Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Book Club Exchange: Marilyn Brant

I am so excited about this particular Book Club Exchange post! It was written by an author I just adore -- Marilyn Brant. She's written two fun books called ACCORDING TO JANE (my review) and FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE (my review.) And I think you will find her guest post about book clubs to be very entertaining. How can you go wrong when you talk about books and food?

As much as I've always loved, loved, loved reading, I'd never been a member of a book club -- or even visited one -- until I was invited to my first set of meetings last November as a guest author. In just four weeks I got a crash course in book clubs, visiting 4 in person and 1 online in my first month alone! Let me tell you a secret: Even if I hadn't fallen immediately in love with the experience of chatting with a group of smart, funny women about novels, I would've stayed at all of these meetings anyway just because of the great food (!!) and the way every group made me feel as though I'd made a bunch of new friends...

The first club I attended was hosted by my sister-in-law's sister-in-law. She and the fabulous women in this club have been meeting monthly for over a decade and are made up of a collection of friends, sisters, former college roommates and neighbors. A full year before my debut novel, According to Jane, was even released, her group asked me to reserve a Fall 2009 date for them. They've read tons of books together (it was hilarious listening to them recount their reactions to some of those selections!) and have a love of making themed meals to accompany every book. Being that I was the first author they'd ever had as a visitor, I got the royal treatment with a table covered with tasty dishes (some of them decidedly English so as to coordinate with Austen -- LOL) and a ginormous basket of chocolate delicacies. YUM. They asked me to recommend their next book, so I suggested Kathryn Stockett's The Help, and joined them for that discussion as well.

The next book club was held at the house of a good friend, but most of the other members were new to me. Before I arrived, my friend explained with a laugh that, really, their evening meetings were "all about the food and the wine," but that they tried to choose a range of books and make their gatherings relaxing, informative and fun. And the experience was definitely that... (I will not reveal just how MANY bottles of wine were consumed that night!)

A third meeting involved a road trip with three friends across state lines to visit the book club of one friend's mother. Their delightful group had been getting together for about fifteen years and were mature women who had a wealth of life experiences. My friend's mom was an especially gracious hostess as well, setting up tables in her living room and serving tea, pastries and crustless sandwiches to all of us on beautiful English china. I felt like a lady of the Regency, and I couldn't help but pause more than once to admire the lovely place settings and all the women in the room who were enjoying the literary tea party.

The final in-person group that month required a road trip of no more than 3 blocks, but it was equally memorable. Held at the house of one of the club leaders, it was a brunch meeting. (Can't you just smell the coffee and the warm glazed rolls and the egg casserole?) One of the many things I loved about these suburban moms was their curiosity about the publishing process and their expressed interest in having an open discussion about it. Having been told this in advance, I arrived armed with a number of drafts of the project that became According to Jane -- showing them the steps from the first full manuscript (with my handwritten notes scribbled in the margins) to the editorial copy edits and page proofs to the bound advanced reading copies to the final printed novel... 

I've since met with this group a couple other times. They invited me back to discuss Friday Mornings at Nine and, when I told them about my third novel, A Summer in Europe, they were so delightfully enthusiastic and interested in the process of its publication that I asked if any of them wanted to read it early and offer suggestions. ALL eight of them did! So, I made copies for them and they have it now. We're doing the book club discussion for it at the end of January -- a full ten months before the novel is released! I have every confidence they'll steer me in the right direction as far as any final revisions and so look forward to hearing their opinions on the story.

And I'm already anticipating enjoying a warm, delicious brunch with them again...and thinking about what sweet treat to bring... 

Question: What would be a good novel to host a themed meal around for a book-club meeting? What are some of the dishes you could make that would fit well with the story?

Marilyn Brant has been told she writes with honesty, liveliness and wit (descriptors she's grown terribly fond of) about complex, intelligent women -- like her friends -- and their significant personal relationships. Although her favorite pursuits undoubtedly involve books, she proves she's not just a literary snob by confessing her lifelong fascination (read: obsession) with popular music, especially from the '70s & '80s, most flavors of ice cream and a variety of sensuous body lotions/oils.

