Meeting with reader groups and bookclubs has been my favorite thing for a long time, and when I had more time I belonged to two bookclubs of my own. From the author’s perspective, at least this author’s perspective, these are readers who are so focused on the story and characters, I learn more from them than they learn from me.
It’s always great fun to hear what readers like about your work, that goes without saying, but the value to me as I continue to write is learning from them where the story didn’t jive for them, where they wanted more and they are never shy about telling you what they want to see next. A favorite bookclub selection of mine has been The House On Olive Street – and one reader group took issue with the beginning, which several agreed was hard to get into. My immediate response was, “Oh yeah? Well you should’ve tried writing it!”
There have been some fun surprises. I was asked to join a church bookclub as they discussed my book, Runaway Mistress. Runaway Mistress for the church ladies? Oh man, I thought, they’re going to chew me up and spit me out. While certainly a far cry from an erotic novel, that particular book wasn’t exactly chaste. And then I faced twenty five women, the youngest of whom was perhaps forty, and thought, I’m toast. But they were all about plot and characterization, focusing on those scenes that added emotion and drama, what made them laugh, where they cried. There was a pet’s death in that story and one woman who’d lost her beloved pet rather recently wept as she talked about how that made her feel. The love scenes never even came up. Unable to let sleeping dogs lie, I had to ask how they felt about those scenes. Was it too much? Where there too many? Too graphic? Did it ever seem gratuitous? They looked amongst themselves, shrugging, head shaking, like they hadn’t thought about it much. Then one woman in her late sixties or early seventies said, “My dear, where do you think we get little Christians.”
Since the release of the first Virgin River novel to the present, after all three have been available, I’ve had hundreds of letters. These readers don’t hesitate to tell me exactly what they want. They’re very clear about who their favorite characters are and who they’d like to see have a Virgin River novel focused on. I’m not just another pretty face, man – I listened. I have changed direction a couple of times to give my readers exactly what they want.
It’s my pleasure to announce that the publisher wants at least three more Virgin River novels, a task I’m more than up to. I got a piece of news just a couple of days ago that has me walking on air – Virgin River will be listed as one of the ten best romances of the year by the American Library Association’s Booklist Magazine. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Plano Book Club – Note from this month’s author, Linda Conrad
June 18, 2007
Man, how I love reading good books! And geez, how I hate finishing one! If it’s a really good book that hooks me into the characters’ lives, then I want to know more! What happens next? I want to know whether the best friend finds her own true love. I want to know if the brother will ever change his ways and find a woman who can tame him. I just want to know more!
I guess that’s why I almost always write linked books and make up my own mini-series. Some readers tell me they feel the same way I do, that they love books in series. Others seem to feel somehow cheated that they must find and buy more books to satisfy their curiosity. I make sure each book tells its own story, but I guess I can’t help hinting that there might be more to it. And I suppose therein lies the problem. Sigh.
Which brings me around to my newest series of books, the Night Guardians, and the reason I’m so looking forward to talking with the bookclub!
The Night Guardians is a series of six books I’ve written for Silhouette Intimate Moments (now called Silhouette Romantic Suspense) The series tells the story of a new cult of shapeshifters spreading evil and terror on the big Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona . These shapeshifters, known as ‘Skinwalkers,’ are familiar to the Navajo from their ancient stories and legends. The heroes of the Night Guardians are Navajo medicine men, calling themselves the Brotherhood, who have banded together to fight the evil.
My latest book is book number five in the series. Called SHADOW WARRIOR, it’s the story of Michael Ayze, a professor of Anthropology at Dine College . He knows the most about the ancient legends and feels the answer to conquering the Skinwalkers lies there instead of fighting them openly. As if he doesn’t have enough troubles, his younger brother’s widow and son have now appeared in the midst of the danger. One look at her reignites deep emotions in Michael that he’s denied for years.
It seems unseen universal forces are trying to bring Michael to his knees. Respect for tradition, natural disasters, even his own mother are pushing him closer to the woman he only wants to protect from the deadly dangers waiting in the night.
I had such fun researching and writing this series. I’d love to talk to the bookclub about it! Depending on the quantity of food and drink consumed, we can chat about just nearly anything! Any of the Silhouette Desires I have written in the past or any of my plans for the future. Everything is fair game except the surprise ending to the Night Guardian series! I can’t wait!
Plano Book Club – Note from this month’s author, Shanna Swendson
May 20, 2007
If there’s anything I like more than reading books, it’s talking about books, so I’m really looking forward to meeting with the book club (eating comes right behind talking about books, so I’m anticipating the food, too).
I write a series of books that could be called fantasy/chick lit or else light urban fantasy, depending on whether I’m talking to a chick lit reader or a fantasy reader. When I started submitting the first book in the series to agents, I wasn’t sure which side of that line it really fell on, so I looked for an agent who handled both genres and let her decide what it was. Now I don’t worry too much about genre and just write my books, which have a mix of humor, fantasy, intrigue and romance. The best way I can think of to describe the tone and content of my books is by saying “Bridget Jones meets Harry Potter.” A grown-up Harry, of course.
The fun thing about writing a series with the same main characters is getting to watch the characters grow and their relationships develop. The first book in the series, Enchanted, Inc., introduced my heroine, Katie Chandler, to the world of magic and to magical people, including a certain very intriguing young wizard. We saw her get deeper into the magical world as she struggled with her own unique abilities in the sequel, Once Upon Stilettos. In the most recent book, Damsel Under Stress, she seems to have everything more or less together — at least at first. She’s finally got the relationship of her dreams starting and she’s doing well at work. But, of course, things can’t go quite that smoothly for her, and next thing she knows, everything she cares about is in jeopardy and she may have to make some tough choices. There’s at least one more book in the series coming, and I have plans for one more after that. Depending on how much wine they make me drink, the book club might even manage to get some hints for the future out of me.
Plano Book Club – Note from this month’s author, Jenna Petersen
April 25, 2007
My name is Jenna Petersen and I write romance. Sort of sounds like a twelve step program, right? But if loving your job is wrong, I don’t want to be right (er, write?). I love writing romance! There is nothing better than taking two flawed characters, putting them together, throwing in some sexual tension, a lot of conflict and growth and mixing until smooth. And voila! True love.