In our small community on the coast of Georgia, there are four book clubs. There used to be three. The members rotate holding the monthly meetings, and the size of the three clubs grew to the point where there wasn't enough room for members to sit, to say nothing of the food and wine bills for the gathering.
I had my first book club appearance last week. I've never belonged to a book club, although I've always had a bookmark in at least one fiction or nonfiction book since I was old enough to read.
My mother, a great reader and club woman, never belonged to a book club. We lived in the country. There were quilting clubs (I can still feel the little needle pricks at the tips of my fingers), garden clubs, theater and symphony-going clubs, bridge clubs – you name a time and place where women gather, and there was a club for it.
It seems to me there is a proliferation of book clubs today.
Is this Oprah's doing? If so, good for her.
When my neighbor, Tina, learned that my debut mystery, THE END GAME, would be released on April 27, she invited me to appear at her book club, one of the four. I've also been invited to the other three clubs.
There were almost twenty members in attendance. Fifteen members are area snowbirds, now back in Massachusetts or Maine for the summer, away from flying creatures and the sizzling atmosphere.
I had such fun getting to know these readers. I have to admit book club appearances have it all over signings. First, members have either bought, borrowed or checked the book out at the library, so there's no selling like at a signing. Second, they've read it, so we can talk about the entire book.
As I said, this was my first experience at discussing the novel except with my editor, Ruth Cavin, who chose THE END GAME as the Best First Traditional Mystery Novel in the Malice Domestic/St. Martin's competition.
So after introductions, Tina, my friend, asked me, "Is your heroine, Moriah Dru, you?"
I wasn't expecting that opening salvo and laughed. How could I say she wasn't me, at least in part, since I am her creator. But the truth is, if I had to re-create me ( being my own God), I'd create myself in Dru's image. But no, I'm not nearly as high-minded, brave and dedicated to justice as she is. I was a reporter so getting the facts in a story right is important, but I learned a long time ago that justice is elusive.
My book club readers were interested in all the things writers are queried about: Are the characters modeled after people you know? Some. Where did you get your plot idea? From the news. Did you choose your book cover? No. Did you do research? A lot. Do you write with music playing? Not usually. I'm easily distracted. Have you ever hopped a train? Long time ago, when I was young and stupid, and I didn't stay on it very long.
We discussed the ending of THE END GAME, which I can't do here because mystery readers like surprises. All but one member declared they hadn't guessed the villain before the person (s) was exposed. I never asked if they liked the book, but most volunteered liking it very much to having been unable to put it down.
I have several more book club bookings, and I'm looking forward to each and every one. Yes, you get the usual questions, but one member asked, "Do you drink when you write?"
Put off momentarily (while holding a glass of wine), I asked, "Like Hemingway or Fitzgerald?"
"I read where Hemingway said, 'Good writers are drinking writers.'"
I'm saying you're a good writer."
I'll take that as a compliment any day, and, no, I don't drink when I write, or play golf. Both require a focused brain, and, as I said before, I'm easily distracted.