What Book Club Feels Like . . . When You’re the Author

Author Anton DiSclafani at a book event for The After Party (at FoxTale Book Shoppe in Georgia), with a small, handsome helper.

Anton DiSclafani’s novels are book-club gold — the stories so rich with secrets and betrayals, the characters so complex and real. Both The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls and The After Party practically beg the question, “What would you have done in her shoes?” We can’t wait to talk with DiSclafani when she joins us in person for Parnassus Book Club on July 17.

Meanwhile, we wondered: How does it feel for a writer to visit a book club discussing her book? Is it fun, or is it strange? Do you ever get tired of talking about the same characters? Because DiSclafani is as gracious and funny as she is talented, she generously wrote up her own personal answer, in the form of 12 tips for authors:

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A Successful Book Club Visit, In a Dozen Steps

1) If it’s an in-person book club, find the chair that has clearly been saved for you, up front. Try to sit in a flattering way, if there is such a thing. If you’re chatting online, remember that the book club can see you even though you’re not in the room with them. Think about putting a little makeup on, because Skype, FaceTime — they’re not flattering venues.

2) Forget to put makeup on, because you have a toddler and makeup is a thing of the past.
3) Make eye contact. If you are online: when the connection flickers to life and all the pretty ladies who have read your book and put on makeup are arrayed before you, don’t look at the screen. Look into the camera. This is how you make eye contact in the land of the internet.

4) Before you begin, thank everyone for reading your book, because you feel genuinely grateful that out of all the books in the world, they have chosen yours. Not only have they read it, but they have thought about it, discussed it, and come up with questions to ask about it!

5) Be ready when someone — let’s say the lady in the white jeans and white halter top, who looks like she works out (you yourself wear a lot of workout clothes, but only because they are toddler-friendly, not because you work out) — asks a question that you expect but are somehow never prepared for. She wants to know why the protagonist in the book did the thing that she did. It was a dumb thing to do. It was mean. The lady in white doesn’t like your character.

6) Explain it the best you can, although it is hard. Maybe it is even impossible? Book clubs interact with the characters in your books as if they are real people. You are, in general, very glad that they do this. It is why you write! If you’ve taken a reader to another world so effectively that she is actually angry at your fictional character (who, even if she were not fictional, was alive in the 1920s and so would probably be dead now anyway, but that’s not the point) — well, that’s good.

7) When it is time to answer, say that you don’t think of right or wrong when you’re writing. The characters take on a life of their own. You just follow them. You put them on the page and try to listen. This is the best way you know how to put it.

8) Enjoy the book club’s fun vicariously. They may be having wine. You may be having water. If you are online, you are sitting on the floor of your basement because your computer is almost dead (it is always almost dead) and you need to be near an outlet. Their background is a beautifully decorated house. Yours is a grayish wall.

9) When the book club asks more questions, try to remember what you were thinking when you wrote the book. Often you can’t. You tell them writing is a combination of planning and instinct. And revision. So much revision. In the end, it will feel like you have chewed the same piece of gum approximately one million times, and sometimes you won’t be able to recall why you began the project in the first place. It is a little sad, the forgetting. You spend years in a world, and then the world closes, ejecting you even though you are the creator of the world! You tell them that they — the readers who read your books after you are finished writing them — help you remember. They hand you that piece of gum, revived, and you are happy to chew it again for an hour.

10) Appreciate when one of the ladies says the forgetting is like what happens after giving birth, like parenthood. You agree. Chances are your toddler has been screaming upstairs this whole time. It is bath time. He loves baths, but on his own terms. You are relieved the ladies haven’t been able to hear him. They are still in their semi-circle, glasses in hands.

11) When it is time, say your goodbyes. It is always a little awkward because that’s how goodbyes are. If you’re meeting in real-life, who leaves the room first? If you’re meeting online, who will close their computer first? It becomes a race, between you and the host: who can close her computer first while smiling graciously?

12) Return to your life when book club is over. Go back home. Or if you are at home, go upstairs. The toddler—you still think of him as a baby, but he is most definitely a toddler—is asleep. You feel sad to have missed bath time, bed time, et cetera. But also relieved.

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Parnassus Books invites you to come grab a copy of The After Party and read up in preparation for book club — open to all! — on Monday, July 17, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. Anton DiSclafani will be visiting Nashville to meet with us live, right here in the store. It’s going to be a blast.

(And Anton? We promise not even to notice whether you had time to put on makeup.)