Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Club Exchange: Lisa See & Giveaway

I am so excited that one of my very favorite authors Lisa See has written a guest post for Book Club Exchange. For those of you who aren't regular followers, Book Club Exchange is a feature on Booking Mama that covers anything and everything book club-related.

Ms. See has written many of my favorite novels -- the most recent being SHANGHAI GIRLS. You can read my review here. Since Ms. See is an author (and not a book club member), she offers an extremely unique perspective to the book club experience! As a book club member, I know how much my book club personally means to me. But I found it extremely interesting to learn how much book clubs can mean to an author like Ms. See.

I’m a writer and I love books. Sadly though, I’m not in a book club. (Why not? I’ll get to that in a bit.) Nevertheless, I probably “visit” more book clubs in a year than most people attend in a lifetime. When I first started out as a writer, book clubs weren’t all that popular. Even so, I went in person to any book club that invited me to talk about my first book, On Gold Mountain. I thought it was a great way for people to learn about the book and also learn about me. I know that for myself, as a reader, I have real bonds with individual writers through their words and stories. I hoped that people would start to have that bond with me. It’s turned out to be true, because I often get e-mail from people who were in one of those book clubs I visited fifteen years ago. They tell me they’ve followed my career all these years. They say things like, “We knew you when,” or “You were a lot younger then.” (They did, and I was.)

Somewhere along the way Oprah started her book club and the whole world changed. It seems like everyone has a book club now. I can’t possibly go in person to every book club that invites me. It wouldn’t be physically possible, because I get invitations from all over the country and even the world to visit book clubs. What I can do is join in by speaker phone. I’ve been doing this for my last three books: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love, and Shanghai Girls. I’ve spoken to as many as three book clubs in a day. (I don’t recommend it. It’s really exhausting for me and by the end probably not all that great for the final book club, although I’m bound to say some pretty amusing things because I’m so punchy.) I don’t know if the people in book clubs that I talk to by phone have the same kind of bond with me that I used to feel when I visited in person, but I know for sure that I have real and very deep bonds with the book clubs. My reasons are varied, emotional, simple, and sometimes a bit complicated.

Most writers spend all day alone in a room with just a computer screen for company. Some days the only time I go outside is to see if the mail has arrived. So for me to get to talk to a book club at the end of the day gives me companionship. The women make me laugh. They ask interesting questions. And I get to talk to someone other than myself.

But it goes much deeper than that. I’ve learned so much about writing from talking to book clubs. I’ve learned what worked in a book and what didn’t. I’ve learned that sometimes people don’t like to read things that don’t reflect their world view, while others love to open a book and step into another time, culture, or place. I’ve learned that people look for themselves in books and think about what they would have done in the same situation. Most important, I’ve learned that, even though I have an idea of what something should mean or how something should be interpreted, people have their own minds and their own interpretations. That doesn’t mean that I’m a bad writer or that they’re bad readers. It just means that we come to books with our own individual life stories, experiences, and ways of looking at the world. It takes nine Supreme Court justices to figure out what they think the framers of the Constitution meant on legal issues, right? So it makes sense that it would take a whole book club to figure out what a writer meant by a character, a scene, or an emotion.

I’ve also learned a lot about women from book clubs. We’ve talked about mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, marriage, widowhood, and friendship. We’ve talked about love, jealousy, resentment, guilt, and atonement. When I was working on Shanghai Girls, which is about two sisters, I would ask book clubs if I could ask a couple of questions that had to do with the new novel: Is there anything your sister could do that would cause an irrevocable break? And, what’s the difference between actual sisters and friends who are just like sisters? A lot of what women told me made it into Shanghai Girls.

