Guest Post by Ashley Hope Pérez

Ashley Hope Pérez is the author of two young adult novels, WHAT CAN'T WAIT and THE KNIFE AND THE BUTTERFLY. She also is a passionate teacher and student working on her PhD in comparative literature. At the moment, she lives in Paris with her husband and son where they enjoy culture, croissants, and cramped living quarters.

The Knife and the Butterfly is set in Houston, Texas, but I’m launching it from Paris, where I’ve been living with my little family since September. Every time I mention that little fact, I get tons of questions about what it’s like to be a writer in Paris. So now I’m giving you the scoop. (I have to act fast because we’re only living here for a few more months.)

Are you ready for tales of glamour? Do you imagine me strolling every day by the Seine with my writer’s notebook, nursing tiny espressos in cafés while debating in French about literature, or soaking up brilliance in the famed halls of Paris’s universities?
Don’t be disappointed to learn that being a writer in Paris is mostly like being a writer in the U.S. It’s hard and a bit lonely. (And being in Paris doesn’t change any of my “Mommy” duties.) On a given day, the biggest difference between being a writer in the States and being a writer in Paris is that, here, my desk is a lot smaller. And I have to push the couch aside just to get to it.
Of course, there are aspects of daily life in Paris that are good for me as a writer. I have a long train commute to my teaching job, which is the perfect time to let my mind wander and circle around ideas. Unlike driving to work, riding on a train means I can safely explore ideas in my writer’s notebook. (I can actually tell what Metro train I was on by the sloppiness of my handwriting. A wild, childish scrawl? Yep, I was on bumpy Line 4 that day!)
One of the beauties of Paris is that reading itself is a fundamental part of daily life. Whereas your typical U.S. waiting room is filled with folks fiddling with their phones, plugged in to iPods, or maybe flipping through an old issue of Time, in Paris a moment’s wait means that everyone whips out their reading material. 
I’ve seen Harry Potter, La Roue du Temps (Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time), and lots of vampire-themed titles. But I’ve also seen titles by Gertrude Stein, Haruki Marukami, Jonathan Littel, Flaubert, Balzac, Proust, Virginia Woolf, and others. In other words, literary reading is a pastime for ordinary folk here in the City of Lights. So I get dozens of little writing-still-matters jolts every day here, which is very good for the writer’s soul. 
Speaking of waiting... life in Paris generally means a lot more time in lines—from red tape to get health coverage to the checkout at the local Monoprix grocery store. I spend this time subtly observing the people around me, storing up their features to be recycled in future fiction and imagining their stories of heartbreak and hope. (My husband says that “shameless” or “brazen” would be better words to describe my people watching. I maintain that I am most discreet.)
I also find that, living in a foreign country, I am far more aware of the interplay between environment and individual. Because the “obvious” routines and procedures of my U.S. life have been replaced by a world whose rules are plain to everyone else, but not always to me, I spend a good bit of time trying to “think French” or imagine what would make sense to a French person in my situation. (Read about how my confusion helps me learn about my characters here.)
I know, I know, none of this is very earth shattering, but the truth is that living in Paris is still, well, living. And to be a writer here, I have to do the same thing I do everywhere else: figure out how to feed the stuff of my daily life into the crazy creativity machine that lets me crank out some pages. But first, I have to push the couch out of the way and get to the desk...
While I’m away writing, here’s an excerpt from The Knife and the Butterfly to keep you busy. I chose this passage with the protag and his brother Eddie because it’s an example of the kinds of “backstories” I give to people when I’m gawking at them in line or on the metro.


isn't this the most adorable thing you've ever seen!?! :D


Me and Eddie sprawled out on Pelón’s bed, his cell phone between us. It must have been a weekend because Pelón said we could talk as long as we wanted, and he only did that when it was free.

