MuggleCast 536 Transcript
Transcript for MuggleCast Episode #536, Evanna Lynch Discusses “The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting”
[Show music plays]
Andrew Sims: Welcome to MuggleCast, your weekly ride into the wizarding world fandom. I’m Andrew.
Eric Scull: I’m Eric.
Micah Tannenbaum: I’m Micah.
Laura Tee: I’m Laura.
Andrew: And this week we’ve got a special episode; we are joined by friend of the show Evanna Lynch, who of course played Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter films. Evanna, welcome back to MuggleCast!
Evanna Lynch: Hello! Hello, hello! Thanks for having me back.
Andrew: Yeah, it’s great to have you on. You’re here today because you just released a memoir, The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting. Eric is modeling it now.
Andrew: Ooh, I don’t have a physical copy yet. I’m jealous.
Eric: What a gorgeous cover.
Andrew: It really is.
Evanna: I know. It is pretty. Aww, and Micah, thank you.
Eric: Oh, Micah’s got it too.
Andrew: Yeah, so that’s the focus of today’s episode.
Andrew: We’re going to talk about the book and we’ll talk a little bit about Harry Potter, too, because you do touch on that in the book as well. So Evanna… oh, and actually, we should note Evanna is also wearing a sweater with Gryffindor colors. Thank you for coming prepared today with some Gryffindor colors.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Andrew: You are a Gryffindor?
Evanna: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I am so Gryffindor. Yeah.
Andrew: Okay, you said something about Ravenclaw before, so…
Evanna: No, I just said I wish I was Ravenclaw because blue suits me better color-wise. This is not a good look for me aesthetically.
Andrew: You look great.
Laura: Oh, I think it is. You look great.
Evanna: [laughs] Thank you.
Andrew: Meanwhile, the rest of us, we’re wearing gray.
Andrew: Boring colors.
Evanna: Yeah, what House is that? [laughs]
Andrew: It’s nothing.
Evanna: You can tell who’s a newbie here when it’s like, “I’m going to turn up in House colors!”
Andrew: This is my “I’m flying later today” shirt, so I needed something comfortable for the flight, yeah.
Andrew: Can you give listeners an overview of your new book, The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting?
Evanna: Yeah, for sure. So yes, it is a memoir. It didn’t start out that way; I was like, “I really just want to write about the battle between mental health and creativity.” It wasn’t like, “I want to tell every detail of my life.” But then I just realized, I don’t want to write a self-help book, because I find stories more powerful. I want to know anecdotes. The books that really changed me were beautifully told stories, beautifully written stories. So anyway, yeah, it turned into a memoir, and yeah, it’s really about the struggle between your mental health and your creativity. And I feel like I’ve been talking about this for years, like over a decade. I did start talking about my mental health in public, and while on some level, that was a relief to be like, “This is who I am, I’ve got this past, I’m not going to be ashamed of it,” it then got garbled by the press; it got turned into this sweet story of “Oh wow, you had an eating disorder and then you got Harry Potter, and what a great time you’ve had.” And it bothered me because it made it seem like you can incentivize recovery, that you can just seduce somebody, basically, out of their struggles. And that wasn’t the case at all, and it also felt quite disrespectful towards people going through their own issues. So I wrote it to be like… I wanted to show the complexity and nuance of the situation, and I wanted to show that eating disorders are not about what they look like. For me, my eating disorder was there years – well, not years, but a while before it started to physically manifest, before people were able to see it. And it continued after physical recovery; I still had that very negative dark mindset. So I wanted to just do a book that talked about these issues and the depth and to not get distracted by the shocking physical symptoms, which too much of the time get sensationalized and seen as the defining aspect of these things, which ironically, only exacerbate eating disorders. Sorry, that was a long old spiel. But yeah, that’s the book. [laughs]
Eric: I think you’ve done an amazing job of it, if I can say that.
Evanna: Oh, thanks.
Eric: And I think you’re right about the power of stories to really convey, and to that point, your your memoirs are very, very detailed. I know that as part of recovery, you were encouraged to keep a journal and various people throughout the years. Did you refer back to these then to help you? And how do you remember with such detail? Or what was that process like, rediscovering or writing about your past?
Evanna: Yeah, so it was like a jigsaw puzzle. There were things – and this is what I started with when writing – that were so clear in my head, like they happened yesterday. Maybe the moments that were either the most traumatic, or they were just special to me, things that people said that really affected me or were funny. So those things were clear in my head. Sometimes I could remember direct quotes from 20 years ago, and then other things… so I wrote those things first, and then it was a matter of filling in the gaps. And sometimes I’d have a conversation with my parents and find I’d remembered it in all the wrong sequence. Obviously, I wrote a lot of letters when I was young, so letters helped. And then this journal, my therapist had asked me to keep a journal throughout while we were working together, and it was so weird how it came back to me. So this is like real world magical stuff. I knew I had this journal; I had written it. And I was like, “Oh, it’d be amazing if I could find that journal again,” but I actually was a bit too embarrassed to ask her about it, because it was that journal… I’m just ashamed of who I was back then. I was such an unpleasant person and such a sick person, so I didn’t want to ask her. So then I asked my psychic, I was like, “Can you have a mooch around and feel if that diary is gone and burned or if it’s somewhere out there?” And she came back and she was like, “I don’t feel there’s any funny business; I don’t think anyone stole it. I think it’s in Ireland somewhere.” And like, three days later, my therapist texts me, “This keeps falling off the shelf.” It was the diary.
Andrew, Laura, and Micah: What?
Evanna: Yeah, she was like, “I don’t know what to do with it. Do you want it?” And I was like, “Shit, yeah.” That’s when I said to her, “I’m writing a book, so… perfect.” And then she sent it to me, so that really helped. That was magic, right?
