Author John Searles loves book clubs and has set himself the challenge of meeting with one book club in every state in the nation to discuss Help for the Haunted. If he makes it to all 50 states by 7/31/15, the first book club to talk to him in each state will win a tote bag full of books for every member. Interested? You can sign up your book club here.
For the next few months, John will be updating us on his progress, and filling us in on his experiences as he meets book lovers from across the nation.
When I was a kid, my dad worked as a cross-country trucker. I used to go on trips with him, and we’d roll through dozens of states in a matter of days. In some ways, my 50 Book Clubs 50 States Challenge feels a little like those trips…well, minus the truck stops and state troopers and voices of other truckers’ crackling on the CB. Okay, maybe it’s not the same except that I’ll be “visiting” lots of states in what feels like a short amount of time!
So far, I’ve Skyped with book clubs in D.C., South Carolina and Maine. The D.C. Club was super small: only two women, both of whom met as residents in med school. They were careful readers with plenty of questions and observations about the book. They loved the voice of Sylvie, which made me so happy. And, as is often with the case with Help for the Haunted, the discussion turned to the topics of faith and whether or not we believe in the supernatural. Except for a few technical glitches with Skype going kaput, we had a great time.
Next up was a club in Lancaster, South Carolina. This newly formed group of about 15 people told me they are searching for a name. (I suggested the “We Love John Searles Book Club,” but for some strange reason they did not take me up on the idea.) Okay, now for the interesting thing about this discussion: Not everyone had read the book! I’m told this is often the case with clubs: that members intend to read the book but life gets in the way and they show up just to socialize. If you’re in a club, are you guilty of doing the same?
As for the discussion, it began with a very nice woman asking me what happened to the character of Perry, who drove my main character, Sylvie, around town for 50 cents a ride. She accused me, again quite nicely, of introducing this guy in the opening chapters only to drop him for the rest of the book. Now, I’m happy to answer any and all questions, but the problem with this particular one: I did not recall any such character! And trust me, by the time my books are published, I’ve read countless drafts, so it would be difficult to forget a comma, never mind an entire character! Still, when I told her this, she insisted, saying she’d find the pages about Perry then send me an e-mail pointing them out. Well, days later, I did receive an email from her, except she wrote to say how sorry she was, because she had been reading a different book at the same time and confused the characters. She begged my forgiveness and, of course, I forgave her…just like I forgave those people in the club who hadn’t read my book…yet!
Finally, last night I met with a fun book club in Maine via Skype. Because there are details that center around birds in Help for the Haunted (as well as my previous book, Strange But True), they were curios where the inspiration came from. One woman, Joan, who was sitting front and center, told me she was a psychotherapist and liked to analyze the writer while reading! In other words she was analyzing me! Well, I confessed to Joan and the rest of the gang that I have a terrible bird phobia, which I guess is what compels me to put them in my books. My fear started when I was a kid and my mom’s friend gave her two parakeets. One of the birds used to bend the bars of the cage with its beak and get out, flying at us and trying to peck us. My mother would scream, “EVERYBODY RUN!!!!!” Then she’d send me out of hiding to catch it. Well, we all had a laugh at that, before Joan told me she has a pet cockatiel (that’s a bird, not a fancy dog) and she keeps it on her shoulder all day long when she’s at home. I had to break it to Joan that I wouldn’t be coming to dinner anytime soon, otherwise I might need to her to be my psychotherapist and not just a reader.
In the coming weeks, I have both in-person and Skype visits with book clubs in Rhode Island, Mississippi, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Michigan and more…. Come to think of it, with all those states in such a short amount of time, maybe it is a little like those tucking trips after all.
John Searles, 10-1-2014