This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

New posts on Wednesdays. Email

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

When Book Clubs Read Your Book

            In the past couple of months I’ve had the pleasure of being invited to two book club meetings that were discussing one of my mystery novels. It was a great experience, and one that gave me a bit of an insight into how the books are being read by typical readers.
            The first book club met on January 10 and was discussing my second novel, Wash Her Guilt Away. The meeting began with the playing of the video trailer for the book, and, since he had a cameo role in the trailer, the retired local police chief was also invited to the event.
            About a dozen people were on hand, and it turned out a couple of them were fly fishermen. As the book is set during a fly-fishing vacation, that gave something to talk about, and they showed pictures of fish they had caught. They were bigger fish than I usually catch, but let’s skip the sour grapes.

The Question I Didn’t Expect

            A certain amount of the discussion at this meeting (and at the other, as well) had to do with questions about how I write the books and where I get my ideas. My general answer to that question is that as a writer I’m always stockpiling material and ideas and that once I start to map out a story line, things begin to fuse together into a semi-coherent whole.
            Even so, there were questions I wasn’t expecting. One that threw me for a loop came from a man in the group who said he didn’t understand why a successful 55-year-old businessman would be attracted to a 27-year-old woman. (They were already married when the story began and were two of the key characters.)
            Of all the things in the book that I never expected to have to explain, that would top the list. As I sat there trying to formulate a tactful response, one of the women in the group came to my rescue.
            “Oh, come on,” she said, and made a hand gesture with an unmistakable meaning. I thanked her under my breath.

Just Among Rotarians

            Last week, I went to the second book club. It was formed by members of a nearby Rotary Club (not the one I belong to) and was discussing my first novel, The McHenry Inheritance.
            The club has ten members, but on that blustery, rainy winter night only four showed up. I knew them all, and it was a convivial experience. They had some good questions and comments.
            The lone man in the group analyzed the ending of the book, using the Rotary Four-Way Test: Is it the truth; is it fair to all concerned; will it build goodwill and better friendships; and is it beneficial to all concerned. It was a way of looking at the ending that hadn’t occurred to me, but at the same time showed that he had been considering the moral complexity of it.
            And there was a make my day moment, too. One of the women in the group said that when I published the book three and a half years earlier, and sent out emails to everyone I knew, she decided to buy it, even though she’d never bought an e-book before. It took her a while to get it on her iPad and be able to read it, but she persevered and said she loved the book.
            Now that’s what I call a loyal customer.