Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Club Exchange - Mary Sharratt & Giveaway

Yesterday, I reviewed a wonderful book called DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL by Mary Sharratt. If you read my gushing review, you know how much I enjoyed this story about the Pendle witches in early 1600s England. It really is a must-read book for lovers of historical fiction!

I am just so excited that Ms. Sharratt has taken time to write an essay for my Book Club Exchange feature where she discusses the importance of book clubs and readers. Even though she finds that she isn't able to meet with her fans in person very often, she still realizes how valuable they are to her writing!

A Hermit’s Guide to Book Groups

Book clubs are such a blessing to authors. In this digital age of apathy, distraction, and short attention spans, book groups are champions of the written word. They just don’t talk about books—they inspire a genuine passion for reading.

Alas, I must hang my head in shame and confess that I am not the book group maven I long to be. Mostly geography gets in my way. An American expat, I live in the beautiful Pendle region of Lancashire in Northern England. This wild brooding landscape inspired my new novel, Daughters of the Witching Hill, which draws on the true story of a family caught up in the Pendle Witch Hunt of 1612. The downside of being so close to nature and such dramatic history is that I live like a hermit in this rural area. On an average day I see more sheep and horses than people. Most of my audience is in North America, an ocean away, which makes even speaker phone visits to book groups a challenge.

Still I yearn to make that connection to readers however I can. For a hermit like me, going on book tour, both a traditional city to city tour and a virtual blog tour, is essential. I simply have to connect with my readers, face to face or online. A writer is not a writer without her readers.

Readers are the reason we write, the reason we get up in the morning and sit for hours in front of our computer screen.

An astute author can learn as much from book groups as from professional editors and critics. My good friend, the brilliant novelist Sandra Gulland, gives a draft of her latest novel to her book group and lets them rip it apart for her so that she can learn from their insights before she puts in the final revisions.

While I don’t have a home circle book group to critique my drafts as Sandra does, I can say that for me, the writing process does not come full circle until I have that dialogue with my readers and listen to their experience of reading my novel. Only when this happens do I feel my book has “hit home.”

My most moving experience as a writer to date happened because of a book club.

Once, at a reading in Saint Paul, Minnesota, a woman presented me with an exquisite piece of origami work and invited me to unfold the sumptuous crimson paper. This creation was an invitation to join their book group discussion of my first novel, Summit Avenue. The origami artist had taken such care, using quotes from my novel, and designing the piece so that it opened like a heart. Reader feedback rarely gets better than this.

For the publication of my fourth novel, Daughters of the Witching Hill, even I, the hermit, am getting into action. For a few weeks, I shall say goodbye to my beloved horse and board a plane for the Virginia Festival of the Book where I’ll be joining the fabulous Barbara Drummond Mead’s Book Group Choices discussion panel. A bit later I’ll be heading off to Gunflint Lodge in Northern Minnesota for the Books in the Woods reading retreat, one of the few places where one can be a secluded hermit and a book group maven at the same time. At Books in the Woods, I’ll be leading a discussion on Louise Erdrich’s masterpiece, The Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse. As a writer, you learn a great deal about your craft from discussing the work of stellar writers such as Erdrich.

And so it begins. Book groups have cast their spell on this hermit.

Giveaway alert: I have a copy of DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL to give to one reader. All you have to do is leave a comment (with a valid email address) telling me why you want to read this book. The giveaway will be open until Wednesday, May 5th at 11:59 p.m. ET, and I will notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with a U.S. or Canada mailing address. Good luck!

Mary Sharratt is the author of the critically acclaimed novels SUMMIT AVENUE, THE REAL MINERVA, and THE VANISHING POINT. She is an American writer who lives in Lancashire, England, literally on the spot where the Pendle witch hunt unfolded. All the major characters and events portrayed in the novel are drawn from court clerk Thomas Potts's account of the 1612 Lancashire witch trials, in which seven women and two men were hanged as witches.

A huge thanks to Ms. Sharratt for sharing some of her thoughts about book clubs. If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.


bermudaonion said...

What a nice post! It's wonderful to know that authors appreciate us as much as we appreciate them!

katsrus said...

You are a new author to me. Your book sounds very interesting. I would love to read it. Great interview.
Sue B

Melissa said...

Hmmm...does that mean that Mary Sharatt will plan to make her presence heard in more book clubs (physically or digitally)? They have afterall, cast a spell on her. :)

Melissa said...

Oh thought Blogger would automatically leave you my email address, but I guess not. Please use melissa [at] yabookshelf [dot] com

Tea said...

I would love to read Witching Hill. I know about Salem. Didn't know about the area of Pendle. Love the author, she seems like a fun and warm person.


Tea said...

I did want to comment about the origami heart. That's so thoughtful. It must have been beautiful.


Margie said...

