This post is a little out-of-the-ordinary for my Book Club Exchange feature. Instead of a typical guest post, authors Kim Wright, who wrote LOVE IN MID AIR, has interviewed Marybeth Whalen, who wrote SHE MAKES IT LOOK EASY. And guess what their topic was? Book Clubs!
Kim: I love visiting with book clubs. Book tours and signings are pretty much over as a way for authors to reach out to their readers. You just don’t see nearly as many of them as you used to. So book clubs are becoming the primary way writers interact with their readers in the flesh. What do you think makes a good book club?
Marybeth: A book club works when the members are a cohesive, committed group. If they've been together awhile, that also seems to strengthen them. And of course, it's pretty important that everyone read the book in time for the meeting.
Kim: That’s key. I’m always amazed at how many book club members don’t read the book. I like it when the group isn’t too homogenous…..you need a group that will recommend different types of books or else you get into this huge rut where you’re reading the same stuff over and over – and people just run out of things to say. I was once in this book club that read nothing but historical fiction and then we narrowed it down to where there it was nothing but the Tudors!
You have a brilliant policy for how you interact with book clubs. What is it?
Marybeth: Since most book clubs meet in the evenings, I have to really budget my time away from my family. Sports, running kids, and trying to eat dinner together is important for us, yet I wanted to be able to connect with book clubs. So I hit upon a solution. If I visit a book club, I tell them that I will come for the first hour, then leave them to discuss the book without me the second hour. That way they can ask me questions and hear the backstory on the book, but continue their discussion without me listening in that second hour. That puts me back home relatively quickly yet still makes me available to book clubs. I have found they are totally great with this.
Kim: It’s smart too, because sometimes it seems to inhibit the group when the author is sitting there. They don’t talk quite as freely as they otherwise would. What's been your strangest or zaniest or most memorable book club experience since you've been meeting with them?
Marybeth: I did a book club conference call right after my first book, The Mailbox, came out. They asked for the call and seemed really interested in talking to me. I got on the phone thinking we'd have this lovely chat. Instead it was an ambush. The ladies had some specific moral issues they had found in my book and wanted to take me to task over it. My husband was around and heard bits and pieces of the conversation from my end and could tell I was justifying the book to them. He was in the background saying "Whoever that is, get off the phone." He could tell I was upset. It was just not a happy, fun phone call like I had expected.
Kim: I’ve had one experience where people went into attack mode as well, but most of the time they’re great. My most memorable experience is that there’s a dinner party scene in Love in Mid Air and the hostess completely reproduced the meal for the book club. All four course….and she looked up recipes because the book certainly didn’t provide them. I was stunned by that!
Okay, final question: If you're an avid reader, why should you be in a book club? What are they bringing to the table you can't get on your own?
Marybeth: Book clubs bring you in contact with other bibliophiles-- people who are as passionate about the printed word as you are. They give you a chance to discuss how much the book meant to you, how real those characters were to you. Not everyone out there in the world gets that. Book clubs give you a safe, welcome place to express all of it. One of the biggest compliments I received as a writer was after one of my friends who doesn't typically read fiction read my first novel. She called me a few days later and asked, "Is it normal that I am still thinking about these characters even though I know they aren't real?" Book clubs give you a place to talk to other people about that phenomena. In that environment, those characters ARE real.
I am so grateful to Ms. Wright and Ms. Whalen for participating in this interview! If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.