Chasing the Muse: Fiction by Melvyn Chase

Why a Readers Guide?

In my new book, The Food of Love and Other Tales of Lovers, Dreamers and Schemers, I've added something I didn't include in my earlier books: a Readers Guide. Why the change of heart?

In the past, I worried that a Readers Guide would stifle original thinking. But in conversations with book club members, I learned that a Readers Guide can help stimulate discussions without limiting them. One question in a Guide could serve as a launch pad for a discussion leader or spark interest in an interpretation of a story that would otherwise be missed.

As I began to work on the Guide for The Food of Love,  I realized that the Guide has an additional, equally important function. It serves as a window into an author's mind. Many of the questions I was raising were the same questions I had asked myself as I wrote each story. The answers helped me shape my work. In a sense, they were a Writers Guide.

For example, in the novelette "The McKenzie Harvest," each of the characters, like all of us, must decide whether to live by the rules that society dictates. In the Readers Guide, I ask, "When Katherine McKenzie meets Bradley Munson, he asserts that 'Rules don't matter...Breaking  them matters.' She responds, 'Don't you have to know them before you break them?' Whose rules has Katherine followed in shaping her artistic and emotional life? How have those rules affected the choices she has made?"

I also developed some open-ended questions about the whole collection. For example:

"Compare the way 'love' is portrayed in these stories--love between man and wife, parental love, love of power, love of art, love of pleasure, love of God."

As a discussion-starter--as a glimpse of an author's thought process--a Readers Guide is a worthwhile addition to a writer's tool kit.