As a longtime member of a book club (my current one is made up of moms from my town), I was intrigued by the premise of Heather Woodhaven’s new novel, The Secret Life of Book Club: women in a neighborhood book club take a break from reading books to try a series of new experiences—adventures that force them out of their comfort zones.
While the idea is unorthodox—a book club that doesn’t read books?—the idea of trying something new, something unfamiliar, with a group of friends is appealing. After all, it’s easy to talk ourselves out of doing things—things that we find scary, intimidating, or different—but, as the women in The Secret Life of Book Club find, taking the leap with others gives you someone to whom you’re accountable, which makes you less likely to shy away from the challenge. Perhaps it’s easier to take a risk or be open to change when you know someone is looking out for you.
As the novel opens, each woman in the book group featured in The Secret Life of Book Club is facing some kind of stress or uncertainty, some of which becomes more apparent as the adventures develop. The experiences they share (which I won’t tell you about so as to not leak any spoilers) help them clarify their life priorities and learn more about themselves. They also have a good time together and strengthen their friendships.
I read The Secret Life of Book Club while on vacation with my family, pulling it up on the Kindle app after I completed my latest book club book. I enjoyed the friendships between the women in the story and the journeys they go on together, which cement their connections.
I was invited to review The Secret Life of Book Club by the book’s author Heather Woodhaven. I’ve never had an author write to me directly about reviewing his or her book on Red Shutters, and, at first, I was worried: what if I didn’t like the book? But, fortunately, it was not a concern with The Secret Life of Book Club; this is an enjoyable book that will resonate with book club members and those considering joining a book club.
I was intrigued by both Heather’s experience in a book club and her writing process. She kindly answered some questions for Red Shutters readers, and I hope you appreciate learning more about Heather and The Secret Life of Book Club.
Red Shutters (RS): What do you think is the appeal of book clubs? And how did that inspire you to write this book?
Heather Woodhaven (HW): When I moved… a few years ago I found book clubs to be a great place to make new friends…or deepen friendships that were already there. When talking about a story you love, there’s a vulnerability there because usually it impacted you in a personal way. Stories can also broaden your perspective and break down walls. Preconceived judgments go out the window and that’s when real growth starts to happen. That combination (along with heavy doses of chocolate and coffee) made it a great setting to begin my story. The inspiration came from hearing other women consistently long for a little of what the characters experienced in whatever story we were reading—a closer family, more romance, going after a dream, more adventure, etc.
RS: I understand you are a member of a book club. What’s the one activity you’d like your book club to do (that you didn’t write about in the book!)?
HW: Oooo….a road trip. (We’ve talked about it. Scheduling is the hardest part.) And, I’m gonna try to get them to an Irish Dancing class with me someday.
RS: How do you balance a writing career and family? How do you carve out time for writing—and keep yourself motivated?
HW: Um…I’m not there yet. Although I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’ve found the perfect balance. I always lean toward family. Now that my kids are all in public school (with staggered schedules), I have exactly five and three-quarters hours to myself. I try to fit in a workout and the inevitable errands and cleaning while they’re gone. Add in a hefty dose of blogging and social media, and I have to set the timer to write fiction. Because it’s always hard to start. But once I’ve put a few words on the page, I love every minute. My motivation? I have a list of stories I can’t wait to tell!
RS: What advice would you offer to someone who is thinking of writing a book and/or starting a writing career?
HW: Devour some writing books (or podcasts). I love the balance of K.M. Weiland’s focus on structure (books and podcasts) on one side and Story Trumps Structure by Steven James on the other side. I’m more a story girl, but I need to keep both things in mind. Find what works for you and then don’t give up. Ever.
RS: Do you have another book in the works? If yes, can you tell us about it?
HW: Yes, lots of books in the works! I write in two different genres so most of the ones releasing now are romantic suspense—though, I can’t help but add in doses of humor. If you read The Secret Life of Book Club you might recall a description of the chick flick movie they watched: A female headhunter with no sense of humor is losing business to automated…programs and online services. She signs up for a class on being witty led by a humor columnist. They strike a deal. He’ll coach her in humor if she helps him understand the female mind as he tries to break in to fiction. That’s the next romantic comedy/women’s fiction I hope to finish. No title yet.
Thanks, Heather, for sharing your insights!