On Friday night, I had the great pleasure of visiting a suburban Chicago book club to discuss TAKE A CHANCE ON ME and THE ONE THAT I WANT, the first two stories in my new Mirabelle Harbor series. It was a blast!! I knew going in that it would be, though, since I’d been invited to join this particular book club on multiple occasions and I’d always enjoyed its members & the delightful conversations we’ve had together. (They were one of the very first groups to read ACCORDING TO JANE when it came out and, in the six years since, they’ve also discussed FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE, A SUMMER IN EUROPE, and THE ROAD AND BEYOND. Needless to say, I love them. 🙂 )
Until I became a published author, though, I’d never been to an official book-club meeting. I’d read and watched “The Jane Austen Book Club,” swooned over Hugh Dancy, and wondered if the experience would be anything like that…. But, even without any hot guys present, LOL, I couldn’t imagine disliking it. I mean, seriously, what’s not to like about discussing stories with a bunch of smart readers, munching on snacks, and drinking wine for a few hours?!
Turned out, I was right to be optimistic. In the years since the release of my debut novel in October 2009, I’ve visited dozens of book clubs in person and across several state lines. We’ve met in private homes, at public libraries, in a wide variety of coffee shops, and even at senior-citizen community centers. I’ve done countless long-distance telephone book clubs, too, such as one for a college class in Indiana, as well as a bunch of online book clubs, including several with Barnes & Noble. EVERY TIME it’s been a truly marvelous experience, and I’ve gotten to meet some incredible people as a result. Next month, I’ve been invited to chat for the first time with a church club that meets in a neighboring suburb. They wanted to discuss THE ROAD TO YOU — and already I can’t wait!
7:00 – 7:30pm – Thirteen of us gathered at the house of one of the members (only two ladies couldn’t come) and everyone brought dishes to share. Because the first book in the Mirabelle Harbor series — TAKE A CHANCE ON ME — features a Greek-American heroine, one of the members suggested a Greek food theme. So there was everything from chocolate-dipped baklava (I have pictures of this on my FB page!), galaktoboureko (a delicious custard pie), dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita (spinach-filled phyllo dough triangles), a 7-layer Greek dip, grilled shrimp, Greek salad, wine, and so much more. We had dinner and just chatted for the first half hour.
7:30 – 8:45pm – We shifted into dessert (!!) and began talking about the stories. The group had a lot of questions about the process of writing a series, so it was fun to get to share with them some of the planning I’d done for the books. I got to show them an actual paper map I’d made for the fictional town of Mirabelle Harbor (it has the location of Nia’s family’s Greek restaurant & bakery, Chance’s gym, the house on Lake Michigan where the Michaelsen siblings grew up, The Lounge – a wine bar downtown, and the local “LOVE FM” radio station that plays a role in both stories…and it’ll play an even bigger part of the next novel, YOU GIVE LOVE A BAD NAME). We talked about the characters themselves, impressions they had of the different heroes/heroines, the progression of the plot, and predictions they had for later books in the series. One of the highlights for me was getting the chance to read a short scene to them from the upcoming novel — one I hoped they might like!
8:45 – 9:30pm – This was my opportunity to ask them some questions as well and extend the discussion to things like “movie stars we loved as teens” (which is, of course, a major plot point in THE ONE THAT I WANT — the second book in the series). We also talked about books that influenced us while growing up (needless to say, Jane Austen’s stories were big ones for me 🙂 ). And I had some little party favors for the group members as well. I also signed any paperback books that the members brought in for themselves or for gifts for others.
9:30 – 10:00pm – Slowly the book club began to disband. There were busy weekend events ahead and the need to go to sleep after a long work week. With a last few sips of wine and a final bite or two of dessert, we said goodnight. I smiled the whole drive home!
Are any of you members of a book club — or have you attended any book-club meetings in the past? If so, did you enjoy it? If you haven’t done it before, does it sound like an activity you’d like to try? In addition to JA books, are there any novels you wish you could discuss with a group of reading friends? I’d love to hear your thoughts!!