Friday, December 12, 2014
Book Club Love @sujatamassey
Lucy Burdette: You Reds know I'm a big fan of Sujata Massey's books. I'm thrilled to hear the news that Rei Shimura will be back in our reading lives soon...and we're delighted to have Sujata visiting today to talk book clubs...
SUJATA MASSEY: Cranberry-topped Brie. Hummus and carrots. Strawberries, assorted hot teas and a bottle of Pinot. The only items yet to add to this menu are a group of ladies and a “serious” book.
I remember joining my first book club in the late 1980s with other young single women. We had various links, but the most important was our desire the read the best books of the era and talk about them. We didn’t flinch at the cost of buying a non-discounted hardcover each month--or the evening hours needed to read these books, which we always finished on time.I’ve got less time and more expenses for which to budget, a quarter-century later. Fortunately, I’m still part of a delightful book group that meets once every few months. And I attend far more book clubs as an author guest, an honor that began occurring every now and then since I became a published writer—and because popular fiction novels with happy endings are now considered fair game. However, walking into somebody else’s living room, where everyone has an opinion, is sometimes daunting.
One of my most challenging book club visits occurred with my first novel, The Salaryman’s Wife. Shortly after I’d settled myself, one of the members began a Perry-Mason like questioning of why two characters hooked up casually while on vacation. Although the series is not erotica, this book club reader was steadfast in her belief that my book was full of sin—and I could not get away from her disapproving glare for the remaining hours of the meeting. And then, a year later, a different book club read Zen Attitude, asked why I didn’t treat gay sexuality more openly. My faith in the diversity of readers was restored.
It’s no surprise that sex comes up so much when I visit book clubs. The magic of an in-person book club is that it’s an intimate gathering that often uses a text as a springboard to discuss personal concerns. And from my own selfish perspective, I’ve found these gatherings are a good place to discuss my future book ideas with readers, taking note of plots, locations and types of characters are most intriguing to the group. Book club members have also reassured me that long novels are still popular, regardless of what professionals in the publishing industry may think. What a relief!
As times have changed, a way that I connect with book clubs around the world is by phone or computer, using programs like Skype, Google Plus and Facebook. I have to admit, though, the likelihood of screens going blank and voices fading out are so frequent when camera time is involved that it’s almost easier to just speak on a landline with the speaker on.
Then, there are the bookclubs where everyone stays at home: the private groups on Facebook and Goodreads, where people agree to read one book over a month’s time. While virtual book clubs can’t offer real food and drink, they are great for people who can’t make it to a real-time book club, allowing them to post their opinions whenever it’s convenient. I love that you could be serving in Afghanistan and still belong to a virtual book club. Or in a hospital bed, commuting on the train, or trapped at your kid’s hockey game. And I’m not sure people in virtual book clubs realize how influential they are. These are the readers who are more likely to dash of a quick, useful online review of whatever they’ve read at sites like Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Kobo. Increasingly, the voices of the book clubbers—rather than mainstream media reviewers--are what can drive books to successful heights.
I write this while in the final editing stages of my first Rei Shimura mystery in six years, The Kizuna Coast. This novel is set in the post-tsunami world of Japan, where a newlywed Rei Shimura, plus her elderly antiques dealer mentor, and an adorable, nosy dog, are on the hunt for a young woman artist who’s gone missing. Are the cultural details right? Do the clues add up, but not so fast they spoil the read? All this will be clear after I spend time with book clubs.
To celebrate the launch of The Kizuna Coast, Baltimore-based mystery and historical fiction author Sujata Massey wants to be part of your book club. The first 5 readers who contact Sujata (sujatamassey at mac.com) with a plan for a scheduled book discussion in 2015 will get an e-book, trade paperback or audio MP3 download as a thank-you. Happy holidays and happy reading!
The Kizuna Coast will be available Dec 15 at amazon (paper and ebook) and in both formats everywhere else Feb 15.
Reds, tell us about your favorite book club experiences. What books have stimulated the best discussions?