Here’s the thing. I’d never been involved with a book club in any way, before. So, when I was invited by a local book club to be a guest author, I was thrilled but nervous.
Would they be kind to me, face to face? Or would they see this as an opportunity to really tear my wonderful (to me) little book apart, right in front of my horrified eyes?
I was about to find out.
I’ve done some public events since becoming a writer, but this was different. This wasn’t me standing in front of a group of people, telling them what I wanted them to hear. This was me sitting in front of a group of people, listening to them tell me what they thought of my book. And questioning me about that book.
My husband offered to have a drink waiting for me when I got home. Just in case it went badly.
“It’ll be fine,” I said, as I grabbed the car keys and headed for the door.
“Why do you look so worried, then?”
Because I was. Worried, I mean. What if I was asked a Really Hard Question about my book? Direct questions (especially the hard ones) can freeze me in my tracks. And even worse than that, what if they wanted me to talk about myself? Could I come up with anything interesting at all?
However, as I sat in my car listening to the second period of the Oilers game (because, of course, I was fifteen minutes early) I realized that this might just be fun if I let it. And, I realized that this was a chance for me to do a little information gathering, because I’d never done one of these before. And that gave me an edge.
That’s right. It gave me an edge. When I finally went in and met my delightful hostess, I confessed that this was my first book club. She was surprised, as were the rest of the women when I confessed it to them. Then they laughed, called me a “book club virgin” and promised they’d be gentle.
I warned them that there was a good chance that I was going to ask them more questions than they asked me, because I wanted to know how book clubs worked. How they chose their books, what questions they wanted answered, and what they were looking for, when they chose a book. Even what they served at the meeting. I wanted to know everything.
And I did. I peppered them with questions all night. Every time I felt myself tighten up, or freeze, I’d ask THEM something about what makes a book club work. They’d been together five years, so they had a lot of information to share about what works and what doesn’t. I soaked it all up, and will use it to make my next book more accessible to book clubs. Especially theirs.
You know what? It worked wonderfully. I was able to tell my “writing life” story quite easily–in fact, if I was going to honest about it, I should have made that part shorter–and by that time, they knew me (a little bit) and when they quizzed me about characters and plot, it was like talking to friends. The worst part of the evening was trying not to give too much away about the next book–which they all said they would read. As a matter of fact, they want me back, when the next one comes out.
I went home, hugged my husband, and told him everything went so wonderfully, I didn’t need the drink.
“I can’t believe you put yourself through that,” he said. “You work so hard at your writing, you’d think that would be enough.”
I didn’t know how to tell him that sometimes, the writing’s not enough. Sometimes it’s nice to meet your readers. Face to face.