Andrew: That’s incredible. Geez.
Eric: Evanna, this was Natasha in the book?
Evanna: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Andrew: Wow. Okay, now I believe in psychics.
Evanna: But she wasn’t very specific about it. She was like, “I don’t know exactly where it is. I think it’s somewhere in Ireland. I don’t think anyone’s taken it.” But then she was like, “I’m sorry I can’t help further.” But whatever she did shifted some energy and drew the book back to me. [laughs]
Andrew: That is amazing.
Micah: Wow. It sounded like Peeves was lending a helping hand knocking it off the shelves there.
Evanna: Or a nicer ghost.
Micah: Now, you were very open on social media about how much time and effort it was taking to write this book. Was this one of your more difficult projects, you would say?
Evanna: Oh yeah, hands down. It was the least enjoyable because it’s just you with your desk. That’s the nice thing of having written a book, the first one. “Okay, now I’ve done it, I know that I can do it again.” Great. But the first one ’round, you’re like, “I don’t know if I can do this, I don’t know if anyone will want to read it, I don’t know if I’m good at writing or if I’m just delusional.” So it was pushing through those days and then losing faith and then going, “No, I’ve got something here.” That was just really hard. And yeah, it did start to feel a bit self-indulgent because it was just… I mean, every now and then there’s a big social media uprising over some big, worldly cause, and I was so busy and stressed and I was working to deadlines that people were like, “Are you going to care about animal rights, indigenous rights, blah, blah,” and I was like, “I’m just going to go and write about my 11-year-old self.” It was very embarrassing. “Oh, how is this going to help people?” But ultimately, I do believe in the personal helping the public. I think we have to reveal these sides, that you have to go deep. And that, to me, has always spoke to me the most, when somebody really shares something private and vulnerable. And it’s been weird, just seeing the reactions to the book online, the amount of people who are saying, “I feel like you’ve written my story.” And I’m like, “What? My story is way too weird and obscure.” So it does help people. But I found that very hard. And again, being a person with a platform being in the public eye, there’s always this sense of “Are you going to speak on this? Are you going to say this? Are you going to do this?” And for a year I had to be very selfish and just go, “No, this is what I’m doing. Who knows if it will work, if anyone will be bothered, but this is what I’m committing to.” But that’s art, isn’t it? That’s creativity. You just have to believe in your small, mad idea.
Andrew: And I’m sure it feels great to now hear from people who are reading the book and telling you that it has been helping them. Do you think writing it…? You’re saying that it was challenging and very difficult, but was it also therapeutic in a way to get all this out on paper and get all these thoughts organized?
Evanna: Yeah, the actual emotional side of… when I say it was hard writing it, it’s just the discipline of writing is hard. I didn’t really find revisiting those things hard because these stories have been inside me for years, and I think I’d have never been able to fully let them go and move on if I’d never sat down and done it. So it was just like, “Phew, thank goodness, I’m getting it out there in my own words.” So it is exposing, it is a bit. A big part of me is like, “This is so embarrassing. What am I doing, putting out basically my journals out there to the world?” But I’d rather it be out there in my own words, because it is already, rather than being misinterpreted, so I was really relieved. And I feel like I have been taught… I don’t really want to be a mental health eating disorder advocate; I want to be a storyteller. So every interview pretty much that I’ve done – not you guys – but anything else, if I do a mainstream interview, they always ask about the eating disorder. And I want to be like, “That’s the past. That’s done.” So this book is me saying, “Here’s everything I can say on the topic. That’s my offering.” And so hopefully, in future I don’t have to keep talking about it, because it is a bit… to have to keep going so deep and so personal, doing all this inner excavation every time you do your work, which, my work is a lot of promo and press… it’s not fun. [laughs] I do want to go back to communicating with the world through characters and stories, so that there’s a little bit of more privacy around it and my life.
Eric: Well, if that was the goal… I have to say, your book is so visceral. It doesn’t pull any punches. It absolutely… I think you achieve the really talking about your true inmost self. And it’s funny how much of the book is funny, while also being just completely soul-crushing, heart-wrenching. We feel for you, what you’re going through, and yet, there’s also this identity that we feel of things that we’ve felt about ourselves. You’re just able to, I think, really clearly convey a negative state of mind, but you don’t shy away from it. I think that’s going to be very helpful for a lot of people.
Evanna: That’s what I say in the start of the book, why we put that intro in there, because I suppose some people might be a bit shocked by how negative I can get. I think people thought, “Oh, you’re Luna Lovegood; you’re above all that negativity.” But no, I was the most negative person, and I felt a lot of shame before, of “Oh, I’ve come out as this person who’s recovered. I’m not allowed to hate myself anymore. I’m supposed to be all good in that department.” And yeah, I felt a lot of shame for not being more healed, not being more mature, or not having all this self-love thing figured out. But I just have found that nobody is perfect with their self-love, with their self-acceptance. It is a relationship that you have to work on, but you can manage it better if you talk about these mean things. Because it’s that cliché, when you expose the darkness to light, people can see it. They can understand it more and they can have awareness, and with awareness, we don’t feel so alone, and we feel like these very dark, big things in our head become smaller, and then we can laugh at them. And that’s how I did know with the book that I’m cool, I’m fully recovered from this, because I did find a lot of humor. I did find a lot of the moments funny and absurd and it was not so serious anymore.
Eric: Speaking about talking and telling others about what you’re feeling inside, I suppose – although you don’t want to be a huge mental health advocate all the time, like you said – but therapy, you’d probably recommend it for everyone.
Evanna: Oh my God, definitely. Yeah. I’m quite wary of people who are like, “I’m against therapy.”
Andrew: Oh yeah, yeah.
