Colleen Coble is known for her novels that can captivate
readers of suspense and romance alike. Weaving love and mystery is what she
does best. Her newest novel Butterfly
Palace (Thomas Nelson) follows the story of Lily—a servant fleeing from her
past—and a serial killer on the loose in 1904 in Austin, Texas.
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
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
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!”