Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Jennifer Miller and the Year of the Book Club

Jennifer Miller is a firecracker whose fuse is a quarter-inch away from the gunpowder.  She's a tea kettle whose lid is rattling from pent-up steam, ready to burst out in a hot whistle.  She's irrepressible, infectious, and would be the first to describe herself as "bubbly."  If you're in a book club and invited Jennifer ("Jen" to her friends) to join you for a talk about her debut novel, The Year of the Gadfly, she'd be the focal point of the room, the tractor beam pulling the Millennium Falcon into its force field.  I guarantee that even if you arrived at that book club meeting at the end of a bad day of bitter disappointments and grumpy frustrations, you would walk out of there that night with a smile plastered on your face.

Just ask any of the 80-plus book clubs who have hosted Jennifer this month and they'll undoubtedly agree: this is one author who is out to spread enthusiasm about writing and publishing like a cheerleader shaking her pom-poms.  Call it the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Debut Novelist.

Wait a minute, you say.  I think you had a typo back there--you mean 80 book clubs this "year," not "month," right?

Nope, nothing wrong with your eyes or my typing.  I meant 80 book clubs this month.  You see, Jennifer Miller is out to break a world record for a single author visiting the most book clubs in one month.  Her original goal was to do 100 Book Clubs in One Month to celebrate the paperback release of Gadfly.  With only a week left in the month, she's probably going to fall short of that century mark (unless Quivering Pen readers rally behind her at the last minute and start inviting her to their get-togethers).

That doesn't matter to Jennifer at this point.  It's all about connecting readers with The Year of the Gadfly, a novel that tells the story of a 14-year-old high school journalist who talks with the ghost of Edward R. Murrow as she sets out to expose a secret society at her school.  Glamour magazine called it "Part Dead Poet's Society.  Part Heathers.  Entirely addictive."

Jennifer Miller loves her novel with the parental devotion of a first-time novelist and now she's out to spread the gospel of Gadfly to as many book clubs as she can during this peak month of a hot summer.  To do this, she's combining live, in-person visits with virtual appearances via Skype.  As Ron Charles noted in the Washington Post's Style Blog at the start of Miller's quest:
For the purposes of her record, any group of five will count as a separate book club.  Rather than racing around the country, she plans to make most of these appearances over Skype.  But there will be some racing around the country.  “I’m trying to set up some events at book stores where multiple clubs will come together,” she says from her home in Brooklyn.  “I’m already going to Fountain (Bookstore) in Richmond, Va., for one such event.”
The Guiness Book of World Records attempt isn't the first thing Miller has done to garner more visibility for her novel--which, as she admits, is just one drop in a sea of 60,000 titles published last year.  She described her other marketing ideas in a short profile in the Washington Post's Lifestyle section:
I organized an out-of-pocket three-month book tour last fall, and I invented the Novelade Stand: a lemonade stand for books, in which I set up a sidewalk table with colorful signs, homemade cookies and copies of Gadfly.
I first "met" Jennifer when she introduced herself via email after we bumped into each other on Twitter in early 2012.  Then, during my trip back to New York City last month, I had the joy of meeting Jen in person when she came to an event I was moderating at Barnes & Noble.  When she and I, along with several other friends, descended on a nearby bar afterwards, I was immediately caught in her tractor beam of positive energy.  (I also made sure to keep all open flames away from her powderkeg.)

That night in the bar, Jen started describing her plans for the 100-Book-Club project and I made a note to feature it here at the blog.  Sadly, life intervened, I got distracted with other writing projects, and now here we are at the end of the month when Jen is sprinting hard for the finish line.  Nonetheless, she was kind enough to answer a battery of questions I recently sent to her about the book club tour.  Jen being Jen, she decided to answer me via video (with assistance from her husband and videographer Jason).  Buckle your seatbelts, and press Play:

So now you're dying to sign up to be part of the 100 Book Clubs, right?  Maybe you even want to be the 100th.  Cool!  All you have to do is gather at least four other people for the "event" and you'll get the following swag from Jennifer:

• One FREE copy of The Year of the Gadfly
• Signed book plates
• An official mention on RecordSetter.com
• Entry into the "Prep School Pack" giveaway. (Jennifer's favorite prep school novels, movies, and after school snacks.)

If you'd like to participate in The Month of the Gadfly, contact Jennifer directly at jnymlr (at) gmail (dot) com

If you don't have a book club, or are unable to arrange a visit from Jen, you can still participate in her infectious ambition to plaster the world with Gadflies.  Take a photo of yourself with her paperback and you can be part of her People Wearing My Book Cover Tumbler page.  Like this:

Don't be shy.  Jennifer Miller certainly isn't.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't met Jennifer, but I read her book last year and rated it highly. My review:

    This may come as a surprise to you if, like me, you're not familiar with the author of THE YEAR OF THE GADFLY, Jennifer Miller. What an excellent book! I've written several sentences and deleted them all because the words weren't adequate to tell you how good this is.

    Alternating between a year from 1999 to 2000 and a year from 2012 to 2013, and told from three characters' perspectives, this book is a mystery about students and faculty at a private school. But it's a different type of mystery: who are the characters, really? What are their motives, really? What happened to Justin, really?

    Although this book is billed as a YA novel, a style that always bores me, Miller uses language and suspense in THE YEAR OF THE GADFLY that appeals to me. It is surely a novel for adults as well.

    I have only two problems with this book: Miller's descriptions of two "initiations." The first happens to Lily, a student at the school. The gathering she attends beforehand and the initiation are so maddening and, I thought, unreal, that I could barely read about them. Even after that evening is over, Lily still insists it was her choice. This small part was too YAish for me.

    The second initiation description involves Iris, another student over a decade later. It almost made me throw the book against the wall until Iris suddenly gets smart.

    But these two parts are not enough to make me dislike the book. I'm just hoping one of these days Miller will rewrite those parts.

    I did not read this as part of a book club. But I live in Michigan and I think Jennifer does, too. So I still hope I can go somewhere she is appearing.