[Andrew and Evanna laugh]
Evanna: Yeah. I mean, people do have different forms of therapy. I understand people who have sport, or if they’ve got a really close best friend who does… everything’s good. But yeah, it’s so… gosh. It’s like, it doesn’t change who you are, but it makes you just really conscious of your weaknesses, your triggers, and so that when these things kick off… they’ll always be there, but you learn how to sit with it, to breathe, to not react and not do hurt and do damage towards other people or yourself. So I just think therapy is the best. But yeah, it’s hard to find the right…
Andrew: Yeah, we’ve all done it here, too, and can definitely speak to the power of therapy.
Eric: Yeah, we agree!
Evanna: Ah, really? I love that.
Micah: Did I ever tell you, actually, mine used to fall asleep all the time? And I don’t know if it’s because…
Andrew: Micah, it’s your voice. You’ve got a soothing voice.
Micah: My voice, I was going to say.
Laura: That’s not an excuse.
Andrew: Fall asleep face to face?
Micah: Yeah. The appointments were fairly later in the evening; they were about 8:00 or so.
Eric: Past the bedtime of the therapist.
Micah: Must’ve been past the bedtime.
Evanna: That’s so funny. What did you do? Did you just prod them awake? What did you do?
Andrew: “Hey, hey.”
Micah: Yeah, just snapped my fingers, see if it worked. [laughs]
Andrew: Oh my God.
Eric: Did you just look around and go “I guess I should go”? Or did you tuck the therapist in with a blanket from the couch?
Micah: [laughs] It was a comfortable chair he was in. Maybe that had something to with it.
Eric: It’s all about the chair.
Laura: I think I would be like, “Do I get a discount for this session since you weren’t present for part of it?”
Laura: Well, Evanna, you mentioned something interesting a few moments ago about speaking to readers who’ve communicated that they feel like they were reading their own story in this book. And I have to say that really resonates with me, as someone who was a young girl around the same time that you were, and you really capture facing a lot of the insecurities and the unknowns of growing up in a society that encourages young girls in particular to put themselves in boxes. So reflecting on that, I’m wondering, if you had the opportunity to speak to your younger self, what would you say to her?
Evanna: Ooh. I don’t know, because she was very stubborn. I don’t think she’d have taken advice. And she was very much… younger me was just in a lot of pain, and because my mindset was so negative, anything nice that people would say to her just, I wouldn’t believe it. I would have been like, “Well, that person obviously doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” I’d probably be like, “I will avenge you.” I’d probably just tell her that.
[Andrew and Laura laugh]
Evanna: I’d be like, “Don’t worry, I’ll get revenge one day, and I’ll sort things out.” [laughs] Because I think she felt a lot of just, “Ugh, the world is unfair. I can’t do what I want.” And I feel like I have avenged her, my younger self, especially with this book. So I work with a shaman, probably have talked on about that before, and she does all this stuff of talking to different parts of yourself. She puts you in meditation. And before I was doing the book, we were communicating with different parts of older me who’d written the book, younger me who was in it. And younger me was very just angry, and just hurt, resentful. And then after finishing the book, we did another session, and younger me was like, “I feel taken care of.” It was just such a lovely thing to come from, like, “Oh, wow, I’ve dealt with that part of myself, and I don’t have this wounded child anymore,” which I think I did probably prior to the book.
Laura: Right. So would you say that the book was an act of self-advocacy?
Evanna: Yeah, that’s how I write that. I always imagine I’m speaking to a part of myself, because that’s how it will be the most personal and the most truthful. So I was writing it with her in mind, and also writing… I wanted to make things right with that part of myself with saying, “Here are the things that were not okay, and I don’t wish them on anyone else. And I hope that there’ll be some sort of reform in future. I hope people will be more compassionate towards people with eating disorders, know how to help them better. And here are the things that really worked and that I’m grateful for and that went really well with my journey.” So yeah, just exposing that for other people going through the same thing, and to say to my younger self, “This is what should have happened.” Yeah.
Micah: Speaking of younger you – and I’ll apologize upfront because I think this question has probably been asked many times – but you do go into great detail about it in the book. What specifically drew you to Luna? Because I feel like there are moments in the book where you talk about literally almost stepping into her skin, almost like there’s a switch that flips and you become her, particularly when you’re talking about when you go to Leavesden and how you almost just take on that persona of Luna.
Evanna: Yeah. So there’s a line that my shamanic teacher always says, and it’s actually in the book. She says, “If you spot it, you’ve got it.” So it’s always that whatever captivates you about someone else, or actually, whatever triggers you, whatever makes you jealous or angry, there’s something in you you need to investigate. And I really feel like that was the case with Luna when I came across that character. I think I was in such a mean, dark state of mind, but that wasn’t who I truly was. This thing had overtaken my personality. And when I came across her, her oddness, her self-acceptance, her absolute curiosity about the world, I really felt like it sparked the recognition. I was like, “I like those things too,” or, “I feel that way. I feel odd and like I don’t fit in. But I’m not giving myself permission to be that way.” So it was like she was giving me hints of my past and future self of who I wanted to be, and it was lighting something up inside me, something that had been extinguished. And then when playing the part, again, it was that feeling that I just had to relax. I think I was quite anxious; I was insecure as a teenager, and I was so anxious being on the set, of course, because it felt like such a big deal. But Luna’s energy is just about just being, that whole “Human being, not a human doing.” You don’t have to impress anyone. If you just breathe and surrender, you’re doing enough. You are who you are. And just this idea of acceptance of every moment, of every person and not feeling, yeah, like you have to tie yourself in knots, contort yourself to take up space, because that’s how I felt. I felt I needed a reason to exist. I need to justify why I’m here and why people are looking at me and talking to me, and she didn’t have that. So yeah, and I didn’t feel confident enough to do that myself, but she gave me that confidence. And I really, really leaned on her. I leaned on her too much, on the set, but also when I would be doing media events when I would meet somebody new who I was nervous around. She just gives me that calmness and still does.
