his credit and usually works only with larger publishing companies.

    He also designed an alternate cover, a blood-red butterfly, which can be found at

    Tell me which one you like better.




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