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Questions from Book Clubs – Part 3

I’ve been rounding up the questions I’ve gotten from recent book club visits and creating blog posts where I answer ’em. Here’s Part I. Here’s Part II. Below, is Part III.

Q: What are some of your favorite books and authors?

A: Favorite authors include Lionel Shriver, Jodi Picoult, Chris Bohjalian, Susan Orlean, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, and Jo Ann Beard. Favorite books include The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery. My favorite essay is “The Fourth State of Matter” by Jo Ann Beard. Favorite authors from my youth include Judy Blume and Jack London. Favorite books from my youth include Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume, The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatly Snyder, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, Ten Little Indians by Agatha Christie, “To Build a Fire” by Jack London, and “The Veldt” by Raymond Bradbury. The last two are both short stories.

Q: How do you handle it when book club members don’t like your book?

A: Here’s how I set up book club visits: I always join the group — either in person or via phone — about half way through the meeting. That way, if members don’t like the book, they can talk about it freely without worrying about me sitting in and listening. It makes it more comfortable for everyone. Then, when I join the meeting/conversation, members can ask me questions — questions about the story, character development, my writing process, you name it. My time with clubs tends to be less about who loved or hated the book and more about the craft of writing, so it’s a win-win for all involved. Even if people don’t like the book, I find they’re usually still open to hearing how I developed the story, my process, etc. I haven’t encountered any impolite members yet — everyone has been awesome. 🙂

Q: Do you have any novels that you haven’t released?

A: Yup. In this blog post, I talk about the fact I’m not a novel virgin. In my 20s, I was working on a novel called Lily’s Legs. Lily, I think, was a thinly veiled version of myself, and I’m still not sure why her legs were so important that they warranted being in the title. That’s a dead book, and I hope it never sees the light of day, since I have no idea what it was about. In between Forgotten April and What Happened in Granite Creek, I started on another novel…but it just wasn’t coming together. I also wrote a few short stories, some of which were published and/or I published. After Granite Creek, I spent almost nine months working on what I thought would be my third book. It wasn’t happening, and I finally put it aside, but I may come back to it. I’m now working on book 3.5, as I call it, and I’m confident this will be my next release. Having fits and starts appears to be part of my process.

Q: Did you try to get traditionally published?

A: Yes. I queried various drafts of Forgotten April — long before it was called Forgotten April — to agents. I had requests for partial and full manuscripts. I received compliments and encouraging remarks from agents, but no offer for representation. I swore I’d never ever self-publish, but that all changed in the summer of 2010 when I had an epiphany. I’m still interested in traditional publishing if it makes sense for everyone involved. My goal is to write fiction full time and make a good living doing it. I’ll happily consider whatever gets me to that goal, be it self-pubbing only, traditional publishing, or a hybrid model (I feel the latter option is the most likely scenario at this point). But who knows? The publishing landscape has changed dramatically in the two years I’ve been self-pubbing. It will be interesting to see what happens during the next two years.