I love both Katrina Kittle, who I've met in person, and Kristina Riggle, who I know only through cyberspace and her novels, and I mostly don't get their names confused. They appeared together this past weekend at the National Reading Group Month event in Detroit and were kind enough to share their experience on that night, and book clubs in general, in this guest post/co-author interview!
This is Kristina Riggle here. Katrina Kittle and I took our oddly funny, nearly matching names to Baldwin Public Library in suburban Detroit this weekend to talk books and celebrate National Reading Group Month with a chapter of the Women's National Book Association. The ladies took time out of a perfect fall day to talk to us about our books, and it does our little author-hearts good to see how our labors evoke emotional reaction and introspection. For me, I love writing for its own sake but when readers absorb it and respond, that closes the loop and takes the experience to a whole new level of satisfaction.
No author experience does this quite like a book club meeting. I thought we'd share some of our most memorable reading group moments. Katrina’s books have tackled AIDS, child abuse, eating disorders and divorce, and they must have inspired some fascinating discussions. Take it away, Katrina…
Katrina: I adore book clubs! At book store signings, you're doing the equivalent of a movie trailer, trying to entice people to read the book. At book clubs, you get to talk to people who have already read the book and get to hear how it affected them as readers. So much of the writing life is so solitary that this part, to me, feels like opening a gift! I usually get more interesting, thoughtful questions from reading groups than I do at bookstore events. I especially love when book club members start debating an issue or outcome in one of the books, disagreeing with each other, and talking about the characters as if they're real...and I get to eavesdrop. Heaven! With my third novel, The Kindness of Strangers, an act by Courtney late in the book (no spoilers here) usually prompted heated debate over whether this act was a noble sacrifice or just another act of manipulation. They sometimes get miffed at me for refusing to weigh in!
My favorite book clubs are those that include food and wine (and very few don't!) and I really get a kick out of when they try to make the food they serve match some of the food described in the books (I love food and write about it a lot!). The chocolate-raspberrry cake from Kindness, the tiramisu or Hanky Pankies from Blessings...it's such a joy to get to go discuss the book AND eat food I've described.
The histories behind many book clubs fascinate me--how long they've met, how long they've known each other, how the book club friendships carry over into other aspects of their lives, book clubs that do charity work together, book clubs that help each other through crises. And the names! I've met with the Bodacious Book Babes (and believe me, they live up to their names), the Book Ends, the Novel Women, and You Don’t Have to Read the Book Club among many, many others. My all time favorite book club name is The Beautiful Women Drinking Martinis book club. (How could you not want to go to that?) I’m so grateful to all the book clubs who have chosen my novels. It does my heart good to know there are intelligent, thoughtful book lovers out there in the world, caring about books, discussing new fiction, and keeping my (and other) books alive and thriving.
Kris, your books deal so beautifully with family relationships—siblings, parent-and-child, spouses. You said at our event that readers often ask you about the characters' lives after the book's end. I'd take that as such a compliment! How do you answer those questions, though, and what other questions do you frequently receive and enjoy?
Kristina: I get asked all the time to write sequels. I’m so honored that people want to spend 350 pages with my characters in the first place, then to hear that they would happily spend 350 more pages with these same people ... I’m blown away by that. However, I love creating new characters. It’s quite crowded in my head, I’ll have you know. So by the time the book is out and being read and dissected, I’m already a novel or two ahead and excited about a new crop of people I can’t wait for my readers to meet. I always say “never say never” about a sequel, though. Terry McMillan just released her sequel to WAITING TO EXHALE and it’s been almost 20 years.
As to how I answer the “THEN what happens?” question, I’m afraid I’m a bit maddening because I don’t answer. If there are clues already in the text I’ll lead the readers to these clues, but really, if I haven’t written it out, it’s fair game for the reader to imagine. I think that’s half the fun of book clubs!
Another favorite comment I get is some variation on this: “But you seem so normal!” My characters are, shall we say, troubled. This is what makes for good fiction. Sensible characters who do the right things in the early chapters would make for very short books indeed. At a recent event in fact, a woman declared that I’m awfully normal for writing such “whackadoodle” characters. I took that as a compliment and it was clear she meant it as such.
Perhaps I’m whackadoodle at home, though. You never can tell.
Having read Katrina’s answer, now I want to write more delicious food into my books. Mmmm, tiramisu. Or maybe sushi. I love me some wasabi.
Katrina again: Kris and I are both crazy about talking to reading groups! If your book club is reading one of our novels, please let us know through our websites (listed below) if you'd like to chat with us. If you're not local, we can do conference calls or Skype. Kris is eager for her first Skype session, so somebody get on that! I love Skype, too, and you usually get to meet my cat who insists on butting his face into the camera. I have to warn you, though, he once closed my laptop in the middle of a book club Skype session...but I'm sure it wasn't personal.
The Blessings of the Animals
Browse inside Blessings
Katrina Kittle's website
Katrina Kittle on Twitter
Reading Group Guide
Book Club Girl on Air Show
The Life You've Imagined
Browse inside Life
Kristina Riggle's website
Kristina Riggle on Twitter
Reading Group Guide
Book Club Girl On Air Show
To find out more about National Reading Group Month, including an event near you, check out their official website.