By Dana Coffield
Denver Post Staff Writer
Ever since he was a kid, devouring a book or two a week, John Shors, 37, has had questions for authors. Sadly, most of his queries to authors – with the exception of a letter to Larry McMurtry – went unanswered. Now that he is a published novelist he has pledged to answer all readers’ questions, mostly by talking to book clubs. So far, the Lafayette author of “Beneath a Marble Sky,” published in 2004 and out in paperback in June, has appeared at 200 book club meetings, in person or on the speaker phone, all over the country.
Book clubs. Sounds like a cheap ploy to meet women. Considering that I’ve talked to 200 book clubs and about 2,000 people, 1,998 of which were women, yeah, I think that if I were single, it would be a great idea.
Do you think you’ll make your goal of talking to 1,000 book clubs in the next two years? I am inundated with e-mails these days from book clubs and individuals.
I’m doing at least one book club a day. There is incredible demand out there.
What’s in it for you? It definitely helps sales, but I also sincerely want to give something back to readers. If people enjoy the book, and enjoy the experience of having a conversation with the author, then they’ve had a good reading experience they might not otherwise have had.
How is this different from a booksigning, where you read a chapter and then take questions from the audience? I still enjoy signings and there is a place for them. But if you have a dozen friends together, and everyone’s had a cocktail or two, and the author is right there, you’re going to have a more intimate discussion than you would have in a standard booksigning. People ask questions that they would not ask at a booksigning and then they ask a follow-up and another follow-up and another follow-up.
You mean people actually read the book? Aren’t most book clubs about socializing without the kids around? I think most book clubs typically talk about the book for 15 minutes, then move on to other things. When I’m chatting with the clubs, though, people actually talk about the book in great depth. I think if you know the author is going to call or visit, it compels people to finish the book.
How does having you in the conversation improve the discussion? The publishing industry recognizes there is a big need among readers to talk about the book. In my book, there is a reader’s guide at the back for book club discussion. It’s a starting point, but it’s not the same as having the author call in and be asked a wide array of questions.
What’s one of the big questions? Was the female voice your idea?
And? It wasn’t by accident. About 80 percent of the fiction market is female. If you’re not writing a Tom Clancy or Clive Cussler book, you’d better appeal to women if you want to write a novel.
So how did you develop the feminine voice for the main character in your book? I rewrote the book 56 times. It took me five years. I had to figure out how to write from the first person in the voice of a 17th-century Hindustani princess. I did a lot of research and learned that she would have spoken very formally. I wanted to recreate that without getting too carried away. I had to make the language elevated without getting to the point that it slowed down the story. Finding that happy medium was brutal.
What else do your readers want to know? We talk about the book, but people also want to talk about the publishing industry. A lot of readers have a dream of publishing a book, but they don’t know about the process. They want to know if they need to get an agent, and how that works. They want to know how long it takes to publish. They want to know about the movie deal.
The movie deal? You know Eriq LaSalle, who played Dr. Peter Benton on “E.R.”? After he read the book he flew to India for three weeks and then his company, Humble Journey Films, optioned the book. We’ve been working together for about a year.
Have you been lucky enough to quit your day job? I’m still working as a senior public relations manager at GroundFloor Media, just enough to keep my feet wet. The lion’s share of my time is devoted to my book. I have one opportunity to hit a home run; I need to give it a good swing.
AUTHOR WILL SPEAK
John Shors will talk about “Beneath a Marble Sky,” his elegant tale of love and intrique wound around the true story of the construction of the Taj Mahal, at any book club that will have him. Whether he’s joining the discussion in person or by speaker phone, he asks only that there are at least eight people present at the meeting.
“I think you get a better conversation with more minds in the picture,” he says. If your club has too few active members, he suggests banding together with another group. For details about booking Shors, visit beneathamarblesky.com or send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.