Dear me, I never thought of myself as a ‘Miss Manners’ but as I have now enjoyed many lovely visits with book clubs, by Skype video or phone call, I thought it might be useful to share a few tips on how to most comfortably set up a contact with a writer who might be willing to talk to your group: Check the writer’s website to see if they offer contact. Make a polite email (not phone) request. Give at least three weeks notice (but no more than two months) and preferably offer more than one day/time. Be prepared to reconfirm by email the day prior with Skype contact and emergency phone number, but please don’t ask the writer to do test runs. Understand if the writer already has too many requests and can not accommodate. Please don’t demand a multi-hour, in-person visit just because the writer lives in your state. Book Club visits are mostly to answer your questions in an informal way, so don’t look for a reading or presentation. I’ve had only lovely group visits, but other writers have laughingly told me of being ambushed by hostile questions. Please remind your group that “I hated all your characters” is not a polite way to treat a guest in your home! I find that book club visits typically last thirty minutes and that it is useful to begin at least 15 minutes after your guests arrive. Finally, do take note of time zones. I’d love to visit your group but not at midnight my time! Thanks and here’s to meeting many more fun book groups.
Archive for the Category ◊ FAQ ◊
Ask me about Major Pettigrew
I would like to invite you to contact me to correspond about Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. I’ll try to post some of the frequently asked questions and answers here.
I’m a big fan of book groups and was in a book group myself for two years. I didn’t know most of the women when we began, but they were some of the smartest women I’ve met and they represented a broad range of careers, interests and reading tastes. If you’re not in a book group, I recommend it as a way to cross some new thresholds and enjoy intelligent discussion with people you might not otherwise befriend.
Listen here to my recommendation of three novels of manners that were not written by Jane Austen. While Jane is the true master, the novel of manners, in the hands of other authors, continues to show up the world for what it is. Small domestic squabbles mirror the largest of world issues and we don’t seem to get any better at being kind, do we? I was very grateful to be invited onto NPR’s famous All Things Considered, to read this piece.
I recently returned to New York to be interviewed on the Leonard Lopate show, on local NPR affiliate, WNYC. Leonard knows how to grill a writer and get straight to the heart of a book. Great fun and a dream fulfilled for an NPR fan from Brooklyn. Listen here.
Major Pettigrew has obviously been on a campaign to win hearts and minds and has achieved his mission in an unexpected record time. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand has just made it onto the NY Times Bestseller list at #14 (tied with #13). In addition, Indiebound, which represents the nation’s independent bookstores, has him at #3 on their bestseller list. The Washington Post debuted him at #9 and he is popping up on other lists as we speak. I am overwhelmed at the response to what was supposed to be a small literary debut. Thank you to all who have written to me to say how much you’ve enjoyed the book.
Read an interview with me at Bookbrowse where this week, Major Pettigrew is an Editor’s Choice.
Hello, Just starting to read your new novel that I picked for my book club to read in May. Will you be putting together a question guide for book clubs in the very near future? If so how would I find it online? Thank you very much and looking forward to reading your book. I read only wonderful reviews on it. Best of luck to you, P.
Thanks for emailing me with your question. I have to confess I’m not a huge fan of reading guides, which remind me too much of school and homework. However, I’ve had to lead book club discussions myself and I know it’s a big responsibility to put together good notes. I always found first person interviews with the author were useful (there are a couple posted here). Also, just for you, I tried to think about what themes interested me enough to include them. I came up with inheritance (an endless source of both comedy and tragedy), parents and their adult children (King Lear having the ultimate in bad offspring), defining community by exclusion of the ‘other,’ and of course, that comment your neighbor made last week that you didn’t realize, until half an hour later, was a complete insult. These themes and some good salty snacks should keep the conversation going. If all else fails, discuss whether love is ageless. Thank you so much for picking Major Pettigrew for your book club.
Diane Rehm invited me onto her very popular NPR show to discuss my debut novel. Any nervousness on my part was quickly dispelled. Diane is such a professional and so used to putting guests at their ease. I had a fabulous time and the hour flew by as if it were no more than a few minutes. Listen to a free iTunes podcast.
Bookbrowse asked to interview me about Major Pettigrew. Check out the interview and their wonderfully rich book-centered website.
It took me about five years. I was a busy mother and very much a part-time writer. It felt like a long struggle, but there are so many writers who have taken ten or fifteen years to craft a single novel. I am astonished, when I go into a bookstore, by the amount of time and craft represented in the books on a single table.
One day, I sat down to write a short story just for me, and found myself returning to the English countryside. I pictured a mellow brick house behind an ancient hedge – and when the front door opened, the Major just appeared, fully fledged, in his wife’s housecoat! To my surprise, this story seemed to inspire, in early readers, some very strong opinions about what the Major would do next and what his character would and would not allow. It seemed that I might have a novel.
It feels good to know that I skipped the whole coming-of-age story debut and that I didn’t peak too early! I think there are many ways to have a writing career and maybe I’m not sorry to have missed out on being young and hungry in a garret. I hope my novel suggests that you can have many chapters to your life and that it is never too late to begin a new passion. You don’t have to make a career out of it – my foray into modern dance, for example, was never going to prosper – but it may enrich your life.