Saturday 18 June 2016

National Reading Group Day ~ A guest post by the author ~ G D Harper

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I am delighted to welcome the author G D Harper talking to us about Book Club Author Chats

It’s National Reading Group Day, so I’d like to talk about author chats, a great way to add an interesting dimension to your book club meetings and gain a deeper understanding of the book you’ve read.

Many authors are willing to speak with book clubs via speaker phone or Skype. Making contact with an author is easy, most authors have websites, and usually they have contact information listed there. Some authors like myself include details at the end of my book as to how to contact them to do a book club chat. You might struggle to get a well-known author to participate, but if you want to try, google their name and ‘literary agent’ and this will give you a contact point to reach them. 

When you contact the author let them know that your club has selected their book and would like to chat to them about it by Skype or speakerphone. Tell them how many people are in your book club and when you would be planning to meeting to discuss their book. 

You should plan at least two months in advance and be prepared to be flexible. If you organize a public book club, such as in a library or bookstore, do some research to find out what authors live locally and see if they will turn up in person. You’ll want to publicize the event to more than just your regular attendees so you should plan much further ahead as you'll need time to publicize the event.

Having secured your author, the secret to having a successful author chat is in two stages.

Stage one is before the meeting.

Agree the details. Make sure that both parties are clear on when you're going to be chatting, which book you want to talk about, how long the author is available for, and who will be contacting who. Have a back-up contact point in case the first one doesn’t work for some reason.

Make sure everyone commits to reading the book. I know that might sound obvious, but some people view a club meeting as more of a social thing than an actual book club. I’ve known some people to turn up a book club having just read the synopsis, but if you’re going to have an author in attendance, it’s a different dynamic. It’s important (and respectful) to have read the book.

Make your members aware of the author chat. Email the club members in advance and ask them to have their questions ready. Don’t think it will be a nice surprise to announce at the meeting because people need to come prepared in order to get the best out of the meeting.

Pick a discussion leader. It’s good to have one person be the facilitator for the conversation with the author. Everyone can participate, but when you’re talking to someone remotely, it’s good to have a point person so the chat doesn’t turn into a free for all. 

Check that the speakerphone is working and you know how to use it, that the battery is charged if using a mobile phone, or if doing Skype the speed is good enough for a video call before people start arriving for the meeting.

The second stage is the meeting itself.

Make sure that the phone/computer is positioned so that everyone can hear and be heard. And test before the conversation starts.

Plan on discussing the book first before the author joins you, so that you know what you want to ask. 

Plan to call the author about 30 minutes into your meeting, allowing time for everyone to get settled and get their food and drinks. Maybe 45 minutes if your group is not especially punctual. This is a good time for your discussion leader to compile the list of questions from everyone. 

When the author joins you, it’s polite and a good ice-breaker to start off with a compliment about their book. Even if your group doesn’t love the book, you should always find something positive to say. Don’t try to pretend to like the book if you didn’t like it, but if you are critical of aspects of the book, try to make your comments as constructively and specifically as possible. 

Go beyond basic questions about the book. Some authors are perfectly happy answering questions like :

Where did you get the idea for the story?

What were the key themes of the book? What emotional truth were you trying to uncover?

Why did you write the story in the first person? What difficulties did it give you?

You might want to have the author ask you questions. For example, in Love’s Long Road I would ask readers.

Why do you think Bobbie embarked on and continued her destructive lifestyle?

Why did she allow herself to fall under Michael’s control?

In what ways might you consider Bobbie to be a flawed character? Did these character flaws affect your enjoyment of the book?

And the question to usually ask the author last is...

What are you working on now?

Finally, I’d like to finish on what an author gets out of these sessions.

Back in the pre-internet days, writing a book was a one-way process. Unless you were really, really famous you never really heard from readers about what they thought of your book.

Finally, I’d like to finish on what an author gets out of these sessions.

Back in the pre-internet days, writing a book was a one-way process. Unless you were really, really famous you never really heard from readers about what they thought of your book.

Today, the direct interaction an author can have with readers, as reviewers or on Facebook and the like, can occasionally be overwhelming but it is also motivating and informative. As Edmund Wilson once said, ‘no two people ever read the same book’ and interaction with readers is a way for an author to get an idea of what works and what doesn't with a wide variety of readers. I think it helps make you understand your books better and become a better writer. 

So if you haven’t tried an author chat at your book club I hope you will. For both your benefit and for the benefit of the author.

Huge thanks to the author for this insightful guest post. 

Most reading groups welcome and look forward to interaction with authors, it helps to encourage a relationship between both author and reader which can only work to increase the joy of reading for everyone.

If you would like to find out if there is a reading group near you follow this link   and enter your postcode.

Love's Long Road by GD Harper is out now in paperback

And also in e-book

Here's my Review  This would make a very interesting Reading Group Read !!



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