BOOK FUN MAGAZINE - FREE READ

BOOK CLUB ENCOUNTERS - FEATURING AUTHOR SUSAN MEISSNER'S




SUSAN'S BIO FROM HER BLOG : I cannot remember a time when I wasn't driven to put my thoughts down on paper. I attribute this love for writing to a creative God and to parents who love books and more particularly to a dad who majored in English and passed on a passion for writing.

I was born and raised in San Diego, California, and am the second of three daughters. My first writings are a laughable collection of oddly worded poems and predictable stories I wrote when I was eight. My second-grade teacher gave me the journal I in which I recorded these poems and stories. To my knowledge I was the only student in her class that she gave a journal to; she must have seen promise in me. In high school my freshman composition teacher found all kinds of ways to encourage me to develop my skills as a writer. Without telling me beforehand, he read the first composition I ever wrote for him aloud to the class. That's how much he liked it. I have never forgotten how it felt to hear him begin to read something to the entire class and realize it was something I had written.

In 1995, I was offered a job as a part-time reporter for my county newspaper. The publisher gave me my own weekly column, In 1998, I was named editor of the Mountain Lake/Butterfield Observer Advocate, the town's weekly paper, after the county newspaper purchased it. I was honored to win several awards over the years, but the best part of my four years as editor was having my paper named the Best Weekly Newspaper in Minnesota by the Minnesota Newspaper Association in 2002.

That year became a rather pivotal one for me as a writer. My beloved paternal grandfather died in July 2002 — my Papa — and his passing had a profound effect on me. I suddenly had an incredible urge to write a book; a novel. I knew I didn't want to come to the end of my life having only dreamed of writing one. I resigned as editor of the newspaper, which was a very hard decision to make, and set out to write Why the Sky is Blue. It took four months to write and ten months to be accepted by a publisher and I’ve been writing novels ever since. My favorite genre is contemporary fiction with a historical thread running through it.

Which do you prefer? Live, on the phone, or the on-line author chat? Why?




I love to be a part of live book club discussions, even though that doesn’t happen very often. Most of the time it’s a speaker-phone, which is a wonderful second-best. Being there in the flesh makes me feel like I’m a part of the group and not so much an outsider, and I feel a deeper connection to readers when I physically see what moves them, intrigues them, puzzles them. On-line author chats are a lot of fun, even though we don’t have the pleasure of hearing one another’s voices.


Please describe a book club experience that really moved you, encouraged you. Why did it touch you?



Not long ago I was invited to a local book club meeting to discuss The Shape of Mercy. We sat on the patio of a quaint winery and enjoyed a meal together in the warm shade of hot San Diego day. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to be sitting there, sharing a meal and conversation with women I had never met but who all had the power to ask me deep questions about faith and doubt and hope because they’d read my book – they’d already peeked inside my mind. They already knew a lot about how I view the world, and the people in it, and the God who made it.

What surprised you most about doing a live book club event?




I’ve been pleasantly surprised that people aren’t afraid to ask me the hard questions! I actually love it when readers want to know to why I had a character do what I had them do, especially if it bothered or intrigued them. Character motivation is everything to story. There has to be meaning behind a character’s actions. I love having the opportunity to strip away the distance between reader and author and explain those deeper motivations.

What surprised you about doing a phone chat with a club?



You can actually feel like you are in the room with these readers. Even on speaker-phone you can hear the room laughing at your little jokes, or murmuring in agreement or raising a counter-argument. I did a recent phone chat with a group in Lincoln, Nebraska, and even though we couldn’t see each other, the connection between me and the readers was the shared experience of the book, not the phone lines. That’s kind of cool!

What surprised you most about doing the on-line book club chat?



It’s not as impersonal as you might think. We communicate so much these days with electronic conversations that take place in relative silence – you type in silence and you read in silence. (But sometimes you LOL and that’s not silent!) It’s not the ideal way to connect with a reader, but it sure beats no connection at all.


What do you like most about the book club experience?



My readers are the reason I write. If I don’t have my finger on the pulse of what they are thinking and brooding over, I can’t possibly write to engage them. Book club discussions take the ideas I wanted to convey in the story and either makes them float or makes them sink. These discussions also reveal surprise take-aways that I didn’t even plan. Sometimes a book will speak to someone in a way I never intended – but in a good way. Sometimes I will only hear how they were impacted if they come right out and tell me in a book club discussion.

Did you get an unexpected reaction to a book your read? Didn't expect your audience to find something on one of your books or react they way they did?



Sometimes I will place a metaphorical element in a story and it will seem rather obvious to me but then I will chat with bookclubbers and realize the little metaphor was really just for my own entertainment! I placed a lost and wandering bird in the opening journal entries of Mercy Hayworth’s diary in The Shape of Mercy. One of the reader’s guide questions is to talk about what that little bird symbolizes. Most book clubs have asked me to explain that one, which I am happy to do. But it surprises me when they ask with such wonder. I am learning that it’s okay to stow a few metaphorical nuggets in the story that really only speak to me the author. If they happen to speak to the reader, well, that’s like getting the rose on a piece of wedding cake!

THANKS for stopping by Susan and sharing your book club encounters with us today. I've enjoyed so many of your books including your newest White Picket Fences. Wow!! Remember if you're ever in Atlanta you'll definately have to stop by and speak to my book clubs.

Blessings to you and your writing adventure.

Sincerely,

Nora :D
ACFW Book Club Coordinator

3 comments:

  1. Loved this too, Nora!! Great angle on the interview!

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  2. Thanks, great interview. Good stuff!

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  3. I must read her books and see the "metaphorical elements" in them. I love little bits of these elements in books. You feel like you get a part of the author that way.

    Gail

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