Readers will be thrown into a world surrounding many secrets of World War II in Paul M. Hedeen’s historical fiction, “The Butterfly.”
“I’ve always based a lot of my joy and pleasure on good books and good writing. And I wanted to do that myself,” Hedeen said.
Hedeen has been the Dean of the Humanities and Social Sciences Division for seven years at MCCC, where he oversees staffing and scheduling.
“The Butterfly” begins in 1963, after the mysterious death of a Russian professor. A college student is then led by the late professor’s notes and documents to many circumstances surrounding World War II. Additionally, the student finds himself assisted by a troubled daughter of the Nazi elite.
This book specifically deals with the fate of Eva Braun, Hitler’s mistress, whom later became his wife, and the secrets behind “The Last Jew in Vinnitsa,” a photo taken during the Holocaust.
Hedeen has always been interested in the way history controls the modern world today, which he explores in The Butterfly.
Hedeen describes his novel as Impressionistic.
“Which means that plot and some of the traditional elements of fiction, like plot and action and characters, don’t drive the novel so much,” Hedeen said.
Hedeen begins to describe Impressionistic writers:
“They lay things on the page and the reader does part of the work of composing those things and making those things into a story.”
“The Butterfly” has many different storytelling aspects: history, memoirs, fairy tales, and film scenarios. Additionally, the novel takes place in many time periods, from the 1920s through the early 2000s.
“It goes deep into their [characters] past and projects them into the future. Chronologically, it’s kind of all over the place,” he said.
“This has multiple points of view, multiple characters, multiple genres to reveal the points of view.”
Hedeen’s inspiration for this novel came from learning about a play written about Eva Braun. Many historians view Braun as unimportant and overlooked in history. This inspired him to write a story with a focus on Braun.
“I had a bunch of really interesting stories that she could be associated with, because she was associated with Hitler,” he said.
Hedeen describes his fascination with Braun in his upcoming blog.
“She is a lightning rod of interesting energies and attractions. For that reason, she is a good subject for fiction. She excites. She is controversial,” Hedeen said.
“Along with her obvious defects, mostly tied to her vanity, she had virtues. She was loyal, even adoring, unto death. Like so many women, she became the plaything of men who exploited and helped destroy her.”
However, Hedeen said, just like in history, Eva Braun was pushed aside by many other characters in the novel.
Additionally, Hedeen was inspired by a trip to Ukraine. He visited Hitler’s eastern front bunker in Vinnitsa and heard many stories that inspired his characters. This includes the photo, “The Last Jew in Vinnitsa.” Hedeen also attended a conference about the Holodomar, Stalin’s deliberate mass starvation of Ukrains.
“The Butterfly” was released on February 21 by BHC Press.
Hedeen is also working on other writing projects. He is currently writing a small book with his wife for the MSU Press series Discovering the Peoples of Michigan. This will be a true story about Ukrainians in Michigan.
“They have to be researched and they have to be true. It’s different than writing a novel.”
Hedeen is also the author of “The Knowledge Tree,” which was published in 2013. “The Knowledge Tree” is a thriller set in contemporary Berlin. Additionally, Hedeen has two collections of poetry, “Under a Night Sky” and “When I Think About Rain.” He is also a Fulbright scholar.
Hedeen has greatly enjoyed reading and writing his whole life.
“I just love storytelling. I love to read. I love to write,” Hedeen said.