Andrew: So you actually found out about the Luna Lovegood open casting call through MuggleNet. I think we’ve mentioned this from time to…
Evanna: Yeah, did you write that notice?
[Evanna and Micah laugh]
Andrew: You know what, I was actually wondering that, and I actually peeked into the MuggleNet archives. I don’t know. I was writing news at the time, but there were a couple other people too, so I don’t know. I don’t know. But it’s such a fascinating story, going from fan to cast member, and you really capture that transition in the book, so that was really interesting to read. Something I actually didn’t know was that you had actually been in correspondence with J.K. Rowling in the years leading up to the audition.
Evanna: Yeah. I think people have been confused about that. People thought, “Oh, you must have known her through the films,” but no, not at all.
Andrew: Yeah, you knew her outside of that.
Evanna: Just by chance.
Andrew: And then she had no involvement in casting you, which is equally incredible. [laughs] That whole story blows my mind.
Evanna: Yeah, no, me too. It’s crazy. Yeah.
Andrew: I don’t even have a question here. I just wanted to note that.
Eric: You talk about first writing a letter to Jo and including details that were far and above more, I guess, personal than you were telling even your family. You talk about your mother being surprised by the level of detail that you go into to a perfect stranger, and yet the woman who creates this book series. That’s a wonderful escape. Looking back, do you know what really made you send that letter to Jo? That first one.
Evanna: People do, though, they do that to me, too, online. They pour out their hearts. And it’s like, “You don’t even know me.” It is kind of a projection. But there’s a safety in somebody who’s far outside your situation, who is not going to be biased. And so I knew from her books, “Ahh, there’s something in her soul that I understand, and that has soothed me.” So that’s why I wanted to write, but also I didn’t believe she’d ever write back. Maybe a little bit; as a kid you actually do check your letterbox. But I also felt… I don’t know if I even believed if she was real. It was a bit like she was Albus Dumbledore. That “Ooh, maybe she’s real, maybe not.”
Evanna: So I just… yeah, and I suppose that’s the thing with eating disorders. You become very deceptive and very sneaky, and you lie to everyone. It’s like an addict. There’s nobody in your life you’re honest with, and that is extremely isolating and lonely. So I think I was just desperate for connection and desperate to talk to somebody who I felt wouldn’t get angry at me and who would understand, and that was J.K. Rowling to me. [laughs] Anyway, she wrote back, so that’s that.
Micah: Yeah. It was interesting, too, because you wrote about the mental gymnastics that you did when you were in the casting call about whether or not you should bring that up to David Yates, David Heyman, because you didn’t know how it would necessarily be received and if it could hurt your chances or help your chances in terms of getting the role, right?
Evanna: Absolutely, yeah. Well, because I just had… well, it’s mental health, that stigma against, and it was worse back then, back in 2006, the stigma against people with mental health issues. It’s like you’re deficient, or there’s something wrong with you. And that’s something I wrote a lot about in the memoir that’s been hard to express. Leaving behind your eating disorder, you have a lot of shame and grief, and it’s like you don’t really want to let it go, so I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. And I just really felt if they knew that I’m not this sweet, happy, carefree girl, and that I actually have a really mean side, they’re not going to ask me. And I actually felt for a long time that I’d really tricked them. I thought that I was this mean person, so I thought, “Oh, wow, I’ve hoodwinked everyone into believing I’m right for this role, but I’m not,” but looking back as an actor, I think that you actually have more perspective on characters who are quite different from you. And obviously, there are a lot of similarities, parallels, too, but it’s hard to have full perspective on yourself. And seeing a character who was so positive and had so much light, while I was very dark in my mind, I was able to understand it more objectively, and I wanted to be more like that, so that helped.
Micah: There was one other moment from the casting story that I wanted to bring up. And I identified with it; I’m not sure exactly why. But it was when you were talking about the book that David Yates signed for you and gave you after the entire casting call was over, and he had written there what a great job you had done. But then you talked about how you took his comments and immediately started to analyze them so deeply, and I do this all the time, and I feel like maybe this is why I identified with it. You just took this amazingly positive experience that you had and you put on this critical lens. And you even talk about, like, “Well, if I don’t get this, I’m definitely burning that book.”
Eric: It’s a good thing you got it.
Micah: And I just laughed out loud when I read that, but I just think a lot of people go through that, right? They have these amazing experiences, and then they sit there afterwards and they’re just hypercritical of everything that happened.
Evanna: Oh, it’s so true. And you can ruin it just with your mind, just with your thoughts. That’s why it’s so important to train yourself to think positive; you can just suck all the joy out of life with these dark thoughts. But you know what, I actually feel that most of filming Order of the Phoenix was that for me. And I’m very lucky I had that… you get the break in between the films; it’s summertime break. Went home, and I remember just feeling like… oh, I think this is in the book, actually. This sounds familiar, like I’ve told this story before. But just feeling like, “Oh, wow, I didn’t really enjoy that because I was always questioning, did I deserve to be there? Am I going to get fired? Are people going to find out that I’m actually not that good a person or that good an actor?” And it was just like, “Oh my God, you’re living the dream, the actual dream. It’s never going to happen again, so stop destroying it!” And people say that, don’t they? “Youth is wasted on the young.” There were so many wonderful joyful experiences that I didn’t fully enjoy because I was questioning my place in it, and I was just too much in my own head. And yeah, definitely did that with David Yates’s book, his sweet little gesture. Just couldn’t handle it.
