Nora St.Laurent runs two book clubs near the Atlanta area and this year became ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Book Club Coordinator. She currently writes a Book Club Column for Christian Fiction Online Magazine. You can read her reviews and author interviews on her Finding Hope Through Fiction blog located at http://www.psalm516.blogspot.com/ Nora also runs The Book Club Network on Facebook
Interview With Book Club Member Sarah Sundin
This month I thought I’d do something different and interview a book club member that is now experiencing book club in a whole new way. I wanted to know what if felt like to be a book club member for several years and then to speak to book clubs as an author. I know this person would have a unique outlook on the book club experience.
I’m so excited to give you a peek at an interview I’ve done with author, Sarah Sundin. She’s been a book club member for several years and has recently become a published author. Sarah Sundin is the author of A Distant Melody and A Memory Between Us, both are historical Christian fiction books that depict war time scenarios focusing on a large family with many son’s and their experiences in World War II. Sarah lives in northern California with her husband, three children, a cat and a yellow lab. She works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches Sunday school and women’s bible studies at her church.
Through this interview I found out how the book club experience changed for Sarah when she became an author. I wanted Sarah to share with my readers how she viewed book clubs now that she is speaking to groups about her novels and hearing their reaction to them. So, without further adieu here is part of the interview with Sarah Sundin. The complete interview can be read on my blog Finding Hope Through Fiction.
As a book club member for several years, what has surprised you about the book club experience?
I’ve been surprised at what a vibrant part of my life the book club has become. Not only have I been introduced to some amazing books and authors, but the friendships formed have become an important part of my life.
Did a book club members surprise you with questions about your book?
Not really, but I’m always shocked and thrilled when they see symbolism or motivation—they got it!
What is your favorite part of the book club experience?
At first it was the “excuse” to take time to read for fun and the opportunity to talk about a book written by someone other than Dr. Seuss. Over time my favorite part has become the deep friendships we’ve developed.
Now that you are a published author, how has the book club experience helped you speak to book clubs? What does the book club experience look like from an author’s point of view?
Having belonged to a book club for years, I’ve seen what types of questions get conversation flowing and what story elements raise the most questions in the reader. This helped me write discussion questions for my books and prepared me for meeting with book clubs. The book club experience is a bit different from the author’s point of view—imagine ten people you’ve never met sitting around and talking about your work. Both exciting and scary.
What has surprised you about the book club experience from an author’s POV?
For years my characters have lived in my head. They’re very real to me. It’s surreal when readers say the characters are real to them too. But then to hear from a book club whose members talk about the characters as they’d talk about dear friends—well, that’s very cool.
Has your own book club read and discussed your book? Were you present? What was that like for you? Hard or great because you were with good friends?
They did read it and discuss it. I was thankful I had another commitment that day. Part of the fun of book club is the open discussion, and my presence might have hindered that openness.
Another book club with lots of friends also read it and invited me to come. They discussed my book for an hour, then I arrived, enjoyed dessert with them, and answered questions. That was a great compromise.
How has being a part of TBCN helped you as a author? Has any aspect of the book club experience talked about from other book clubs helped you in creating discussion questions or helped you when you talked to other clubs?
The Book Club Network has already helped me connect with book clubs. I haven’t been able to meet in person or online with any of them, but I’ve been able to send signed bookmarks for a few groups, which was fun. TBCN has also shown me the wide variety of clubs, which has helped me craft discussion questions. For example, my group meets in members’ homes, and we have deep, personal discussions, so I wrote lots of deep, personal questions; however, many groups meet in public places or online, where those questions aren’t appropriate, so now I make sure to include a mix of personal and general questions.
Would you like to say anything about TBCN? Can you see this as a great tool for book club leaders? Authors?
The Book Club Network is a great tool for book club leaders to find ideas to start groups, improve their groups, and to learn about new books. The network also gives them access to authors who love book clubs and would enjoy being involved. For authors, it’s a fantastic opportunity to connect with avid readers. And when a group selects your book, that’s a small group of new readers—some of whom might never have picked up the book on their own. My book club has introduced me to fabulous writers I never would have chosen—a big benefit for a writer who doesn’t have a “big name.” For example, I’ve connected online with a book club member who dislikes wartime books and was disappointed when her group picked my first novel, A Distant Melody, which is set during World War II. To her surprise, she liked it—and now she tells all her friends.
I agree with you Sarah, I look forward to book club for the discussion and insight my group has about the book selection. I’m always amazed at what people find that I never even noticed or treasures I found that were jewels to the group as well. Yes, the laughter is definitely a highlight!
If you are a book club leader and would like your group interviewed for the magazine please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time.
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