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March 16, 2009

Louise Shaffer: Mental Meanderings about Book Clubs and SERENDIPITY

Posted by carol
A former actress, Louise Shaffer draws comparisons between show business and book clubs in today's post. She also talks about how her new novel, Serendipity, is different from her previous works and the topic that she's especially interested in discussing with reading groups. Look for Serendipity in stores starting next Tuesday, March 24th. Louise is also the author of Family Acts, The Ladies of Garrison Gardens and The Three Miss Margarets.

When someone proposes a topic for a blog, I find I learn so much more than I expected to --- usually about myself. And that's the case this time. The question was, how do I feel about talking to book clubs, and the answer is, I love it! And why not? If your life's gig is spending your days with imaginary friends --- and let's face it, that's what my characters are --- you relish an opportunity to talk with real humans. More importantly, I learn so much from book clubs --- after all, people who love reading enough to join a book club are going to be smart, insightful and knowledgeable about the printed word, and I'm going to get more from them than I could ever give back.

But I've always known book clubs gave me something else, and I've finally figured out what it is. I get one-on-one feedback from the people I was hoping to touch. I used to be an actress, so I spent a lot of my life gauging my success or failure by the amount of laughs I got from an audience and the amount of applause at the curtain call, or --- God forbid --- if everyone started coughing during my big speech in the second act. When I worked in television we lived or died by the ratings --- the overnights, the weeklies, and the monthlies --- and the focus groups. And I think that's how it should be.

There are things I want my books to say, thoughts I want to share, but above all else I want to give people a good read. I want them to laugh and cry --- a little --- and think, and enjoy themselves. The best way to find out if I've managed to deliver on all of that is to talk to the people who've read my book. And it's an honor and a huge compliment when a group cares enough about your work to invite you to join them.

Which brings me new book. Serendipity is headed out into the world --- pub date is March 24 --- and I can't tell you how much I'm hoping I'll get to talk to a lot of clubs. This book is set in the northeast where I grew up --- specifically, New York City and Connecticut. I've loved writing about the south in my earlier novels, but this felt like I was coming home and I'm waiting to see if that emotion translated to the page --- only readers can tell me that. And the book is about mothers and daughters --- which, as far as I'm concerned, is one of the most complicated, passionate, joyful and sometimes painful subjects out there. I'm dying to hear some discussions about that. I hope I'll trigger them.

And for anyone who is as stage struck as I still am, there's a show biz component in Serendipity, the way there always is in my stuff --- including a fictionalized take on something I did on my first professional audition as a kid. I'd love to hear what people have to say about that! So, as we always do in my industry, I'm waiting for March 24 with my fingers firmly crossed.

---Louise Shaffer