Faithful readers know I'm a big fan of Laurie Viera Rigler's Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict - a wonderfully imaginative tale of a modern day woman (Courtney) who wakes up in Jane Austen's time. Luckily, like many of us, Courtney's an Austenite, and she's able to use her knowledge of Austen novels to find her way in around 1813 England, though not without some hilarious mishaps. Confessions has just been released in paperback and here are ten reasons why you should read it now. Here is Laurie on the topic of inviting the author to your book group, a practice I wholly support -- check out the many author websites to the left to find contact info!
What to Bring to Your Next Book Club Meeting: The Author
by Laurie Viera Rigler
author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
There is nothing I like better than, as Jane Austen herself said, to be in "the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation." That is why I feel especially fortunate to be not only a member of a book group, but also to visit with other book groups. As an author, visiting with book groups is one of my favorite ways to connect with readers.
For your next book club meeting, consider bringing something besides cheese and crackers, cookies, or a pitcher of margaritas. Consider bringing the author. How do you know if an author would consider visiting your group? Many authors state their availability on their websites or on sites like BookClubCookbook.com which has an Invite An Author page.
Even if an author doesn't state that he or she is available for book club discussions, it doesn't hurt to ask. Writing books is a solitary business, and every so often we like to sally forth into the world and meet some of our readers. Or stay at home and get on the speakerphone and chat with our readers that way. It is a rare author who does not like to talk about her work, especially if she's surrounded by a group of people who are eager to discuss it.
If you do invite an author to your meeting and he or she accepts, here are a few suggestions:
- If your book group is anything like mine, it involves a lot of socializing as well as talking about the book. Nothing wrong with that, long as you set aside your own time, not the author's, for schmoozing and off-topic chatting. Assume the author's time is precious, and consider her visit to your group a chance to ask all the questions you have about the book, writing techniques, and the publishing process. A good rule of thumb is to schedule an hour to an hour and a half of your meeting time to devote to your author guest, which may involve a Q&A, discussions with the author about the book, and if the author is there in person, signing of your copies and those you may have purchased for friends. Be sure to communicate your expectations and wishes (in terms of topics to be discussed, signing of books) with the author beforehand.
- If you're using a speakerphone to chat with the author, do a test call to another party to make sure the phone is working well and that everyone in the room can hear both sides of the conversation.
- If your group is in the habit of sharing copies of books, consider making an exception in honor of the author's in-person visit to your book group. Purchasing your own copy of the book is a lovely way of expressing your appreciation for the visit and an opportunity to take home an inscribed copy for yourself and/or a friend.
- No author expects every reader to like his or her book. Nevertheless, we consider the pleasures of unfavorable critiques the province of those who write reviews. With that in mind, consider deferring your rant till the author departs (or getting it out of the way before he arrives). In the meantime, ask constructive questions or silently drink that entire pitcher of margaritas.
- By no means am I suggesting you engage in excessive self-censorship. If you've got a burning question, ask it. "Are you as promiscuous as your protagonist?" might not be the best way to get the answer you seek; "What are the similarities between you and your protagonist?" might work better. Worst that can happen is that the author declines to answer, or gives you a Cheshire cat grin. Doesn't hurt to ask. And you may get an answer. Especially after that pitcher of margaritas.
How to find an author's email address or phone number? Just do a Google search and type in the name of the author. Many authors have websites with a "Contact" page. If he or she doesn't have a site, you can get in touch through the author's agent or publisher, one or both of which is bound to come up via Google.