Book Club

I was the guest of honor at friend’s book club last night. It was such a lovely, lovely group of women, so intelligent and funny and stylish (a particular orange and white printed coat comes to mind.) In observance of  the ocean theme, the hostess made a delicious pot of shrimp soup (in ignorance of it’s proper name!), served over small French rounds in fish-printed bowls. She also served wine, which I really needed (it was Hump Day yesterday, and the hump felt extra hard to get over for some reason). Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the addictive cheesy stuff (I’m blanking on what she called it) in the middle of the most awesome appetizer dish in the world (it contained chick peas, diced and dressed cucumbers, sliced red peppers and pita chips!).

Food aside, it never fails to amaze me when a book group decides to read my humble tome.  Book clubs are comprised of sophisticated readers, for the most part. They have read a few books in their time, if you know what I mean. They know their way around the book spines, the Kindle scroll bars, even the iphone touch screens. Nothing gets by them, and they have their opinions.

For instance, after my first spoonful of soup, my friend asked how realistic it was to have Abby cross the Roanoke Sound every night to teach classes at the Roanoke Island schoolhouse, then cross the sound again, get back into bed and start the day with her family as if she hadn’t been up to anything. I put my spoon down, took a big gulp of red wine, and started to perspire. I wondered what I had gotten myself into with this group! They appeared so harmless, at first.

But a part of me rejoiced, because it was a perfectly good question, probably one of the most insightful questions I’ve ever gotten and coming from someone that obviously knew the area well. I myself had always wondered on the feasibility of such an undertaking. In fact, it was a major sticking point for me throughout the writing of the novel, for I knew that Abby and Ben had to make it across that sound as quickly as they could, in order for Abby to undergo the character development that she needed to undergo.

From vantage points on both Roanoke Island and Nags Head, the body of water seems easily crossed (to a landlubber like me), and I guesstimated a hour or so, with an experienced fisherman at the helm of a fast-moving skiff. But eyeballing distances across bodies of water are not really my forte (I can hear the laughter of experienced boaters as I write this…I can hear you saying that you didn’t know they had motorboats back then).  I told my friend that I wished I had taken a skiff out and done the trip myself.  I did a quick search on the internet, but couldn’t find an exact distance, but I will keep looking and get back to you. It more than likely took longer than an hour, but I didn’t have any time to spare. And I gambled that most readers wouldn’t notice the difference. In other words, I thought that the plot device was in the long run more important than the feasibility of the trip.

My point here is that as an author, I must always try to write to please the most intelligent of my readers. If I’m writing about sailing or hunting or lifesaving or butchering hogs (all of which I am currently writing about), I know I have to do my research, because all of those things are foreign to me, and experts in such fields will know if I’m, which in turn will pop the happy, fictional bubble of believability that readers like to surround themselves with.

Which reminds me: We talked about the covers of the book in a similar vein. Both covers feature a woman in a dress that isn’t of the Reconstruction era. The dress appears more turn-of-the-century, or even later, to me. And the paperback cover shows this woman stepping over dark green rocks. The beaches of the Outer Banks don’t have rocks. It’s very simple. There are  tree stumps on the shores near Corolla, but there are no rocks. And I pointed out to my editor these discrepancies before I gave the design the okay, and she said that it didn’t really matter, that most readers wouldn’t pick up on that sort of thing. But I am willing to bet that some readers, readers with first-hand knowledge of the Outer Banks, noticed the rocks on the paperback cover! Again, I think we should always strive to please the most insightful readers. Why not strive for complete accuracy?

I really did try to find every little spelling mistake in the book while it was going through the copy editing process. I am one of those readers that immediately picks up on misspellings in books, and it’s always very annoying to me. But I see now how it happens, and I’m ashamed of my self-righteousness. There are so many corrections to be made, transferring from the hard copy to the electronic version, and I have no idea who is actually making the corrections at the publishing house, or if he/she is saving properly. I wish I could have done it myself, for a major misspelling occurred in the final printed book. It’s actually kind of funny, now that I’ve gotten over it. Ready to laugh? “Collard” greens is spelled “collared” greens. Picture a bunch of steaming little green guys with white collars turned down in a business-like way, and you’ll get even more of a messed-up visual. An astute Southern reader picked up on this misspelling and emailed me within the first few weeks after the book was out. I then met her and her husband at one of my book-signings and included the “collared greens” reference in her book inscription. She was very good-natured about the whole thing, but I’m sure the tiny little detail popped her bubble of believability for a bit, and for that, I’m deeply sorry.

But let me assure you, I am striving for complete and utter accuracy in my sequel. There will be no inaccurate distances, no rocks on beaches, no collared greens. Because I know I have book clubs to attend, intelligent readers to please. The stakes are high. After the first doozy of a question, the ladies went on to ask even more insightful questions regarding character (who are the inspirations behind my characters), plot and publishing. I really enjoyed myself, eating great food, meeting cool people and talking about what I love most: reading and writing. Book clubbers, thanks for having me for dinner and for reading my book!  I look forward to picking apart other novels with you in the future!

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One Response to “Book Club”

  1. Elizabeth Says:

    Let me try again, since I left out a word!

    Okay, so will you share with us…who were the inspirations behind your characters?

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