Wednesday, March 30, 2011


by Kathleen Ernst

OWM We writers get a lot of feedback. In the course of publishing a book we may hear from critique groups, trusted first readers, content specialists, agents, editors, reviewers.

Sometimes an email pops up from a reader I’ve never met, which is always a wonderful surprise. What I’ve come to treasure are the opportunities to have an actual conversation with people who have read one of my books.

I’ve visited several book clubs since Old World Murder came out last fall. I love to share some behind-the-scenes stories about how the book came to be, but I also try to leave lots of room for open discussion.

Sometimes people mention some little something that I would never have guessed would resonate in a particular way. Sometimes a reader asks a question that helps me think more about what to reveal within the pages of a mystery, and how to reveal it.

And sometimes it becomes clear that one or more readers interpreted a scene or event entirely differently than I’d intended. It’s fascinating to listen to the conversation as each group member explains what they believe happened. My thoughts may range from Really? to That’s exactly what I meant! Some comments are validating, a few may be surprising, all are interesting.Heirloom_1 cover

The most surprising comment I’ve heard about Old World Murder came from a person who thinks that Ethan, protagonist Chloe’s best friend, is angry with her at the end of their final conversation. Not my intention! And, from what I can tell, not what most readers took from the scene. I’ll take a careful look at their first conversation in the next book.

Have you ever read a book, and learned later that others interpreted a key conversation or action completely differently? Writers, have you ever been surprised by something a reader interprets in an unexpected way?

Review copies of The Heirloom Murders, Book 2 in the Chloe Ellefson series, are going out this week. I will be waiting to hear what reviewers, and especially readers, think of this one.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Congratulations on "Heirloom Murders!" So cool to have the review copies going out for it.

I'm meeting with a book club next week. I'm always surprised at the different ideas they'll have on my books. :)

Jess Lourey said...

Those are beautiful covers, Kathleen. They draw me in every time I see them.

I completely agree that it is interesting how people take our words. It brings depth to the story to know it is alive beyond our computer keyboards, you know?

Lois Winston said...

Good luck with the new book, Kathleen!

G.M. Malliet said...

I have been gratified when readers develop a fondness for a character from one of my books and write to tell me about it, or come up to me at a conference. Interestingly, one of my own favorite characters from my first book has yet to be mentioned.

G.M. Malliet said...

p.s. I've been thinking of having a contest: Guess the favorite character that nobody but the author seems to like. What do you think?

Also p.s. - Your covers are gorgeous. I hope you are getting the flats framed?

Darrell James said...

I'm always surprised when someone I don't know tells me they've read something I've written. "Really?!"

Congratulations on Heirloom Murders!

Beth Groundwater said...

This happens to me a lot at book club visits, and it's what makes them so fascinating!

Kathleen Ernst said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone! It is an interesting journey: we live in the world of our books for months on end (in our heads, anyway) and then once a book goes out into the world, readers do the same. It's especially wonderful when someone comes to care about a character as much as we do.

Gin, I'm curious! Who is disliked? So far, readers seem to dislike the same characters in OWM that I dislike.

And yes, I do have cover flats framed. My husband started doing that years ago. OWM was # 16, so I've got quite a nice collection. They aren't in a public place, but I walk by every time I go to my office, and they make me smile.

Alan Orloff said...

Congrats on The Heirloom Murders!

I'd better start going to more book club meetings so I can find out what my book is really about.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Alan - it could be interesting.

Alice Loweecey said...

Congrats, Kathleen!

Vicki Doudera said...

Your post really resonates with me, Kathleen. I love "doing" bookclubs because those readers come ready to discuss, and I agree -- it is fascinating.

My own bookclub is going to read both of my mysteries this fall. That will take it to another level. Slightly more personal than usual but hopefully also fascinating.

Congrats on the new book!

Kathleen Ernst said...

Thanks again!

Vicki, having your own book group read your titles should be very interesting. I haven't suggested that to my own book group. Let us know how it goes!