As a genre author, I was surprised (okay, astonished) when a local book club contacted me about reading my book and asked if I had a Book Club Question list for their selected novel. (Short answer at the time? Eh, no.)
Authors or publishers don’t often issue questions for mysteries for several reasons, but mostly because specific questions tend to give away the plot, ruining the element of surprise. Remember, mysteries depend on withholding information and red herrings.
What’s a mystery author to do? I did some internet research and talked with other mystery authors. Rather than offer specific questions, here are some categories and guidelines to help you build a set of book club questions for your story.
Ambiguity. Does your novel leave anything up in the air as to what really happened? Readers love to determine the how and why of ambiguous events. (Did you believe the wife’s/husband’s/villain’s version of events? Why or why not? What do you think really happened?)
Motivation. Questions about a character’s motivation, especially if he or she behaves in a socially unacceptable way, generate a lively discussion. (Sarah shared privileged or confidential information with a reporter. Why? Amy says she stole the jewelry to protect it, but what were her real reasons? The parents’ child-raising practices were as crazy as they were, but there was a lot of love in the family. Did this give the children the strength they needed to thrive?) Readers often bring their own experiences into a novel and perceive things in characters that others, including the author, don’t. It can spawn fascinating discussions.
Fate. (Full disclosure – I struggled with this suggested topic, but maybe that’s just me.) Questions about the course of events and whether those events are inevitable may generate strong reactions. (Did the hero have to die in the end? Could the story have gone in another direction and still been effective? Did all the villains have to be captured or killed? What if one got away?)
Coincidence. Does the story rely on a major or minor coincidence? Was it believable and did it work for you? Was the story plausible overall? Or was the coincidence “too convenient” and therefore distracting? (Hmm… Do we really want to ask that last question at a book club?)
Values/beliefs. In what ways do the events and characters reveal the author’s values or worldview? What is the author trying to say about (insert hot-button topic here: women, race, sexuality, discrimination)? Did the story make you question any of your own beliefs or offer new insights?
What are some of your favorite book discussion questions?
An award-winning author, Cathy Perkins works in the financial industry, where she’s observed the hide-in-plain-sight skills employed by her villains. She writes predominantly financial-based mysteries but enjoys exploring the relationships in her characters’ lives. A member of Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America (Kiss of Death chapter) and International Thriller Writers, she is a contributing editor for The Big Thrill.
When not writing, she does battle with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.
Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCathyPerkins
Twitter @cperkinswrites https://twitter.com/cperkinswrites
Holly Price traded her professional goals for personal plans when she agreed to leave her high-flying position with the Seattle Mergers and Acquisition team and take over the family accounting practice. Reunited with JC Dimitrak, her former fiancé, she’s already questioning whether she’s ready to flip her condo for marriage and a house in the ‘burbs.
When her cousin Tate needs investors for his innovative car suspension, Holly works her business matchmaking skills and connects him with a client. The Rockcrawler showcasing the new part crashes at its debut event, however, and the driver dies. Framed for the sabotage, Tate turns to Holly when the local cops—including JC—are ready to haul him to jail. Holly soon finds her cousin and client embroiled in multiple criminal schemes. She’s drawn into the investigation, a position that threatens her life, her family and her already shaky relationship with JC.