We've read some incredible books, and have had the opportunity to talk with a number of authors whose books we've chosen. Sometimes, the author joins us in person (as was the case with Diane Hammond, author of HANNAH'S DREAM) but usually we cluster tipsily around a speakerphone, giddy with excitement at getting to talk with a real, live author.
The author making us giddy last night was Sean Ferrell, debut author of NUMB. According to him, he phoned us from the floor of a bus station and wasn't wearing any pants.
According to us, we're all Swedish swimsuit models dressed for the occasion in fur bikinis with lion tails sewn to the back.
It's possible some of us were lying. Certainly Sean has a talent for storytelling, if NUMB is any indication.
Here's what the book is about:
Numb, a man who feels no pain and has no memory of how he came to be this way, travels to New York City after a short stint in the circus to search for the answers to his past. But when word of his condition spreads – sparked by the attention he attracts from letting people nail his hands to bars for money – he quickly finds himself hounded on all sides by those who would use his unique ability in their own pursuits of fame and fortune. There's the best friend who doesn't quite know how to handle Numb's newfound celebrity, the savvy talent agent who may or may not have Numb's best interests in mind, the sadistic supermodel whose idea of a good time involves lion claws and can openers, and the blind girlfriend who might actually see something in Numb others don't. As Numb navigates this strange world, and as he continues to search for clues from his past, he is forced to confront one of life's toughest questions: Who am I?
We loved it (and I'm not just saying that because Sean threatened to beat me up – dude, I could totally take him). The book was sweet, funny, thought-provoking, touching, and – at times – uncomfortable to read.
That was one of the things I loved best about it.
Several book club members brought lists of questions to ask Sean. What did you mean by this? How did you come up with that? What was the inspiration for this character? Have you spent significant time in an insane asylum?
And though he answered all of our questions cleverly and engagingly, he was quick to point out that the book is less about his intent as the writer and more about our experience as readers.
As the only writer in the bunch, that struck a chord with me. Weren't we just talking on this blog about the importance of getting outside perspectives on your writing? This is why that matters so much. When people pick up a book and start reading it, they filter everything through their own life experiences and viewpoints. How one person chooses to read something might be totally different from another reader's take on it.
At one point in the discussion last night, I asked Sean about the contents of a video in the story (I'm not saying more because I don't want to give anything away).
"Do you know what was in the video?" I asked.
"Yes," Sean answered.
"You're not going to tell us, are you?"
Nope. Not even if we held him down and tickled him until he peed (which we totally would have done if we'd found a good flight from Central Oregon to New York at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night).
But I get his point. It matters more what we think might be in the video then what Sean – in his
Oh, and if you're part of a book club and would like to talk with Sean about NUMB, I have it on good authority he's willing to do this again (though obviously he loves us best and all other book clubs will pale in comparison). You can contact Sean on his website to set it up, and you can buy the book here.
So what are your thoughts on the balance between what an author intends and how readers interpret things? Have you ever had the pleasure of talking with the author about his/her book? What was that like? Please share in the comments.
For now, I leave you with this lovely image of our book club after we changed out of the fur bikinis.