Community, Book Clubs and Lemon Squares
Here’s the thing, book signings are pretty much a hit or miss situation unless you’re JK Rowling or Hemingway. Most writers know what it’s like to sit at a table and twiddle their thumbs hoping someone will stop by while fighting the urge to chew their arm off. It can be aggravating. There’s nothing like a book signing to make you feel all alone in the world. Although, gaining even one new reader is worth the effort. So I won’t stop doing them. But, visiting book clubs is a delight. I thoroughly enjoy sitting with a group of people (usually all women) who have read my book and are now eager to learn the story behind the story.
In a recent profile with Publisher’s Weekly I talked about the importance of community and why I write about community. This is why I love Bright’s Pond. It really is about the town, the people (ok they’re a little nuts) but still they work together toward a common good or common goal. They feel comfortable walking in the back door and saying “hey,” sharing a slice of pie and their troubles as well as their triumphs.
I believe book clubs do this for folks. Reading books in community is a wonderful way to share a common interest, reach a common goal and then discuss and trade insights, learn from each other and hopefully discover something new about yourself or a friend.
When I visit a book club I am often thrilled by the questions, the depth of reasoning. I smile when a reader sees something in my writing, something tucked between the lines that I didn’t even know was there. So much of writing is subconscious, between the lines. I like it when they laugh at the right places and commiserate with my characters.
It’s also interesting how each person settles on something particular, usually a little bit different, on a different page than their book club comrade. This, I think is how book clubs should work. Each participant bringing something different. And yeah, the cookies and lemon squares and coffee don’t hurt.
One of the questions I am asked most often is how do I come up with my names. Names that PW found worthy of Roald Dahl, ok, shameless self-promo there. But hey. Anyway, I usually tell them that my characters arrive already named. I have never sat down with a baby name book or a phone book or any other resources and excavated for exactly the best name. The characters tell me. And this explanation is satisfactory to book clubs. I think it even makes readers more interested in the writing process.
I also appreciate book clubs because they remain loyal to the writers they enjoy. This might sound a bit self-serving but writing is not only an art form—it’s a business. An aspect that all writers have in the back of their mind at all times. But loyalty is a two way street.
Since I’ve started publishing regularly I’ve changed my narrative viewpoint a little. In the beginning I wrote what served the story, served me, served the characters. And that’s still true. But I also write more with my readers in mind, book clubs in mind. I listen to what they say and have found thai I am quite intentional about incorporating some of their insights, wishes for my characters etc. into a new book.
That’s what I like. Community. My books are never really written in isolation. I write to be inclusive. Readers matter.