Guest spot: The dream that sparked the book

The dream behind ‘Buttercup Magic’ – by Abi Burlingham

Buttercup magic cover
‘A Mystery for Megan’ – the first book in the ‘Buttercup Magic’ series

I have had vivid dreams for as long as I remember, varying from dreams of flying to the truly horrid stick witch who crept out of the plughole. Some of these have sparked off ideas for stories, but generally speaking I hadn’t used them in my writing and they were quite often forgotten.

That is, until a few months ago, following a fascinating article I read in the Spring Mslexia, ‘Dreamwriting’ by Clare Jay, where Clare describes the process of being conscious in your dreams, controlling them, and using them to help your writing.

Fascinated with this idea, I decided to try being more aware in my next dream. The dream that followed was incredibly vivid. I was in a big old house, or rather, my consciousness was. My dream almost told me what was there. It told me there were mice who could tell the time – I could see these in the dream – and there was a black cat.

When I woke, I had the strongest sense of place. The setting and feelings that accompanied it were so incredibly vivid. Luckily, I keep a notebook and pen by the bed, so I quickly wrote down these ideas.

Shortly after, I started to write the book ‘Buttercup Magic’ – under the working title ‘Buttercup House’, featuring mice who could tell the time (all called Whiskers) and  black cat called Dorothy. But I knew that a dog should be in the book too, so I wrote in Buttercup, a big golden retriever.

‘Buttercup Magic’ is now to become a series, the first of which, ‘An adventure for Megan’, is due out in Spring 2012. Without the dream, and without that very important article, I have no doubt that this book wouldn’t have been written.

9 thoughts on “Guest spot: The dream that sparked the book”

  1. I love the way you describe the vivid quality of the dream setting, Abi, and the sense of the voice of the dream. Thank you for a fabulous guest post!

  2. Thank you Jenny. It’s amazing how when we wake from dreams we’re so often left with a sense of what has happened, even if we can’t remember all of the details. I was lucky with this one and remembered both! Thank you so much for asking me to do the post Jenny.

  3. Have seen this book mentioned on Twitter a few times, and it caught my eye because I thought it was one I read recently in proof called “Buttercup Mash” retitled… but no! (I like your title much better, Abi!)

    So in your book Buttercup is a dog? In Buttercup Mash, she is a girl. And straight after that one, I read an adult thriller with a minor character called Buttercup who is a homeless trannie living in San Francisco (young readers, don’t ask…) Very weird, since up to last month I don’t remember reading anything with a character called Buttercup, whether human, animal or other. Are buttercups are suddenly in fashion? Much nicer than vampires!

  4. It’s the zeitgeist, Kath – always happens, doesn’t it? I remember a while back writing a fat slice of an adult novel about someone in a coma only to find two big sellers on exactly the same theme hit the shops before I could complete it. My YA novel about teen sibling suicide, which I did complete a few years ago, came close with two major publishers who eventually rejected it because they’d just taken novels on the same theme. Something similar happens, on a small scale, in dream groups – you find several people dreaming about the same theme or image at the same time. In Jungian terms, the collective unconscious, where we’re all joined…

    1. That’s so interesting Jenny. And yes Kath, it is a strange coincidence. I found out about a month ago, that there was a book called Buttercup Mash and very nearly had a hissy fit! The publisher knew though, but because of Buttercup, in Buttercup Mash, being a girl, and the age group being different, they decided it would be fine. For me, Buttercup was chosen because I knew the dog (yes, Buttercup is the dog on the front) was going to be a golden retriever, and I wanted a flower to be associated with the dog (you will have to read the book to find out why) so Buttercup fitted perfectly! As for the homeless trannie, well, Buttercup does seem quite fitting doesn’t it?

  5. It’s fascinating to hear how BUTTERCUP MAGIC came about (as I’ve heard so much about it in the waking world, and am really looking forward to reading it!). I would love it if I had a dream which sparked off a story, but my dreams seem to be either too weird or too vague – I sometimes have ones that ‘feel’ like stories, but when I wake up they don’t make any sense. Perhaps I need to try to be more aware in them, and see if that helps!

  6. I don’t think you could usually use a whole dream narrative just as it is anyway, Emma, so it doesn’t matter if weird fragments are all you remember. They can still carry a charge. I’m struck by the way my guests have talked about vivid dream moments or feelings which have turned out to be the seeds of whole stories. If you recall and record your dreams regularly, you just have a lot more material coming through, and soon you can direct it, asking for information and ideas about the stories you’re working on.

    1. Thank you, Jenny – that’s a really good idea. I’ve written down dreams in the past, but I’ve never done it regularly. I’ll try to do it more often and see what happens.

  7. Let us know how you get on! I’ve just started a new dreaming-and-writing group and we generally find it takes a few weeks to get right into the flow…

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