Sharing my guest post on ReadingGroupGuides. com . . .
For the past year, I’ve visited book groups all over the East Coast, and I have come to the conclusion there are two basic types: Those who drink, and those who don’t. The difference is apparent as soon as I walk up the driveway: if they’re drinking, I hear laughter. Voices talking over one another. Sometimes, outright mirth. And if they’re not drinking, it’s eerily quiet. Low-pitched conversation, a teakettle on the verge of whistling, the rhythm of a hand-crafted rocking chair. (Of course, you don’t expect to find any reading group, even a group of longtime friends, drinking at 11am on a Tuesday. But I did, once – and I will forever remember them as “The Bloody Marys.” It was fun—a little scary, but fun. Any other brunches-gone-wild out there?)
Though I’ve had lively, inspiring conversations and debates with groups at libraries, community centers, country clubs, nursing homes and private homes over tea and muffins – and god knows I prefer travelling long distances during the day-- I confess the evening drinkers are kind of a guilty pleasure. Because they’re not afraid to talk. Since Standing Still is about fear, paranoia, and a rocky marriage, I’ve been told funny anecdotes about panic attacks on bridges and airplanes. I’ve heard heartbreaking memories of stalkers and break-ins and husbands leading double lives. My next novel, The Bird House, is about family secrets, and people have told me amazing tales they uncovered about their own families.
Occasionally, wine flowing like it does, somebody says something so, ahem, honest it makes the host cringe. (Oh, you know it happens –let’s hear your confessions!) I’ve been chastised for my use of “lie” and “lay” and told my author photo looks like Stevie Wonder. One woman said me she didn’t like my main character but really liked me – but thought I should stop wearing glasses and put on a little more eye makeup.
All things considered, it’s still one of the benefits of visiting reading groups I never anticipated: That people would not only allow me to speak, but allow me to listen. What an honor—even when they’re ever-so-slightly slurring their words.