My bond to book clubs is deep and very meaningful to me and I really wish I could be in one, but I can’t. When I’m writing, I have to be very careful what I read. I don’t want another writer’s voice or another character’s voice to creep into my head, even inadvertently. When I’m writing, I only read non-fiction about the subject I’m currently working. Sometimes I’ll read poetry or short stories written by women who lived in the place and time period that I’m writing about. These usually aren’t fun books. Right now I’m dividing my reading between two books: Catastrophe and Contention in Rural China and China’s Road to Disaster. Believe me when I tell you that these aren’t “fun” books to read, but I read them so that my novels will be as historically accurate as possible. As soon as I’ve turned my novel in to the publisher, I spend two or three months treating myself by reading other author’s novels. How do I know what to read? I ask book clubs! So my final gratitude and thanks goes to all those book clubs who’ve recommended books to me that have transported me to new and different places.

*****
Lisa See is the New York Times bestselling author of PEONY IN LOVE, SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN, FLOWER NET (an Edgar Award nominee), THE INTERIOR and DRAGON BONES, as well as the critically acclaimed memoir ON GOLD MOUNTAIN. The Organization of Chinese American Women named her the 2001 National Woman of the Year. She lives in Los Angeles. To learn more, please visit her web site at www.LisaSee.com.


I am so grateful to Ms. See for sharing some of her book club experiences with us! If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.

Thanks to Random House, I have two copies of SHANGHAI GIRLS to share with two very lucky readers! To enter, please leave a comment with a valid email address telling me what your favorite Lisa See book is. If you haven't read one, what are you waiting for? Just kidding...you can leave the name of the Lisa See book which you would most like to read. This giveaway will be open until Monday, February 1st at 11:59 p.m. ET, and I will notify the winners the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. or Canada mailing addresses only -- no p.o. boxes please. Good luck!

59 comments:

brizmus said...

Thank you so much for a beautiful guest post by Lisa See! She's made me want to join a book club so badly. Because she's right, no interpretation of a book can ever really be WRONG, but I bet it's nice to hear other people's ideas sometimes.
It's unfortunate that she can't be in a book club, but it's exciting that she's had some great experiences with them nonetheless!

Oh and enter me, enter me for the book! My favorite all time Lisa See book is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, although have to admit that it's hard to pick, as I absolutely adore ALL Of them that I've read!

zedster.tbb(at)gmail(DOT)com

Beth said...

I haven't read a Lisa See book (I'm woefully behind on grown-up reading) but I'd love to try this one. I think I'll put her non-fiction title, On Gold Mountain, on hold at the library.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I have her latest book on my shelves, waiting for an opportunity to insert itself into my reading schedule. I've heard some amazing things about this book, and wouldn't it just be a treat to be able to talk to her about it? More and more authors are doing this. My book club is definitely not "there" yet (last month we spent an hour talking about childbirth and stomach problems!).

thekoolaidmom said...

Don't feel bad, Beth, I've not read any yet, either. I have her last three on Mt. TBR, and I've just not gotten to them. I don't think they'll be hopping off this year, either.

She sounds like the kind of person who would be a fast friend. It's really nice that she does what she can to "visit" book clubs.

Simply Stacie said...

I've never read a Lisa See book, but Dragon Bones looks good!

simplystacieblog at gmail dot com

amanda18228 said...

The only Lisa See book I've read is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. It was really good!
amandarwest at gmaildotcom

bermudaonion said...

I love to read about authors who value their readers so much. It sounds like she gets as much out of her book club visits as she gives. No need to enter me.

Michelle said...

I've not yet read a Lisa See book, but I have several patrons at my library who keep recommending "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan." I guess I'll have to get on that...

michellemsherman(at)gmail(dot)com

Linda said...

A very interesting guest post. I've never belonged to a book club, but my daughter and I read the same books and then discuss the story and the characters. She is currently reading Snow Flower, which I've already read and enjoyed. So we will both be ready for Shanghai Girls. Hope I win it for us. Thanks for the giveaway.
lcbrower40(at)gmail(dot)com

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

We've read both Snowflower and Peony in Love for our book club. Snowflower was our favorite, however, Peony provided the most interesting discussion! What a timely giveaway, as we are reading Shanghai Girls to honor our departed book club member. Would love to win a copy!!
melmccurdy@sbcglobal.net

Natalie said...