[Andrew and Evanna laugh]
Andrew: No, I completely agree, feeling that way. With Movies 6 through 8, did you feel better? Were you still critical of yourself?
Evanna: No, I definitely made a big effort to be like, “Right, I’m here, I’m one of the cast,” to just own that a little bit more. I think, actually, that’s when I probably had to step away from the fan community a bit, because I was doing too much of “I’m just a fan girl, I’m just a fan girl.” And I think some people… the fan girl thing can go too far; it can become giving away your power, your creativity. And it definitely did for me; it was like this sense of hierarchy that “Oh, the actors are better than me.” And being obsessive, you’d be on forums and they’re all just talking about Daniel Radcliffe’s haircut and everything, and I was one of those people talking about his haircut. And like, that’s idolatry. That’s making him so much more important than me. Worry about your own hair, you know?
Evanna: So I had to just be like, “I need to get away from that community because it’s just making me feel small and making me feel not comfortable with these people who are supposed to be my equals,” and are. We are all equal.
Laura: I can see how that would definitely feed into the cycle of imposter syndrome, right? You’re like, “I’ve known both sides of this franchise,” right? “I’ve been a fan. I still am a fan, but now I’m also in it.”
Evanna: Yeah, exactly. That nerdiness we have, it can go a bit too far. I think it’s really good for studying literature and studying our work, but when we put it onto human people, to kids at that time, it’s just… yeah, I think it’s wasting, really. That nerdiness can be very powerful. I think it’s a bit of a waste. Yeah.
Andrew: I love one point you made in the book about that, actually, which was that you go onto these sets, and these people are working day in and day out to create the best thing they can. And yet there’s still these people online who are just attacking everything, not considering the fact there actually are real humans on set who do care so much and really are trying to do their best. There’s a wide gap there between reality and all this criticism.
Evanna: Yeah, exactly. And I think as fans, we have to appreciate that those movies take thousands of people. And they’re all individual artists, so it’s going to be all these visions, and it has to be managed very well by the director. But we’re not going to… they’re all humans; they’re not machines. We’re not going to agree with everything they do. Now, where I do, as a fan, totally understand what the need for criticism is when the makers don’t honor the source material, the books, like when they don’t seem to care about it, they don’t treat it with the same care and don’t know all the detail. That to me is a bit like, okay, no, they deserve to be called out for that. [laughs] Try and do it. It’s hard getting up and being creative and taking risks. I think we all should be… if we’re all out there doing what we’re meant to do, using our talents, then we won’t be so critical and we’ll have more compassion for people, for artists, I think.
Laura: Well, I want to highlight some of your other projects, and I also want to use this as an opportunity to pull that thread in talking about activism and advocacy, so let’s talk about The ChickPeeps. I’m wondering if you can speak to how veganism changed your outlook?
Evanna: Ooh, on life?
Evanna: Oh, that’s a really big one. Well, first, initially, it made me more angry, and it made me quite cynical about human nature. But then it did the opposite. The more I got into veganism of like, “Cool, we’re going to try and be really compassionate to animals and do everything mindfully, how you eat, how you buy clothes, what you spend your money on, all those things,” and struggling… finding that I still can’t be perfect; I have to buy cat food all the time. And meanwhile, I’m making videos against slaughterhouse farms, so it’s like, I think the deeper I got into that of tying myself in knots and realizing I am a good person and I’m trying my best, but it’s still hard, it made me have much more compassion for everyone. And to just also… over the years, I think it’s too easy to say the “good guys” and the “bad guys,” and “We’re fighting.” I used the language of violence before in my early days of activism, of “fighting for this” and “We’re going to beat the competition, blah, blah, blah, and we want this business to crumble.” And I don’t like that type of language now, and I think it’s just destruction. You need creativity, you need to create solutions, because especially over the course of my exploits and activism, I’ve met farmers, dairy farmers, or just people who hunt… hmm, I don’t know about if I can redeem them. [laughs] But dairy farmers, they’re nice. They’re just people trying to feed their families; they’re actually not evil. And I thought before they must have… or slaughterhouse workers, and even those people can be… you can look at them and be like, “They are messed up,” but something has done that to them. So it sort of has made me really believe that we are innately good, and to try and speak to the good in people. Yeah, I do believe that most people would be vegan if it was just more accessible, if they were educated the right way. So yeah, I always do that. And as I say, when I find it now, when people are like, “Take a side, stand up for this,” I’m like, I don’t want sides; I want the space in between. I think we’re all very complex and full of light and shade and have capacity for evil and good. So yeah, it’s made me be more… I want to slow down and just have conversations, be more neutral, I suppose.
Andrew: Amen. Well said.
Laura: I love that. I love the idea that learning that compassion can fuel someone’s ability to potentially become an activist one day, the idea that funneling compassion into others may have been what allowed you to feel more compassion for yourself. Would you say that?
Evanna: Yeah, that’s a nice way of putting it. Yeah, definitely. But also, what you said there about “Compassion can lead.” Compassion can lead people to kill animals, because they’re just trying to do something to help other people, blah, blah, blah. It’s very complicated, that’s what I’ve realized about it. But that’s probably a very weird way of putting it. It’s the classic quote, “The world is not divided into good people and Death Eaters,” isn’t it that?
Laura: That’s exactly what I was thinking.
Evanna: Such wisdom in that. I love it.
Eric: Wrapping up about your book, what would be the one takeaway that you would want readers to get out of the book?
