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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sex and the Council on Aging

Before you say "Ew!" and squint your eyes away from the vision, I have a story for you.

I do a lot of public events to promote my book. Most of the time these are readings where I know the audience has not yet read it, so I keep the spoilers to a minimum. My favorite events are book clubs - either via Skype or in person - where readers can dig into the details of the book. I know the readers love hearing why I chose a particular narrative thread or background details on a scene. I'm always impressed with the level of insight my readers have on the subtle shadings that made their reading experience more enjoyable. 

I was a little nervous when I entered the room and saw a dozen white heads look up. The Charity has some very potent scenes, both violent and sexual. They pretty much looked like a cozy mystery and women's fiction kind of crowd. I prepared to defend myself and to apologize for offending them, but my book is a thriller after all. Yada, yada. 

Boy, was I wrong.

I always ask if Jessica ended up with the right guy at the end. Were they "Team Shea" or "Team Michael"? I winced a little and waited for the onslaught.

I knew it was going to be a good meeting when the opening statement was made by one participant, two palms pressed against the table. "That scene in the cabin was terrific. Wow!"

They loved it. They loved the fact I did not shy away from difficult scenes or veer into cheap. I gave just enough detail to let the reader know what happened and to conjure the reading experience I wanted them to have. The murder scenes were graphic without blood spurting everywhere. And, in the infamous wisdom that less is more, the sex scenes invited them to feel for themselves the passion the characters shared. They let me know that I struck the balance between providing the details needed for clarity and evoking the reader's true emotions. They appreciated that I stayed away from the cheap tricks of detail that only serve to cover up that the writer doesn't know how to keep a reader's interest.

One woman, with slight Kentucky drawl and a smokey voice, sighed, "And that <spoiler!> is HOT. You can tell he's gooooood!" They loved that the story captured the emotions of the characters. The conversation continued the way you want the best of book clubs to be - filled with laughter and insights. 

They were not thriller readers before, but are now. I never would have assumed my book would have resonated with their demographic as a profile of my enthusiastic reader. I'm so happy it did.