I've never read a Lisa See book...but I would LOVE to read Shanghai Girls. I've added it to my list! :)

Kari said...

I haven't read any works by Lisa See. But, Shanghai Girls was recently reviewed in my public library email newsletter and I would love to check it out. Thanks!

Benita said...

Peony in Love is my fave.



bgcchs(at)yahoo(dot)com

Nelsby said...

Such a tough decision! I believe my favorite is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Thanks so much for the fabulous giveaway - I would be SO thrilled to win!
Aimee
sierranelsby (at) gmail (dot) com

Jo-Jo said...

What a great guest post this was! I must say that Lisa See is one of my favorite authors. Shanghai Girls is exceptionally special to me because I happened to be reading this book while I was visiting my sister when she was in hospice care last year. I think because this book was about sisters and I was with my sister towards the end of her life that this book will always have special meaning for me.

Even though this one is special to me I think that I enjoyed Snow Flower more...oh it's hard to choose! I would love to be entered in the contest so I could share this one with one of the gals in my book club.
joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Lisa echoes some of my own book club discoveries. Interesting!

Awesome post from her, too.

No need to enter me, doll. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

LisaMM said...

What a lovely guest post!! Lisa See is one of the most gracious, accommodating authors when it comes to book club chats. She spoke with my book club for more than an hour about Peony in Love and she was just fabulous. It was one of our best book club meetings. I'm so happy to know that she gets something out of these chats too!

princess210 said...

I have not yet red a book by Lisa See, but would love to win this one! I would also like to read Dragon Bones as I love a good mystery. Thanks!!!

avisannschild said...

This is a great guest post and it makes me want to be part of a book club all the more! I haven't read any of Lisa See's books, but I'd love to start with this one!

shereadsandreads(at)gmail(dot)com

holdenj said...

What a great interview-she really puts it out there, and phoning up to three bookgroups at once must be tiring! Would love to read Shanghai Girls! Thus far, my only See novel is a mystery, Flower Net.
Thanks.
JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

etirv said...

Lisa See is a new author to me but I would love to read Peony in Love and Shanghai Girls!

delilah0180(at)yahoo(dot)com

Amy said...

Lisa See is a fascinating & intelligent woman. I am ashamed to admit I haven't read any of her books yet. I would love to read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. It's a captivating story. But, honestly, all of Ms. See's books sound quite good.

Thank you for a terrific giveaway!

Amy
Aimala127@gmail.com

Just Mom said...

I have Snow Flower in my TBR pile but haven't started it yet and now I keep hearing such excellent reviews for Shanghai Girls, I want to read it too!

Aths said...

I'd so love to join this. I've never read any of her books, though I am reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan next month! I'm so looking forward to it!

athira.c AT gmail DOT com

skkorman said...

I haven't read any of Lisa See's books yet but the reviews of "Shanghai Girls" were so good that I would love to (win it and) read it!

Bcteagirl said...

I haven't read any Lisa See books yet, I am afraid I am woefully behind when ti comes to the list of books I 'should have read'. I am very interested in cast systems and horoscopes... this book sounds very interesting! :)

Bcteagirl said...

lol! I just noticed someone else used the phrase woefully behind.. that was not on purpose I swear! Still, good to know I am not alone :P

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Thanks for the wonderful guest post. I finished Snow Flower and the Secret Fan last month and simply loved it! It was my first book by See and I'm so excited to read her other novels.
Thanks for the giveaway!

fitz12383(at)hotmail(dot)com

Amused said...

What a great post! I loved reading about Lisa See's experience's!

Thank you so much for also hosting a giveaway! My favorite Lisa See book is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and my email is amusedbybooks@gmail.com

enyl said...

I would most like to read On Gold Mountain,as memiors and biographies are my favorite.
enyl(at)inbox(dot)com

Beth F said...

Fabulous guest post! Really great. I had no idea that Lisa visited so many book clubs. I loved all three books of hers that I've read.

