Book Groups and Pajamas

I love book groups.¬†¬†What could be better than a gathering of smart, funny, engaged woman (well, it usually¬†is all woman, and maybe a husband or two) talking about books?¬†Generally, wine and snacks are involved.¬†¬†And I’m usually in my pajamas.¬†¬†It’s true — a couple of times a month, sometimes every week, I join in book group discussions of my novels around the country.¬†¬†¬†One evening it might be Seattle, another Minneapolis, the next night New Jersey or Pennsylvania.¬†¬†Of course,¬†they’re doing all the wine drinking and snack eating.¬†¬†And I’m in my pajamas, usually in my office, chatting with them via speakerphone while my daughter sleeps.

I have a theory about book groups.¬†¬†Book groups don’t¬†actually get together to talk about books.¬†¬†They get together to talk about something much more important.¬†¬†There’s a popular misconception that people turn to fiction because it provides an escapist pleasure from the mundane everyday.¬†¬†But most readers —¬†¬†and writers — know that’s not true.¬†¬†We turn to books not to escape from, but to¬†understand life.¬†¬†And when we get together to talk about books, we’ve really come together to discuss our lives and the lives of the characters we met.¬†¬†Because a great story is a little slice of life – it shows us something, teaches us something.¬†¬†Story helps us to understand each other and ourselves better.

What I love the most about visiting with book groups (as opposed to book signings where most people are coming to get their copies and haven’t read yet) is that everyone has already read the book.¬†¬†They’re teeming with questions, and they are as involved with my characters as I am.¬†¬†We chat about process, the vector of my career, how I research, and the inner lives of my characters, often things that are not on the page.¬†¬†Of course, I don’t answer every question.¬†¬†Sometimes I leave people hanging.¬†¬†But that’s my job: to keep my readers in suspense!

I have a couple of local groups that I visit with every year in person.¬†¬†I do manage to get myself dressed for those, in case you were wondering. And that’s been a really lovely experience … to grow with my readers, to expand on a conversation that started with the last book, to be able to drink the wine and eat the snacks everyone else is always enjoying!

People think that the writing life is a solitary one — and in many ways it is.¬†¬†But I have been blessed enough to be invited into the homes of fabulous people across the country to talk about my work.¬†¬†And that is one of the many gifts of my profession.¬†¬†I create alone. But I’m then allowed to share my stories with the world.¬†¬†And what better way to do that than one living room at a time?