Interesting interview. I have read several good reviews of this book and I do enjoy historical fiction. Sounds like the author incorporates a lot of good information on the period in her novel. Thanks for the giveaway.
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Mystica said...

A lovely post especially when someone is appreciative. I havent heard of this author and would like to be counted for this giveaway.


Jo-Jo said...

The origami inviation must have been wonderful! I would love a chance to win this.
joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

Linda said...

Interesting post - I've never been in a book club, but always thought it would be a neat experience.
Every thing I've heard and read about this book sounds intriguing. Thanks for the giveaway.

Mary Sharratt said...

Thank you, everyone, for your wonderful comments. Good luck on the giveaway!

Serena said...

I've read more than one review of this book and would love to win it...I love books that deal with witches, etc.

This guest post is fantastic. I have a book club of 4, which includes 2 husbands and Anna! We're a sad bunch at recruiting other members since they are not as open in their reading as we seem to be.

savvyverseandwit at gmail

Katy said...

This book sounds so interesting! The time period and the storyline are both intriguing.

I loved this guest post. How touching it would have been to receive that origami heart. :)

srfbluemama at gmail dot com

Beth Kephart said...

Love this.

I love hermitting, and I love getting out there, too. This post strikes a chord with me.

Karlie said...

I find the witch hunts fascinating and have never read about the ones in England.

Amused said...

Great post and I would love to win a copy of this book because it is an historical fiction book based on fact and I tend to like those the best!

Mari said...

I love anything about this subject and particularly set in England. Please include me in the give away

Jolee said...

Sounds like a very interesting book. Love historical fiction and books that explore women's roles. Thanks.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I really liked The Real Minerva. I finally read it recently and am glad to see new stuff by Mary.

No need to enter me, however (stupid TBR!). I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book.

Christine H said...

I haven't read this author yet. I'm a rather new reader, less than a year still. I'd love to win a copy. Great Interview! Makes me really interested in the book.

baileythebookworm said...

I'd like to read the book because I'm open to anything -currently I'm reading Catch-22, Cosmos and Lucian's Dialogues. I love reading new books from unfamiliar authors, and this looks like a great book to pick up.

baileythebookworm at gmail dot com

Bibliobabe said...

This sounds awesome. I am always very intrigued by witch stories. I would like to be one in my next life (not one that is the victim of a witch hunt of course!). Mary is beautiful - she looks like she belongs on the highlands of England.

angie said...

I would love to read this because I have heard great things about this:)
email bangersis(at)msn(dot)com

Jenna said...

I enjoyed the review, and loved this post also! I would enjoy winning this book because I love discovering new (to me) authors and I genuinely have an interest in the subject matter!

papajm25 @ gmail . com

BJ said...

I have a personal interest in the topic of the book. On October 16, 1673, an ancestor of mine, Walpurgis Eberhard, wife of Johannes Koeppel, innkeeper of Dehlingen, was beheaded by sword and burned for witchcraft near the gallows in Diemeringen, Bas-Rhin, France. Would love a chance to win the book. Thanks.

Jill said...

I just read Daughters of the Witching Hill and loved it! I just happened to pluck it off the library shelf. I have a tendency to read the same authors over and over and I am very excited to have discovered Mary Sharratt! Although, I've already read her story, I'd love to own a copy as I re-read a lot!

Jill said...

Oops! I forgot to include my e-mail address:

Thanks! Jill

Gwendolyn B. said...

I've read a lot about the Salem witch trials, but I'm only just beginning to delve into the European instances of witch trials, etc. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of Ms. Sharratt's book. I'm so glad to have "discovered" a wonderful new author whose work I can explore!

geebee.reads AT gmail dOT com

Cheryl F. {The Lucky Ladybug} said...

I want to win this book because I've been interested in witches since a young age :) *Thanks* for the giveaway!

Sarah E said...

I would like to read this book because I have read several good reviews about it. I also love historical fiction.

Please enter me in this giveaway!

saemmerson at yahoo dot com

Sarah E

Marjorie said...

The storyline is very good from the review and I would definitely
love to win and read this novel.

cenya2 at hotmail dot com

pareynolds26 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pareynolds26 said...

Thank you for sharing-this sounds like a fun book to read and open a new world to me. Looking forward to reading Daughters of Witching Hill

ossmcalc said...

I have not read any of Mary Sharratt's books as of yet. This sounds like such an interesting book especially with it being a true story about a family during the Pendle Witch Hunt. I would love to read this book as I am drawn to stories like this.

Thank you,


Misusedinnocence said...

I haven't read anything by this author yet, but this sounds wonderful!

Debbie F said...

I have seen this book all over the blog world and it looks like a great read! count me in! Thanks!

dcf_beth at verizon dot net

CherylS22 said...

I'd love to read this book because historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I also like the fact that it is about a witch hunt.

Thanks ~ megalon22 at yahoo dot com