Evanna: Ooh. I hope it has a long-term effective in waking them up to their creativity, giving them courage. I wanted it to be a book that gives people a shake, makes them see what it will cost if they keep entertaining the voices of self-hate, that that will wear them down. But how choosing to believe positive thoughts, choosing to do loving things towards yourself, that will build you up. And you can make either choice, but just know what both are going to do. And I hope, yeah, it gives people courage to shake themselves out of their self-destructive behavior and to keep choosing creativity and to prioritize it, and just to facilitate conversations. A lot of mothers have been messaging me asking, “Is it suitable for young people?” or friends, and yeah, I hope it will create greater understanding about mental health and eating disorders, especially for young people, because they can often be dismissed. So yeah, just hearing people say, “Oh, it made me have a chat with my sister,” that’s the best I could hope for, really.
Eric: My girlfriend had a question. She’s about halfway through the book, and really, really loves it so far.
Evanna: Aww, thank you.
Eric: And she had a question about the title, which is, “I think of butterfly hunting as the human desire to capture beauty and perfection and to display it to the world, but it’s at the cost of the butterfly’s life. The opposite of butterfly hunting, then, would be to let beauty exist as is, naturally and without force. Am I way off base and what does the title mean to you?”
Evanna: Nope, she’s nailed it.
Eric: Okay, awesome!
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Evanna: You’ve basically explained it in my words. Well, it’s about letting beauty – or whatever that is – free, letting it evolve and change, that you’ll see it a moment and then it goes away. And it’s a metaphor for how we treat our bodies, that we shouldn’t… this idea of trying to, for women… or, well, for everyone, really, but trying to especially… I think it is more for women, that we have this obsession with keeping them looking youthful and young and girlish, and that they shouldn’t change with life. And I’m like, “Cool, physical perfection is nice,” but it costs you your life. It does cost you your creativity and all your time and energy, and it’s just like, life’s too short. You’re not a cartoon, you’re not a sculpture. You’re a human body, and that should change, so let it. Yeah, let the butterfly free and stop trying to possess perfection and stick it down with a pin in its chest. [laughs] But yeah, she nailed it. I love it.
Eric: I’ll tell her.
Evanna: She’s probably like, the only person. Everyone’s been like, “What the hell is this title about?”
Evanna: I’m like, “I’m sorry, you don’t find out until the very end of the book.” But she’s got it.
Eric: I’m glad that you explained it.
Micah: So just to wrap up, we’ve seen you having a lot of fun at bookstores, signing copies of your book. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? And do you think you’ll be writing another book at some point in the near future?
Evanna: Nice. Let me see, advice for aspiring writers… I definitely learned a few things from writing this book, as in first of all, just stop trying to write like your favorite writer. I did that for ages. But I think that would take ages, and I think after a certain point, you have to just accept who you are will come out on the page, so it’s better to just work on yourself. And you kind of get to a point, you’re like, “Okay, this is me. Maybe I’d be cleverer if I’d read those 50 books on my bookshelf, or if I had a degree,” but if you keep doing that, you’ll never write anything. So just accept where you are, who you are, and accept that who you are will come out on the page. And that’s the shocking thing; every day you show up. And I would do at least two hours every day, and I’d be like, “I don’t think I have anything to say; there’s nothing in me.” But something always came out. So just trust that you have it in you.
[snorting sound in the background]
Evanna: That was Puff snorting. That wasn’t me.
Evanna: And then, what else would I say? Make writing time sacred. So I have an app on my phone called Forest, and it grows little trees so that you don’t check your phone.
Andrew: Oh my gosh.
Evanna: And if you check your phone, the trees die. It’s great.
Evanna: Or a sand timer. I’ve got a sand timer. And us mystical people, these things matter. I would turn this over… and I’m not even going to turn it now because it’s so sacred. So when that’s over, it’s writing time, and nobody can disturb it. And I would also say, don’t be precious on the first writing, because the edit is a nightmare, as in, it’s so thorough. Somebody is going through every word, every line, asking you about this, “Did you know this actually means this? Oh, you spelled this wrong.” It’s very in-depth. So when I saw how thorough the edit process was, I was like, “Why did I spend half an hour trying to figure out how to say one line?”
Evanna: So I think in the edit, you will end up rewriting your book, so don’t be precious. Just get it down on the page. So those are my tips. And yes, I do want to write more, yes, but I want to write fiction.
Andrew: Oh, fiction, okay. But I’m sure you’re taking a well-earned break for a little while, I would imagine.
Evanna: Yeah, I am taking a break, get this book out there and launched. But yeah, I don’t think I ever want to write nonfiction again. It’s a bit hard on your relationships, like my family…
Evanna: My mom was like, “It’s fine for you, you’re off in London. You don’t have to deal with the neighbors.” But they do. And my sisters are school teachers, and I’ve got an anecdote of one of my sisters with her first bra in there. And she let me keep it in, but she was like, “My students are 12.”
Evanna: So yeah, I don’t think I could do that again. It’s just… yeah, it’s a bit hard. [laughs]
Andrew: This is an aside, but when you go into bookstores, do you first tell people, “Hey, this is my book, I’m not defacing it, I promise you,” when you’re signing the books in the bookstore?
Evanna: No, you just walk in. So I went with a publicist, and she was like, “Cool, you just go ahead and sign those.”
Evanna: And I felt really self-conscious that people were going to be like, “Who is this woman that’s just scribbling all over?” And then they just put the stickers on them. That’s that.
Andrew: Wow. That’s fun.
Evanna: Oh, no. I mean, you could conceivably sign other people’s books and just be like, “I’m this person.”
Andrew: “I’m Tolkien.”
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Evanna: Whose book would you sign if you had the choice?
Andrew: Oh, my gosh. [laughs] I might do a Harry Potter one for fun.
Andrew: I’ll do your book. Is that okay?
Evanna: [laughs] Please do.
Andrew: Kidding, kidding, kidding. So we wanted to ask about the Secrets of Dumbledore; this is the new Fantastic Beasts movie that’s coming out. Do you have any theories about this title? Secrets of Dumbledore? It’s quite intriguing, isn’t it?
