A couple of weekends ago was book club. This was the killer month where we let loose and rent a condo for an overnight, old-fashioned slumber party where we allow ourselves to “semi-forget” (read escape from life where) we are moms, wives and girlfriends and shop and eat and stay up talking until all hours of the morning. Of course we carve out an hour to discuss the book we all read the month before, too! This was our second annual retreat and while we did not have a hot tub in our room this year we had something just as cool….
This year worked out that my month to host and pick the book to read fell the same month as the retreat. Because I couldn’t find a better choice, I picked “I Am Not A Serial Killer” by Dan Wells which I have already reviewed here. One night at a social gathering a couple of days into the allotted reading time, one of my friends asked if I was going to ask Dan Wells, the author, to come to our book club. After all, he is a local writer so it could totally be possible. I hadn’t thought about it although I did have the perfect ‘in’ having met him at the writers conference I attended in April. A couple of weeks went by and I thought about it again and told myself to suck it up and just ask him – since I really had nothing to lose after all. I mean, the worst he could do was say No, right? Only he didn’t!
It was an amazing night on so many levels… we always have fantastic discussions where we dissect the characters, who we all inevitably love or hate with little in between, and theorize on why the author wrote what he/she did, etc. Imagine having the same discussion only the author is there in the room and can tell us definitively whether we are right or wrong and even tell us why he did the things he did and how he came up with all the elements of the story. But that wasn’t all… after the discussion he stayed and signed every one’s books and sold us t-shirts if we wanted them, passed out a few ARC (advanced reader copies) of the sequel not out in stores until next month (for a price!) and took pictures with everyone – including a photo where we all lined up on the staircase leading to the second floor of the condo with kitchen knives poised at each others throats. (Okay, it was after 10pm at this point so you can imagine how punchy we all were getting!) This alone would have put it on the all-time greatest list of book clubs.
But it got better! At this point in the night several people had to head for home because life only worked for them to be there for the evening instead of staying the entire night. And I thought Dan (yes, we’re on first name basis at this point) would make his way out through the kitchen answering a couple of questions the writers in the group (my writing group is a subset of my book club) would bombard him with. And to be fair I warned him before he agreed to come that there were four aspiring writers among the attendees who would love to discuss writing after the book discussion was over if he was willing. What I didn’t expect was him sitting down and getting comfortable and staying well past midnight until we had asked every single question we could think about writing and publishing and editing and being an author. What a generous and inspiring man Dan Wells is!
I gleaned two nuggets of noteworthy advice from the evening: 1) if you put as much hard work and effort into being a writer as a doctor does at training to be a doctor you’ll have just as successful a career as the doctor and make just as much money. The only difference is that there are no college programs designed specifically to train you like the doctor has. 2) if you read 2-3 books per month on average and expect to live say 30 more years, that’s 720 -1080 books you potentially have time to read in your lifetime. So why on earth would you waste one of those slots on something that isn’t good? (I’ll never finish another shitty book again – minus book club selections I’m committed to reading of course – and refuse to feel bad about it!)
The most inspiring statement for me was when we were talking about being an author and Dan made the point that there is not a lot of difference between being a published or unpublished author besides having convinced someone to buy your book and print and sell it to others. The same manuscript you sell today could be rejected by someone else tomorrow and just because you sell one does not mean you are overnight a better or even different writer. You are simply a writer because you write.
I think I’m still a little high from the evening… can you tell?