I have a purely unselfish reason for wanting my novel, Monarch, to hit bestseller status and go monumentally huge. If that happened, it would not only raise more awareness for the monarch butterflies, but I’d donate the royalties to help preserve the monarch butterflies. Why would I do this? It’s because the monarch population is dwindling, not only due to illegal deforestation in Mexico where the monarchs in the Eastern United States spend their winter, but due to dwindling milkweed supply. Leave it to farmers (who keep increasing their herbicide-tolerant corn and soybean crops) to inadvertently choke out the milkweed plant – the only plant on which monarch caterpillars feed. As an organic food lover, I have issues with those kinds of crops, anyway. Gah.
I recently read this article on the Huffington Post about the monarch population dwindling this year. My heart hurts when I read such things, and I only hope it’s just a dip and not part of a huge, steady decline. But, sadly, I’m afraid things are only going to get worse for the monarchs, not better. Did you know that here in the United States, we didn’t even know until 1975 that the monarchs migrated down to Mexico? That sure hasn’t given us a huge amount of time to marvel how far they fly every year just to survive. All the way from Canada to Mexico. It’s incredible.
My novel might be fiction, and it might be teeming with action and spies and drama, but at its heart is the monarch butterfly and what a beautiful insect it is. I’ve always had a soft spot for butterflies, especially monarchs. I, for one, do not ever want to see them die off. We would lose something magnificent.
I pick up my butterfly book, Monarch. You know, the one with butterfly and dead feet on the cover? That one. And I flip it open and I wonder what possessed me to write such a thing. Then I remember I grew up in the ’90’s when authors like John Grisham and Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton were hitting their stride. They were huge. Everybody read them. I read them. I was fifteen in the middle of that decade, for crying out loud, and reading legal thrillers and stories about cloning DNA. I loved this stuff. I. Ate. It. Up. I also read Joan Lowry Nixon and Lois Duncan. I loved anything that got my heart rate up.
So now there’s this series of books out there about a dragon tattoo, or something. And a girl. Or something. Right? Stieg Larsson. You’d think I’d be all over that because I love serious adult thrillers, intrigue, and danger. Well, I used to. Apparently, after so many years, my taste for this sort of thing has taken a back seat to other tastes, and I haven’t even put Larsson’s books on my Goodreads shelf. I’m reading all over the place. Young adult, adult, literary, fantasy. No thrillers. I have a few on my list, but I keep pushing them back. Maybe I’m afraid I’ll compare them to Monarch and feel disappointed in myself? I’m not sure. Because Monarch is not a true thriller. I simply can’t compare it to other thrillers. It was a book that came out of all those years in the ’90’s, all that reading I did, all that passion I had bottled up for those elements, combined with the literary elements I learned in college.
I have no idea if I’ll ever write another thriller. I feel, in a way, that Monarch satisfied my craving to write somewhere in that genre, and now I’ve moved on. The next book I have planned is historical and magical, a lot like my Bonded stories. I wonder if that’s where I’ll keep writing, but then I look at The Breakaway, a young adult contemporary suspense, and I’m confused all over again, because I really do love contemporary. Gah, I guess I just need to keep writing and see where it all goes. Signing off. Confused and laughing at myself!
I am still kicking myself for not bringing a camera to get a picture of the book group I visited this past week. I forgot to do this last time I visited a book group, as well. This particular one chose Monarch as their book for January, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled when they asked me to join them as their guest author. What made it even more special is that this group is based in my hometown and it has been a dream of mine to do things like this in the place I grew up. So thank you to Cari’s book group for such a wonderful evening.
One of the members was wearing a pretty butterfly necklace, which made me smile. We talked for nearly two hours about the book and answering questions from the reader guide. The best thing of all was sitting in a room with ten other people holding my book in their laps. It was a little surreal!
One thing I realized during the book discussion is something I’ve always know, but keep forgetting. The group passed around a jar of papers, each one with a question from the reader guide I mentioned above. The hostess for the evening joked that I would be able to tell them if their answers were correct. I laughed and said, “There are no right answers for these questions.”
And that is undeniably true.
Spending the evening with a roomful of readers has opened my eyes. I hang out with a lot of writers, so it was fascinating to see the different reactions to the book and the different answers given for each question. Everything discussed was untainted by a writing perspective, so some of the answers surprised me and brought even more depth to the story I had written – things I had never even considered before. I might even join this book group because I think I can learn a lot from spending time with everyday readers. What happens inside someone’s head when they read a story is an amazing thing. A story I create will always mean different things to every single reader, and I think that’s one of the most exciting things about being an author – knowing your story becomes bigger, different, and more unique with each different reader.
Visiting book groups is something I would love to keep doing throughout my career since it’s possible to do visits over Skype, as well as in person. My novels seem to lend themselves well to book groups. It’s exciting to find a little space where they fit!
So I’m a little wound up from last night – my first-ever signing and reading at a bookstore. First I want to say thank you to everyone who gave me advice yesterday for publicly reading. You want to know what’s funny? I completely forgot that I used to do readings all the time in college. I’d go to the Open Mics and read poetry at least once a month. I won awards for some of my short stories and read them aloud at the presentation nights. This isn’t new to me. I only remembered this as I was sitting at the panel table with the other authors. I thought, “Oh, this isn’t so new after all. It’s just been, like, ten years…”
Anyway, the reading went fantastic! Here I am giving a little information about myself to the audience, and then reading half of the first chapter of Monarch.
See those monarch wings? Yeah, those are wings that my awesome friend Natalie Whipple
wore to show her undying support of my work. After all, Monarch is what brought us together in the first place! Long story. But this book is special to our friendship. Thank you, Natalie!
My friend Stephanie McGee also came, as well as Michael Offutt.
One of the other authors was Melissa Menatti, who writes this drop-dead gorgeous poetry and presents it in the most unique, tangible way. Her book is incredible. I bought a copy and this is what it looks like:
Yes, way awesome! Loose pages you can read in any order you like. This girl understands poetry and as I listened to her read I was reminded of my college days and what I miss about writing poetry every day. Sigh. One of the other authors was Jessica McQuinn
, who is published by the small press, Omnific Publishing
. Yay for small press! Jessica writes romance, and it was a lot of fun to hear her read from her novel, Indivisible.
The last author was Dorothy J. Varney, this lovely woman who has written about three of her husband’s ancestors during the gold rush in California. Her writing is solid and gorgeous. You can see her books here
All in all, a successful night! A great way to get my feet wet!