I have a confession. I’m an avid reader who has never been to an actual book club. I did an online one once, but I’ve never attended one. Until this summer. The book? My own. The women’s ministry at my church suggested a book club this summer as an alternate to the Bible study we did last summer. Before the suggestion could sink in our pastor’s wife looked at me and asked if I’d consider Entrusted as the book. We’re nearly done with the book and a wrap-up picnic and I thought I’d share some behind the scenes observations from a first-timer.
- It is crazy surreal to talk about your own work. Each week the ladies ask questions and no matter what material I give them—background info on the story, author tips, writing how-to’s or industry information, they eat it up. I want to hold back because it feels so weird to talk about myself for 90 minutes. Thankfully we have a hostess each week who bounces off my chatter and that helps. But one week during group discussion I heard a group talking about Will Marshall and it hit me. That’s one of my characters. They are talking about him like he is real. He’s real to me. They all are. But for others to feel the same way and me see that—so awesome.
- Most readers have no idea what goes into writing a book. I’m not sure what my group thought but they were surprised to hear how many drafts Entrusted took before I turned it in. That we have to write a thing called a query and fine tune a synopsis. And even then there are authors who have made it that far and not received a contract. That having it published is the beginning, not the end. There is marketing, always marketing. If you have a series, you need to be working on the next one. The group seems to have a huge respect for authors and I believe understands what fluid times the industry is in, generally speaking.
- Don’t take your story for granted. Ever. Each week I came home and told my husband how on top of my game I needed to be for these ladies. Many dissected scene by scene and wanted to hear about my motivation. Sometimes I surprised myself by recalling the scene and out of my memory bank I recalled that scene being from my dad’s life and it was a tribute to him. Then there were the moments when I admitted I was low on word count and wrote to satisfy that. The ladies asked what critique groups thought about certain characters and chapters and were interested in specifics I never imagined anyone would ask. I walked away with a deep appreciation for my work. I think when we’re holed away writing we convince ourselves few care about our precious people and places in fiction was much as we do. This book club taught me readers care. And it feels good!
- I have a renewed sense of purpose. One reader asked a great question that I’ve stumbled over for years. Why romance? Why would a woman from a strong Christian faith write romance? I’ve been insecure about this, especially when I’ve walked by people from my church saying they won’t read anything fiction. Talk about a confidence killer. Not only do I write fiction, but romance. For a long time I felt like I had to apologize for it. However, answering that question head-on with words that I believe were given sent directly from my Heavenly Father, I am no longer ashamed. Here’s what I shared:
I have a lot of romantic ideas, but I’m not really a romantic person. At the movies I usually choose the action movies. But in ministry I tend to deal with some heavy things—standing in the gap for others. Taking calls for prayer that at times were life and death. Leading tough Bible studies or needing to say hard things to people I love as God directed. It’s draining and writing was my escape even when I was a child. I think it is a good escape and therapeutic. Not long ago I also sensed this: Writing is the door God will use to get me to the real ministry He has planned for me. My books will take me places on my own I would not be able to go. Perhaps book signings or speaking engagements. Whatever it is, the real ministry will take place when I am done with talking about writing. Women will linger and even if it is just one, they will want prayer. And that’s what it’s about. For God, that’s been His plan all along. And His way to get there? A romance writer. Yes!
Have you ever participated in a book club? Authors, how about you? Was it your book? What was your experience like?