I have a confession to make. Attending book clubs in person or via speakerphone– or any other form of technology– is more than a friendly gesture or good PR on an author’s part. It’s therapy!
I discovered this when I first started visiting local readers groups a number of years ago. There’d be ten to twenty women there and for close to two hours we would eat and drink wine and talk. About me. My work. My thoughts. My feelings. We even talked about my family and how they reacted to my work. Bottom line, it really was all about me!
Then they complimented me. And my work. And my characters, whom they talked about as if they were real people. They wanted to know how I thought up those characters and why they did this or that in the story. Then they wanted to know what I was working on and what I planned to write next. They couldn’t seem to get enough of…me!
It was exhausting and exhilarating. On the one hand I talked so much my jaw hurt and I could barely think anymore. On the other, I talked so much about myself and my work that I didn’t care if my jaw hurt or I couldn’t think anymore.
This doesn’t happen to me at home. I have a husband and two teenage boys. We talk about my husband’s work and school and sports—lots and lots of sports, particularly baseball which both of my sons play competitively. But the questions about my work, or any specific aspect of my work-in-progress are extremely rare.
The details of your work as a writer can be hard to share with others, even those who care about you. This is why many writers have critique groups or partners that they can brainstorm with and talk through problems in a manuscript or the publishing business as they arise. I’d always believed that only other writers, those on the same path, could truly understand what another writer was going through.
But I now know that readers are invested in your characters and the worlds they inhabit in a way not even another writer may be. And they’re interested in the person behind those characters in ways that your own family may never think about.
In my mind, book clubs are a definite win-win. Hopefully, the book club members get insights into the story and the writing process that only the author can provide. And the author gets all that enthusiasm and admiration—it can actually make you see the daily struggle to get the story down on the page in a whole new inspiring light!
So, I’d just like to say thank you to all those book clubs I’ve spoken to in person and via speakerphone. Thanks for buying and reading my books, thanks for your enthusiasm and interest and time. And most of all, thanks for the therapy! And for not charging me $200 an hour for making me feel so great!