Evanna: It is intriguing. I have no theories. I’ve not engaged with this at all, really. I’m the kind of person like, “Yeah, cool, I’ll sit and wait for the secrets. Don’t need to…” But I mean, we already know he’s loads of secrets, don’t we? Isn’t it all about Ariana?
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, we’re guessing it has something to do with Ariana or his relationship with Grindelwald, something like that. But yeah, we didn’t get a lot…
Evanna: Yeah. Oh, do you think they’re going to give more detail on the romance aspect?
Andrew: Maybe. I heard from somebody who went to a test screening that it’s quite gay.
Evanna: Quite gay? Ooh, Warner Bros. has been taking notes.
Andrew: Yeah, I know, it’s very exciting. Actually, in an email to us recently, you described yourself as a Dumbledore fangirl. [laughs] And I think you touch on that a little bit in the book. Is he your favorite character?
Evanna: After Luna.
Andrew: After Luna, of course, yeah.
Laura: That’s fair.
Evanna: Oh, I love him.
Andrew: What do you love most about him?
Evanna: Well, he reminds me of that philosopher Eckhart Tolle. Do you know him?
Evanna: Yeah, he reminds me of him because he’s so wise, he just seems to have the answers to life, and yet he’s whimsical. Eckhart Tolle is always cracking little jokes and he loves just enjoying moments in the present, and I think Dumbledore has that present moment-mindedness. I like that he’s this brilliant sage, but you feel you can have a chat with him. You don’t feel intimidated by him or that he’s so otherworldly or anything. Yeah. And I like his fashion sense.
Evanna: I like his kindness. I like that he is complicated.
Andrew: Which Harry Potter character do you think would be the first to write a memoir besides Harry Potter himself?
Evanna: Well, it’s Lockhart, isn’t it? He already wrote like, five.
Andrew: That’s a good answer.
Laura: But he would write somebody else’s memoir.
Eric: Oh, that’s true.
Andrew: [laughs] He would be in the bookstore signing somebody else’s books.
Evanna: Aww. I’d love to read his books, though, because it’s kind of fantasy, isn’t it? It’s not really real. [laughs]
Eric: Yeah, real costs, though.
Evanna: Yeah, yeah. True. And narrators who are very self-important, they’re insufferable, so maybe not. Who would be…? Maybe… I can see Umbridge having one.
Andrew: Ugh. [laughs]
Evanna: Yeah, totally controversial.
Laura: What would it be called? “Hem-hem”?
[Andrew and Evanna laugh]
Evanna: No, she’s not that self-aware. It’d be long, long title. I don’t know. It’d probably be a self-help book.
[Eric and Laura laugh]
Evanna: What about Neville, though? What about Neville when he’s an old man? And he’s the one of the group that was overlooked, and people are always curious about him. “Is he just quiet?” and “Does he just not have a lot going on there?” And then he reveals all his…
Andrew: “What it was like being the other chosen one.”
Evanna: Yeah, there you go! You’ve gotten his memoir title already.
Laura: Oh, man.
Andrew: “The Second Chosen One.”
Evanna: “The Almost Chosen One.”
[Andrew and Evanna laugh]
Andrew: I like that.
Laura: Can we have parentheses around the “almost”?
Evanna: Who do you think would write a memoir?
Andrew: I was wondering about Dumbledore, actually. But when would he have done that? Had a bit of an untimely death. I could see Slughorn doing that. [laughs]
Evanna: Oh my God, exactly. Definitely.
Andrew: Yeah, all his fame, his love for fame.
Laura: Right, and bragging about all the people he collects.
Andrew: Yep, yep.
Laura: It would just be a series of anecdotes about other famous people.
Eric: Yeah, name drops.
Evanna: Yeah. There’d be a lot of shiny photos in that book, wouldn’t there?
Eric: On a coffee table, like a picture book of him with other people.
Micah: Reflecting on that one word “Horcrux” that he told Tom about?
Evanna: Who do you wish would write a memoir of the Harry Potter characters?
Eric: Probably one of the ghosts, to be honest.
Eric: Nearly Headless Nick as a memoir… he struggles, obviously, with being dead. He kind of regrets becoming a ghost. He’d be fascinating.
Evanna: This is a throwback to your appearance on ChickPeeps.
Eric: Oh, yeah.
Evanna: You were so into him!
Eric: Nick, yeah, for sure would just… but like, centuries of Gryffindor tower, that’s cool. Like Gryffindors through the centuries, anecdotes, and internal struggles. That’d be great.
Evanna: That’d be great.
Andrew: Or maybe somebody at the Ministry who went through this wizarding war. I’d be curious to know what the thinking was going on there. But of course, if Fudge was writing it, he’d be making stuff up to make himself look better.
Eric: Oh, right.
Laura: I would like to see McGonagall write a memoir. I think that would be fascinating.
Evanna: And heartbreaking.
Laura: Yeah. And we know that she was at Hogwarts with Professor Sprout, right? They were schoolmates. So it would be interesting to get some of those anecdotes as well.
Eric: I would like to have seen Sirius live long enough to write a memoir. That would have been great.
Evanna: No, he’s too cool. He would have just had one written about him, wouldn’t he?
Eric: Oh, that’s true.
Evanna: He just has too much glamour about him.
Eric: Good point.
Evanna: As in he’s got so much glamour that he wouldn’t reveal his inner life. That’s part of it, that he’s so elusive, and then…
Eric: Yeah, the ability to be vulnerable and face it. Yeah.
Evanna: It’s a fun question.
Andrew: All right. Fun answers. So Evanna, your book is The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting, available in bookstores – I want to say everywhere, but since we have a worldwide audience, I know it’s available now in the UK and US.
