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July 31, 2008

When an Author Joins a Discussion

Posted by carol
Contributor Heather Johnson's book club recently had a special event --- for the first time, they had an author join their discussion when D. L. Wilson stopped by to talk about his religious thriller, Unholy Grail. Tomorrow we'll hear about the visit from Wilson's perspective.

Author D. L. Wilson contacted my book club with a fantastic offer: free books for everyone and attendance at our meeting. His only request? Our honest opinions of his book. What an amazing opportunity!

I'll admit that I was leery about this. My first concern was the book itself. Unholy Grail is a religious thriller that the publisher compares to The Da Vinci Code. We read Dan Brown's book a while back and that lead to a very heated --- but fun! --- discussion; do we want to read the same type of book again? What if we really didn't like it? How could we possibly tell the author that?! And what if his attendance at our meeting makes everyone clam up? Oh, the stress of being a Book Club Madam!

I shouldn't have worried though ... the meeting was FANTASTIC. David (no "Mr. Wilson" for us!) was very easy to talk to and set everyone at ease from the start. We'd never met with an author and he'd never met with a book group before so this was a new experience all of us. David chose our group after reading several posts on our blog; our varied opinions and lack of consensus were just what he was after. "A book is a work of art, like a painting," he explained, "and you can't expect to please everyone." He asked us to be honest and share both what we liked and didn't like so that he could improve as a writer.

When David dropped off our copies of Unholy Grail last month, he requested that each reader choose her three most favorite and three least favorite things about the book. To make things easy, we started our discussion with the "most favorite" things. Luckily (almost) everyone came up with at least one thing she liked about the book. And David responded to each item in turn, explaining why he chose to do things that way, or what parts he was thought might not turn out so well.

After a quick coffee break we moved on to the "least favorite" things. Again, just about everyone shared something that she didn't like about the book. What I found quite funny was that things I hated about the book were things other people loved. Again David explained the stories behind the writing: how some characters were based on real people, the difficulty of creating fully-developed characters in a thriller novel and much more.

Our meeting lasted about 2 hours, and the discussion never slowed down. There was lots of food, lots of laughs, and lots of info shared. We closed our discussion in the usual way, asking each person to rate the book on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the best); ratings ranged from 4 to 8 --- again, no consensus!

Everyone had a great time, including David. At the end of the meeting he surprised us with unedited copies of his upcoming bioterrorism novel for any who were interested. This was an all-around great experience for our club. I strongly encourage you to seek out authors who will participate in your meeting, whether in person or by phone. It can add so much to the dynamic of your group! And I think we'll institute David's 3 favorite/3 least favorite things as a formal part of each meeting --- it really got us thinking.

Have you had an author visit your club before? Or maybe you're leery about trying it? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

---Heather Johnson

Book clubs that are registered with are eligible for special drawings and prizes, including free books for your entire group and opportunities to chat with authors. To register, click here.