Marilyn is the award-winning women's fiction author of ACCORDING TO JANE (2009), FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE (2010) and her upcoming novel, A SUMMER IN EUROPE (November 29, 2011), all from Kensington Books.

As a former teacher, library staff member, freelance magazine writer and national book reviewer, Marilyn has spent much of her life lost in literature. She's been told -- and not always with the intent to flatter -- that she's "insatiably curious" and "a travel addict." She admits to combining these two passions by taking classes in foreign countries whenever possible and, consequently, she's been able to learn lots of fascinating things in Australia, in England, in Italy and in universities across the United States. 

She received her M.A. in educational psychology from Loyola University Chicago, dabbled in both fiction and art at Northwestern University, studied the works of Austen at Oxford University and is an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Her debut novel featuring "Jane" won the Romance Writers of America's prestigious Golden Heart® Award.

Marilyn has traveled to 45 states and over 30 countries (so far -- she's not done yet!), but she now lives in the Chicago suburbs with her family. When she isn't rereading Jane's books or enjoying the latest releases by her writer friends, she's working on her next novel, eating chocolate indiscriminately and hiding from the laundry.

I am so grateful to Ms. Brant for writing this wonderful guest post, and we both would love to hear your book club/recipe suggestions! If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.


Anonymous said...

My 2011 reading list is getting very long already. I'm a little embarrassed to say I have never heard of Marilyn Brant before but after reading her post and about her books, I've now added her to my 2011 TBR pile. Thanks for the intro. to this author. I'm so excited.

Veens said...

Is this not a yummy, tempting post! I am sad that I have not read any of this authors books but I will definitely want to get her book in the coming year :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

Her books sound wonderful, and you just have to love an author who is so open to sharing her time and thoughts with book clubs. (I am working on what may be my first author call-in for one of my book clubs with Tatjana Soli, and I am SO EXCITED!) Knowing that Marilyn is so open to these experiences, I'll have to work on my clubs to read her!

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Marilyn sounds just wonderful. I have heard stories where some book clubs haven't been as pleasant to the authors of books they didn't like, but this seems rare and mostly people seem to love to eat, like Marilyn said. I love this post because I'm not out in the world with my book until April, but it's good to know I'll be stuffed to the gills with delicious food at book clubs -- well, most likely :)

Thank you.

Ann Summerville said...

Hello, I stopped by your blog today. Book Clubs are a great way to share both the love of reading and friendships.

bermudaonion said...

I wish Marilyn Brant would come to my book club! I'm currently reading The Blueberry Years by Jim Minick and I can envision a blueberry themed meal to go along with a discussion of the book.

Marilyn Brant said...

Julie, it's a *pleasure* to visit your blog! Thanks so much for inviting me to write book club exchange post and for being so supportive and welcoming ;).

marthalama, please -- no need to be embarrassed! I'm still pretty new ;). It's very nice to meet you!

Veens, thank you! I really hope you'll enjoy the stories :).

Sandy, I just did my first call-in book club a few weeks ago and *loved* it. An instructor at a community college in another state chose Friday Mornings at Nine as one of the selections for her popular fiction class and emailed me to see if I'd talk with the group. I was truly honored, and I really enjoyed our discussion. If your book club reads one of my novels sometime and would like to do a call-in chat, just email me -- marilynbrant AT gmail DOT com -- I'd be delighted ;).

Rebecca, I hope you'll have wonderful book-club experiences, too :). And HUGE congrats on your upcoming book release!!

Ann, they definitely are!

bermudaonion, ohhh, thank you!! As I mentioned to Sandy, if your club shoule ever read a book of mine, please feel free to email me. I'd be happy to do a phone chat ;). Also, I love blueberries, especially when they're in muffins!

Wishing you all a very happy holiday season!

Lisa@ButteryBooks said...

What a fun post. Our book club too is a little embarrassed about the number of empty wine bottles at the end of the night. We do themed food for our book club as well and will definitely need to include one of these books in our reading list.

Marilyn Brant said...

Lisa, thank you -- I'm thrilled you'd consider adding a book of mine to your club's reading list! I'm also very glad to hear we weren't the only ones who went through a few bottles of wine... ;)