The Metamorphosis of Colleen Coble
Problems arise for Colleen’s main character, Lilly, when her father is killed in a tragic fire and her fiancé abandons her. Soon after Lily loses her mother as well. Thus, she must find a way to support herself. She ends up in Austin at the Butterfly Palace where she finds work as a servant. Not long after her arrival in Austin, Lily “runs into her wayward fiancé and discovers he's using an assumed name and is nothing like the man she thought she knew. Her old life collides with her new one right at the start.” According to Colleen the story begins to get more complicated when it is discovered that a serial killer is attacking servant girls.
“There really was a Servant Girl Killer in Austin in 1884 and 1885. He was never found, and I decided to have the city afraid he was back in 1904 when several women were attacked,” says Colleen on her choice of setting. Historical elements also play an important role in this novel. Colleen admits she has long loved the Edwardian period as a time of innovation and social change. Colleen shares that the Butterfly Palace was inspired by Mr. Rochester’s gothic-style home in Jane Eyre. “I thought it would be great fun to have a huge mansion with secret passages that allow the serial killer access to Lily. The mansion houses the master's butterfly collection, and there's a grand stained butterfly window,” says Colleen. “It has more of a gothic feel than my usual novels,” adds Colleen when asked how this project differs from her previous works.
The original inspiration from this book came from Colleen’s dear friend and “sister-of-the-heart” Diann Hunt, who recently lost her battle with ovarian cancer. “Lily struggles with that age-old question of why God allows bad things in our lives. I've been struggling with that myself in a very big way,” admits Colleen. She witnessed a change in Diann through her cancer journey. “She always had the most beautiful soul, but . . . her soul became more like Jesus.”Colleen adds, “I'd read about butterflies and how they must fight their way out of the cocoon. The battle pumps fluid into their wings and is a crucial part of their metamorphosis. Di's journey was like that.”
In many ways her novel Butterfly Palace pays tribute to her friend Diann—carrying the theme of butterflies, metamorphosis and lingering questions throughout its pages. Butterfly Palace is Colleen’s 57th fiction publication of novels and novellas, and it doesn’t appear she plans on stopping anytime soon. Coleen says, “I'm always working on craft, and I hope each book is better than the last. That's always my goal!”