January Book Club: Iowa
When two months ago my college friend, Courtney, texted me for recommendations for her 2021 book club meetings, I replied, “Duh. After December.”
She’d already read it but took the suggestion to her club anyway. We sweetened the deal by telling them I’d attend via Zoom and answer any questions they had.
Saturday morning, after their weekly gym workout, the club gathered at Courtney’s for mimosa and cinnamon rolls and put me on the laptop on the kitchen counter so I could “join.”
The first question was about the origin of the book and I’ve told this story before. I wrote After December first in seventh grade. My parents had moved us to California and I’d left behind my crush, Brian Craighill, who – if you Google him – is still stupidly hot. Like ridiculously hot.
Anyway, all those miles away in California I wrote my heart out about this cool kid named Brian and his girlfriend (of course), Kacie. Yes, she was me. I was 13.
Fast forward a decade and I’m in college and my parents are divorcing and I write After December again. This time, though, it’s about Brian and Tony. While Tony had always been there, he takes center stage as the perfect metaphor for divorce (in the head of a very angry 20-year-old): suicide.
The second question, from Courtney, was about reconciling the current ‘Kacie’ of the book with me and realizing Kacie and I are nothing alike. Once she got over that, Courtney said, the book was easier for her. Some readers don’t know me at all so the character named Kacie doesn’t pose a problem as much as a curiosity: Why would the author use her own name in the book? Vanity. I love my name. And I don’t want to think of Brian with anyone but Kacie. Ever.
Some other remarks from Iowa Book Club included loving all the cursing – that’s a first, usually people tell me it’s too much. (To which I usually reply, “fuck off.”) Also, the setting of Reston Town Center and the other Herndon, Virginia landmarks were real and felt real for someone who’s been there (Courtney) and even for people who hadn’t.
Lastly, and this is a comment I get frequently, was that the structure of the book made it hard to put down. There are no chapters. You don’t know when the section will end. I shared with them the secret to good chapter design: start in the middle of the action, lull in the middle, then build toward drama and end the chapter on a cliffhanger. Then the reader is forced to start the next chapter. Infinitely un-put-down-able. It’s why you read Twilight in one sitting.
Thanks to the ladies of Courtney Bertram’s book club in Iowa. I enjoyed meeting you and I know you’ll love February’s selection: How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, by Jenna Jameson. Promise to Zoom me in to that conversation, too.
Planning to use After December for your book club? Let me know and I’ll send a couple of signed copies, a hand-painted wine glass for the hostess, and some dog tag keepsakes. We can even Zoom together for the meeting.