Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

When readers speak #amreading #amwriting

15 Comments

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Have you ever been invited (or allowed 🙂 ) to sit in on a book club discussion of your book? In my mind, my book isn’t one a book club would pick. I always envision book clubs picking more, erm, mainstream? Is that the term? Things like A Man Called Ove or The Kite Runner or Tuesdays with Morrie. Mysteries? I suppose if it’s a mystery book club they might.

Or if it’s a book club dedicated to women in aviation, they might. This young (as in started recently) book club, Aviatrix Book Review, focuses on women in aviation. There are some amazing women in this group, and the founder invited me to join. If you are interested in finding books (all ages) about women in aviation that go beyond Amelia Earhart, check out the site. They’ve collected way more books about aviation than I ever thought there were.

Anyway, like all book clubs, each month features a different book. As circumstance (and fortune) would have it, Murder in Plane Sight is the book for March! The club has so many members that multiple small groups meet to discuss the month’s pick. I had the privilege of sitting in on the first group discussion of the month.

Honestly, I wanted to hear what readers thought of it. Keep in mind that most of the books (adult) fall into the nonfiction category, with a healthy portion of memoirs and biographies. Fiction is a much smaller percentage, and I’m not sure, but mysteries are an even smaller percentage of those. My book was the first fiction book of the year.

Many of the members are also writers. All of the members in the discussion group were writers, some published, some not. Good potential for a discussion of craft. And we all know writers love to talk about craft!

What I like is hearing what other readers (especially readers who are writers) think of the story and the characters. This helps me know what aspects of a story appeal the most to readers, and what things I managed to accomplish in the story, like keeping the reader’s interest. The winner? Characters. Everyone loved the characters, and loved to hate the bad guys. One question I didn’t expect: How did you get so deep into the character who has been through trauma when you’ve never been through that same trauma?

My first reaction? Oh. My. Gawd. I did it. I made the character that real. That’s what we strive for, isn’t it? To make the characters so three-dimensional that readers ask things like that. This is the reaction we writers want to get from readers. This is why we study the craft, practice and practice the craft, and hope the little bit of fairy dust we shook from Tinkerbell is enough to draw readers in. This is one of the things writers love to hear from readers. It makes all those endless revisions worth it.

Another interesting question: How did you keep track of the mystery, and the clues, and all that? Of the writers in the group, I was the only mystery writer (although one writer wants to write mysteries and is studying that aspect of the craft). And I probably looked like a deer three seconds before it meets the grill of your car.

My first thought? I have no idea. Seriously. I don’t put together a “murder board”, with the pictures and maps and pins and strings everywhere. My second thought? I’m not sure. I just do it.

Which is so not helpful to a writer who wants to learn. I know this. So I scramble to explain something I do that I don’t understand myself. Except I do. It’s the result of years of reading, and many classes on craft, and a lot of revision. At some point, I think it becomes something like an innate sense: because as avid readers and students of the craft, we’ve read it and heard it so many times we just know. Kinda like being able to hear grammar issues when something is read aloud. But how does one explain it in a way that is useful to someone who wants to learn it? It’s a conversation that would last a lot longer than an hour-long book club discussion.

That discussion was an eye-opener for me. And fun! Oh, if you are wondering, they really liked the book. Even readers who don’t normally read mysteries really liked the book. Which is reaffirming to an author. It’s a signal that yes, I can do this, and do a decent job of it.

Bottom line, if you have an opportunity to join a discussion of your book, whether by readers or writers, try to join in. You might get insights on your story you never thought about, or learn you managed to relay something to the reader you never expected.

I have a virtual book festival today, so I’m off to swap out my PJs for something a little more formal, like sweats 😀 There’s still time to register: Cabin Fever Virtual Book Festival. It’s fun, it’s free, and it’s all about books and writing!

Two more weeks until SPRING! Yippee!

Don’t look at me like that. You got up, now it’s my chair

Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for over a decade, I have been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. My debut novel, "Murder in Plane Sight", has been released by Camel Press (an imprint of Coffeetown Press/Epicenter Press). In real life, I am a technical writer and empty-nester with a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, four chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

15 thoughts on “When readers speak #amreading #amwriting

  1. I’m so glad you had a good experience with the book club meeting, Julie! I’d love to do some of that myself. It hasn’t happened yet, but I will definitely grab the opportunity if it comes my way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That sounds like a great discussion group, Julie. Congratulations.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I sat in on one discussion group, Julie, and it was so fun and insightful. I’m glad you got the opportunity, and I could relate to the difficulty answering some of the questions. Yes, years of reading, learning the craft, rewriting and editing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always find it interesting to hear things from a reader’s perspective. And reading, learning, rewriting, editing all sounds so mundane to a “layman”, but writers know just how much work it really is “D

      Have a great week, Diana!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations, Julie. That had to be a fantastic experience!
    I was fortunate enough to sit in on a book club discussion for my novel Eclipse Lake last year. It was so much fun listening to what readers thought of the story and my characters, plus answering their questions. I would definitely do it again given the opportunity,

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What an amazing opportunity for you with such nice feedback, Julie:) Congrats. Happy writings!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Have I mentioned that Zoey is adorable and I want to pet her??
    That’s so neat that you got to be there for your book discussion! I would like to do that but without letting people know I was the author. I’ll bet THAT could get interesting! (And potentially frightening.) 🙂
    I hope your book festival went great!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooooh, that would be cool! Covert book club attendance. And yes, potentially frightening. The book festival seemed to go well. Tough to tell when it’s online 🙂

      Zoey is adorable, except when she sits beside your chair and stares at you. And not even with kitty-cat eyes (as opposed to puppy-dog eyes). More like “hey, human, pet me, damn it, cuz I’m gonna sit here and stare at you until you do.”

      Happy Writing, Betsy!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The neighbor cat, when she’s in the mood to be pet, will chase me, meowing, getting in front of me so I nearly trip on her, and, if I’m not petting her but am holding still, will go on her back legs and grab my hand with her claw. For a 15-year-old cat, she’s got some skillz!
    Happy writing to you too!

    Liked by 1 person

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