I have to say I love my book club, and as a writer, it has been incredibly helpful.
First, it’s forced me to diversify my reading material. You know what it’s like – you find a genre or an author or a style you love, and you stick with it. And then when you start to write, you find yourself influenced by your comfort zone reading material.
But in book club, I’ve had to read books and authors I’d never have thought of trying. Okay, some I didn’t like – but at least I know now I don’t like them! Then again, some I have absolutely loved, loved, loved. (Just a quick side note – if you have any interest in Elizabeth Barrett Browning, read Lady’s Maid by Margaret Forster). These are books I would never have thought have reading, but I did, and expanded my reading experience – which will expand my writing experience! See, it all pays off in the end.
The second helpful thing about book club is that it’s my own little focus group. We are a group of very diverse people, with very diverse tastes, and it’s fascinating to sit back and see what they agree on, what they hate, what divides them and what unites them. I never offer them my own work (I’m not published yet anyway, so I’m not eligible) but when we read something I already like it’s interesting to see how they all react to it. And their reactions to certain styles and genres can feed back into my own work.
I know book clubs are opening up everywhere. I know this because of all the books about book club, and how some books have questions for book clubs to discuss (which I have to admit I have found quite patronising, and we’ve never used them. In fact, it’s always a minus point, if it is assumed we are incapable of talking about a book without someone telling us what to discuss). They are, just like libraries, an invaluable resource for any author trying to find out just what people actually want from a book