Thursday, December 3, 2015

How Book Groups Made a Crime Writer Out of Me

Book groups can be dangerous places. Talk about a killer hobby!

Why dangerous? Aren’t book groups places where you get to share your passion for books with like-minded people? Don’t book groups let you socialize and make new friends? Where’s the danger?

You can find the full range of human behavior at a book group and that can add up to one thing: conflict. There are the domineering sorts who take over the discussion with their non-stop chatter. Conflicts arise over what to read and how the group should be conducted. Others don’t read the assigned book. No doubt about it, if you want conflict, a book group can satisfy that need.

But only a crime writer—like me—would elevate a little harmless conflict to murder.

I joined my first mystery book group in 1993 in Southern California. The women in the group were lovely—almost too lovely. I hadn’t started my writing career but I knew I was on my way when the what-if scenarios came to me unbidden—what if these conflict-free women weren’t really so nice? What if this was all for show and they harbored secrets, scandals, hatreds? I gave them backstories and they became the prototypes for Murder at the Book Group.

In 1996 I said good bye to what I would come to consider my favorite book group when I relocated to Charlottesville, Virginia. I took a writing course at the University of Virginia and started penning Murder at the Book Group. I joined a mystery group at Barnes & Noble. Connie, our most prolific reader, showed up at each meeting with a large green loose leaf notebook that contained her book log. Another woman routinely declared that she hated whatever book we’d chosen for that month.

Fast forward to 2002 and I found myself living in Richmond, Virginia. I made a beeline for the Tuckahoe Library mystery group. There I met Mary Miley, who would later publish The Impersonator and Silent Murders and become a fellow sister in Sisters in Crime.

When the Tuckahoe group folded in 2006 a number of us joined the long-running Mystery Lovers Group, led by Lelia Taylor, who runs the popular blog Buried Under Books.

What happened to Murder at the Book Group? It was perishing and had become little more than a rainy day pastime. In 2010 I realized that I had amassed enough knowledge of book groups and their often fascinating dynamics and, yes, conflicts. Besides mystery groups, I also participated in literary fiction groups. I had to face facts—the only way I could get back on track with Murder at the Book Group was to give up book groups!

It still took some time, but Murder at the Book Group finally made its debut in December of 2014.

As for those book groups—I haven’t returned to one but I’m privileged to visit many as a guest author. The picture below shows a group from Truckee, California that I visited by Skype.
 
 

Maggie King is the author of Murder at the Book Group, published in 2014 by Simon and Schuster. She contributed the short story, “A Not So Genteel Murder,” to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthology and “Reunion in Shockoe Slip” appears in the Virginia is Mysteries Volume II anthology (February, 2016).

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive.

Visit Maggie at http://www.maggieking.com.

7 comments:

Linda O. Johnston said...

Welcome, Maggie. Yes, I believe book groups can be dangerous. Writing about them can be, if you write mysteries. You can even become murderous--as I am these days. I've killed many people in my stories!

Di Eats the Elephant said...

This was fun! I used to belong to a book group that read a lot of memoirs while i was there. Very interesting and intellectual group. You make the ones i would avoid sound like just a good place to go to be amused. If i could just find the time. Thanks for sharing your story!

Di Eats the Elephant said...

This was fun! I used to belong to a book group that read a lot of memoirs while i was there. Very interesting and intellectual group. You make the ones i would avoid sound like just a good place to go to be amused. If i could just find the time. Thanks for sharing your story!

Maggie said...


Thanks for your comments. I enjoyed writing the story. We have a neighborhood book group starting up in January that I'm going to try. My biggest reservation is finding the time to read! But Go Set a Watchman (inaugural book) has been on my TBR list, so I'll see how it goes. If I don't like it I can just kill them on paper, right? ;-)

Ellen Byron said...

Fun story! I love your cover. And I love Truckee!

Joanne Guidoccio said...

Hi Maggie, I've participated in several book clubs, most of them dealing with literary fiction. Your book sounds delicious. I'm putting it on my TBR list. :)

Maggie said...

Joanne, Thanks for adding me to your list. Let me know what you think of my debut.