Evanna: And Ireland.
Andrew: And Ireland, okay. It will be available everywhere at some point. But of course, check it out. If it’s not available where you live now, preorder it.
Andrew: Ask, yeah! When the heck is it coming?
Evanna: Ask, ask the publishers in those countries, “Can we have a translation?” And then maybe they’ll do that. [laughs]
Andrew: There you go.
Evanna: I don’t know. So there were a few territories that did buy the rights, but because it had to go through a lot of legal edits, because there are real people, so we couldn’t give the manuscript… the manuscript is only really being distributed now. So I hope it will be translated, but don’t know yet.
Andrew: Interesting. Yeah, all right. Well, check it out, everybody. Evanna, congratulations.
Evanna: And it’s on Audible.
Andrew: Oh yeah, narrated by you. What was that experience like, doing an audio book?
Evanna: Not fun.
Evanna: Oh my gosh, it’s not. I thought it would be. I thought, “Great. I’m an actor. I can act this out.” But it’s just you in a little box, and there’s somebody on the other side. And this guy was in his 60s; he was not the target audience for the book. And he just… and maybe it was me, I might have been projecting, but I was like, “He does not like me, and now he’s having to listen to five days of me just talking about my life.” So it was hard.
Eric: If you can do that experience, you can do anything.
Evanna: Yeah, maybe. [laughs]
Eric: The book is amazing, Evanna.
Evanna: Thank you. Thanks for having me on.
Eric: Speaking personally, it’s now my favorite thing that you’ve done.
Evanna: Oh! Whoa.
Eric: And it usurped the season of Dancing with the Stars…
Eric: … which was frickin’ amazing, and so evident how hard you worked. Micah and I were watching every damn week; I don’t know if you heard.
Evanna: That was so fun. Thank you.
Micah: That ending, though.
Eric: Yeah, you guys should have gotten it. You and Keo.
Laura: I agree.
Eric: But yeah, this is amazing.
Evanna: Well, I had fun. I’m just happy I made it to the end. Thank you.
Andrew: The book is beautifully written. You’re great.
Evanna: You guys are amazing.
Andrew and Micah: Aww.
Evanna: No, seriously.
Andrew: This is about you.
Evanna: No, stop.
Evanna: No, this has been so nice because I’ve been doing a lot of podcasts and it’s just like, “Oh, I’m tired.” But this just feels like a homecoming of a podcast. It always does.
Andrew: Well, thank you.
Evanna: Because you know that, you’re my first podcast I listened to and you guys are still the same at heart.
Andrew: I know, that means everything to us. Yeah, that means a lot. That means a lot.
Laura: It does.
Andrew: We love you, and we’re so proud of you and this book, and it’s beautifully written. So everybody, again, check it out: The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting. We’ll have a link in the show notes, of course, so everybody can grab it. Maybe we just should quickly plug… we also appeared on your podcast, which is on hiatus right now, The ChickPeeps, so check that out.
Andrew: I think that’s the second to most recent episode in your feed.
Evanna: It was super fun.
Andrew: Yeah, and of course, we’ll link to Evanna’s social… are you on social media right now? Did you leave?
Evanna: I’m on Instagram, yeah.
Andrew: Okay. We’ll link to Evanna’s Instagram as well so everybody can follow her. All right, thanks again, Evanna.
Laura: Thank you guys. Thanks for having me.
Laura: Thank you.
Andrew: All right. Well, gang, that was a great interview with Evanna, wasn’t it?
Eric: That was so good.
Andrew: She’s the best. Such a deep thinker.
Laura: She’s just a gem of a human being.
Andrew: Yeah. I am thrilled with how that interview went. Please, everybody, support her. Check out her book; it’s really great. If you have any feedback about today’s interview, you can contact us by writing to MuggleCast@gmail.com, or you can send us a voice memo. If you do that, just record a little voice memo on your phone; send that to MuggleCast@gmail.com. You can also use the contact form on MuggleCast.com, or you can leave a voicemail on our phone. The number is 1-920-3-MUGGLE. That’s 1-920-368-4453.
Andrew: It’s time for Quizzitch!
[Quizzitch music plays]
Eric: Last week’s question was, what sweet treat does Professor Flitwick give to Harry after his interview is published in the Quibbler? The correct answer is a box of squeaking sugar mice. Correct answers were submitted by the Jonas Brothers; Spooky cookie; Steven Stevens; Hufflepuff plant lady; He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Bort; a Lost Packet of Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum; and Long live no character limits on this section; Runalb Wazlib; and The Cactus. Next week’s question: What is the name of Aragog’s wife? This is actually in the books; it’s not a Pottermore thing. Submit your answer to us over on the MuggleCast website. Click on “Quizzitch” from the top main menu, or go to MuggleCast.com/Quizzitch.
Micah: It’s not Hagrid, right?
Eric: Oh yeah, no, that’s more his daddy.
Micah: Oh, his daddy.
Laura: Oh. I don’t…
Eric: Adoptive daddy?
Andrew: Spider daddy. All right, let’s keep moving.
Eric: Yeah, anyway.
Andrew: Make sure you are following the show for free in your favorite podcast app, so you never miss an episode. And if they have a review section, please do leave us a review as well; we really appreciate that. And we love reading the reviews that come in, so thank you, everybody who takes a moment to do that. And finally, do follow us on social media. We are @MuggleCast on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. And of course, check out our show notes today for a link to Evanna’s book, The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting, as well as a link to her Instagram and ChickPeeps podcast. All right, thanks, everybody, for listening. I’m Andrew.
Eric: I’m Eric
Micah: I’m Micah.
Laura: And I’m Laura.
Andrew: Bye, everyone.