What You'll Find Here said...

Shangai Girls is on our book club list this year! Can't wait to read it!

katcomstock at yahoo dot com

Serena said...

No need to enter me. I really loved her analogy about book clubs and the supreme court 9. I also loved that she asked her book clubs about the sister relationships they've had and that those answers made their way into Shanghai girls.

Great guest post.

Debbie said...

I love her books and would so love to own this one. My favorite is Snow Flower. What a great book.

Sandee61 said...

I'd love to be entered for Lisa See's book. I've read several of her books and enjoyed them very much. Please enter me in your giveaway. Thank you!

Sandee61

Muzzley56[at]aol[dot]com

Dana said...

I have yet to read anything by Lisa See, but I've heard so many good things about Shanghai Girls that I know I have to give it a try!

boredd09(at)gmail(dot)com

ruthhill74 said...

I have not read anything by Lisa See yet, but Shanhai Girls sounds terrific! I must put it on my to-do list. My e-mail is ruthaw_1974@yahoo.com.

Sue said...

I really enjoyed Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. It was a great story, but also so informative. I couldn't believe what those women went through!
Thanks for the giveaway.

s.mickelson at gmail dot com

a real librarian said...

Thanks for the chance to win!!

areallibrarian[at]gmail[dot]com

a real librarian said...

Oh, and I've never read a Lisa See book - I'm looking forward to!

areallibrarian[at]gmail[dot]com

Stacie said...

I loved Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and our book club had such a great discussion over it! Thanks!
Staciele(at)netins(dot)net

wmmahaney said...

I have not read any of her books, but Dragon Bones sounds really good.
wmmahaney(at)att(dot)net

Dawn M. said...

I haven't read any of Lisa See's books yet but I would love to read Shanghai Girls! Count me in, please. :0)

Thanks!
librarygrinch at gmail dot com

rubynreba said...

I would like to read Snow Flower.
pbclark(at)netins(dot)net

Margie said...

I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and loved it!
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

April said...

My favorite is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan!

librarianapril at gmail dot com

Nancye said...

I would like to read "Peony in Love" and "Half + Half"

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

amweeks said...

I read Dragon Bones a long time ago, but I'll have to check out some of her other books!

Sarah E said...

Lisa See is a new author for me. I would like to read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, of which I've read many great reviews.

Please enter me in this giveaway!

saemmerson at yahoo dot com

Sarah E

Aik said...

I've read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and I absolutely love it!

aikychien at yahoo dot com

Bonnie M. said...

Wonderful giveaway! Aside from Shanghai Girls, I plan on reading Snow Flower And The Secret Fan.

wakeupangel at gmail dot com

Anita Yancey said...

I haven't read one of her books yet. But I would most like to read Peony In Love. Please enter me. Thanks!

ayancey(at)dishmail(dot)net

Victoria said...

I haven't read any of her books, so I'm not sure what to chose!! I'd love to read snow flower and the secret fan!! And of course I'd love to win Shanghai Girls!

Thank you sooo much for this giveaway!

victoriah40@gmail.com

FrankSandy said...

I haven't read Lisa See. I'd love to read Shanghai Girls.

walkerd@primus.ca

dsandyboy said...

I would like to read Snow Flower.

dsandyboy@gmail.com

SandyM204 said...

My fave is Snow Flowers and the secret fan. Enter me please.

sandym204@gmail.com

Booksnyc said...

I haven't read any of Lisa See's books and feel I am late to this party :)!

I would love Shanghai Girls to be my first Lisa See book - thanks for entering me!

leenbeen2001 (at) yahoo (dot) com

Emma said...

Lisa See is a new author to me . SHANGHAI GIRLS sounds wonderful.Please enter me in the giveaway.augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com.Thank you.

CherylS22 said...

So far, I've only read one of Lisa See's books, "Peony In Love" & I really enjoyed it.
Thanks ~ megalon22 at yahoo dot com