We call Fridays here at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers Book Club Friday, but we’ve never had an author blog about book clubs. Today I’m thrilled to welcome back author Camille Minichino to rectify that.
Camille has published seventeen mysteries in three series: The Periodic Table Mysteries, The Miniature Mysteries (as Margaret Grace) and the Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries (as Ada Madison). She's written articles for popular magazines and teaches writing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Camille is past president of NorCal Mystery Writers of America, NorCal Sisters in Crime, and the California Writers Club. She works at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and teaches science at Golden Gate U., San Francisco. Read more about her and her books at her website.
Camille’s latest book is A Function of Murder, a professor Sophie Knowles Mystery, and she’s offering a copy to one of our readers who leaves a comment. -- AP
I Heart Book Clubs
I'll start with a confession: I never met a book club I didn't like.
Right now, I'm facilitating three of them. One is a nonfiction group that has been meeting for twenty-two years. This month we're reading The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, a new book by Kevin Dutton. (Take the quiz. You may be one. Scary!) The second club is a relatively new mystery group at an indie bookstore; the third (pictured above) is a library mystery group that has been meeting for sixteen years. Some of them agreed to pose tonight just so you could see them at work! You can tell who are the shy ones.
I thought I might do a little how-to, as if facilitating book clubs is a craft, like beading or making mop dolls! Here's how I do it:
1. At the first meeting, collect data on who likes what and choose the books for a few months ahead, making sure everyone has a say in some way. In succeeding months, be egalitarian in author gender, subgenre, setting, and any other group preferences.
2. Set out ranking rules. We use a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 is "best book I've read since Poe's Telltale Heart, and 1 means "I threw it across the room." In the middle is "I would (or would not) recommend it." Ranking is based on 3 factors: Characters, Plot, Writing. A book can get a 10 on character and 2 on plot, or 7 on plot and 1 on writing, and so on.
3. At the beginning of each meeting, each member gives a ranking with a one liner: "I rated this a 10 in all categories because I didn't yawn once while reading it." This gives everyone, even the shyest, a chance to express an opinion before things get out of hand.
4. Discussion proceeds. I usually start with those who ranked the book the farthest off the average. "How come everyone gave this book a 2, Oscar, and you gave it a 10?" or "Anastasia, you're the only one who claimed to have taken a match to the book and gave it a 1. How come?"
5. The facilitator needs to be prepared:
• with questions that encourage discussion
• with familiarity of the author's work to give the current book context
• with insights that get people talking about deeper issues in the book
• with specific passages marked as examples, in support of her/his own opinion or those of others.
Some book clubs fall into disrepair when the talk is 80% social; others prefer it that way. I prefer clubs where the discussion is about the book of the month first, chatting about shoes and kids a very distant second (okay, you caught us going out for ice cream, but that was after the meeting).
I spent many years of my life doing physics and math (a la Professor Sophie Knowles) – very social careers. No one does science out of her garage any more; it's a team endeavor. My concern when I turned to writing was that it was too solitary a profession and I'd never last. I'm so glad to have been wrong!
Book Clubs are a great way to share what I've read, to meet and bring together others who love to read and are eager to talk about why. Often I've given a book a 5 to start with and changed to an 8 after hearing from the group about things I missed.
Between critique groups (couldn't do without them), writers' organizations (ditto), conferences, and book clubs, I have enough interaction to last through the days when it's just me and Word 2011 for the Mac, and, of course, the whole crew in the Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries.
I'd love to hear about your experiences with Book Clubs. If you leave a comment, you'll be entered into a drawing for a copy of my latest release, A Function of Murder.
Dr. Sophie Knowles is a math professor with a knack for creating complex puzzles that delight her students. But now, at the close of the academic year, she must solve a crime that doesn’t quite add up…
At the math department’s graduation party, Sophie hears heated arguments coming from the graduates about Mayor Graves, the commencement speaker. Not the mayor’s biggest fan, Sophie is happy to escape the drama with an after-hours campus stroll accompanied by her helicopter-piloting boyfriend, Bruce Granville. However, their date is interrupted by the mayor himself—with a knife in his back.
As it turns out, the knife is actually a Henley College letter opener—something that is gifted to every member of the graduating class. Sophie is led to a complicated puzzle of scandal and corruption, and it seems that Mayor Graves is at the apex of it all. When Sophie finds out that the mayor was seeking her help on the day he was murdered, she must use her top-notch logic to crack the puzzle and catch the killer running free on campus…
Thanks for joining us today, Camille. I wish I lived close enough to attend one of your book clubs. Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of A Function of Murder, and don’t forget to include an email address or check back on Sunday to see if you’re the winner. We have a lot of giveaways going unclaimed because we have no way of contacting the winners. -- AP