We had the phone on speaker, and it was on maybe the fourth or fifth ring.
“Shit,” Eddie said, “they’re not answering.” He reached for the phone like he was going to hang up.
I pushed his hand away. “Just give it a second, man.”
We were calling Regina out in California because it was her birthday. A couple of rings later, our grandma answered. After I said hello and she called for Regina, I could hear her saying, “Go on, talk to him, that’s your hermano.” Finally Regina got on the phone.
“Hello?” Her voice was soft, and I could barely hear her over the shouting and laughing in the background. 
“Hey, chiquita! Feliz cumpleaños!” Eddie said.
“Yeah, how does it feel to be seven?” I asked.
“Abue and Tía Julia made me a cake. With ice cream inside.”
“We’re gonna send you a present real soon, okay? Just tell us what you want,” I said.
“I’ve already go lots of presents,” she said. There was even more noise, and she started laughing. Somebody was singing in the background. “Stop it, Tío!” Regina giggled.
Then Abue came back on the phone. “She’s just excited about her party, mijo,” she said. “Don’t take it wrong.” But she knew just as good as we did that Regina didn’t really want to talk to us anyway.
After we said good-bye, we just stayed there on the bed for a while, not talking. It was like we both knew that we weren’t really part of Regina’s life anymore, but we didn’t want to say it out loud. I sat there thinking back to how small she was when she came home from the hospital. I could still remember how it felt to hold her, how me and Eddie were scared we might hurt her just by looking at her.
There was this one time me and Eddie had to figure out how to cut her fingernails. At the beginning, Tía Julia did it, but when she went back to her family, it was up to us. We sat there for the longest time staring at the clippers and her perfect little claws that were scratching us up. But it turned out okay because Regina started laughing at the click sound the clippers made when they closed on her nails.
In the old days, we took care of Regina and taught her everything, even how to tie her shoes. And now she didn’t even want to talk to us. Maybe I should have been glad that she had a new life away from us so we couldn’t mess things up for her. It wasn’t like me and Eddie were Boy Scouts. But I couldn’t help wishing she missed us just a little.

Thank you so much to Ashley Hop Pérez for stopping by the blog today! I really wish I could visit Paris one day... *sighs and dreams* Well, anyway, hope you're having a fabulous time Mrs. Pérez with your family :)

The Knife and the Butterfly

Azael Arevalo wishes he could remember how the fight ended. He knows his MS13 boys faced off with some punks from Crazy Crew. He can picture the bats, the bricks, the chains. A knife. But he can’t remember anything between that moment and when he woke behind bars. Azael knows jails, and something isn’t right about this lockup. No phone call. No lawyer. No news about his brother or his homies. The only thing they make him do is watch some white girl in some cell. Watch her and try to remember.
Lexi Allen would love to forget the fight, would love for it to disappear back into the Xanax fog it came from. And her mother and her lawyer hope she chooses not to remember too much about the brawl—at least when it’s time to testify. Lexi knows that there’s more at stake in her trial than her life alone, though. Azael needs the truth. The knife cut, but somehow it also connected.
"An unflinching portrait with an ending that begs for another reading." --Kirkus Reviews

More interviews, excerpts, guest posts, and secrets (including two truths and a lie) shared and still to come in Ashley’s The Knife and the Butterfly blog tour. See the full tour schedule here

On Monday: Ashley posts a letter to her teen self at
Check out Ashley’s blog, follow her on twitter @ashleyhopeperez, or find her on facebook.


  1. Awesome guest post! I really enjoyed Ashley telling about real life in Paris, even though it kind of shatters my dream about city of love LOL! Thanks for the excerpt, this book is definitely on my TRB now! <3

  2. Thanks, Hilda! Ha, you can still dream of the city of love... just try to come WITHOUT a toddler if that's your priority. :) Abrazos!

    Thanks, Rabiah, for hosting me. I agree that Liam + piano is just the cutest.

  3. Loving this guest post. I've always wondered what life would be like as a writer in Paris. And it's really cool that Ashley shared pictures and insights about the difference of life in the States and in Paris. I know a lot of people romanticize Paris and I do sometimes as an aspiring writer but the world is the world and I like how Ashley said, living in Paris is that, living .

    So reading is a part of life in Paris? now THAT I am loving. Book wise, sounds like Paris is a dream. I often find it so hard to find bookstores in my area and it sometimes disillusions me that reading is not a more widespread activity. Ashley, if you read this: te mando muchos saludos. Will be adding this book to my tbr list :)


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