Recently I reviewed Janina Matthewson’s great book, TheUnderstanding of Women. Janina has kindly agreed to pop over to Writer’s Little Helper and answer 9 questions on the subject of running an imaginary bookshop..
Hi Janina, congratulations on the publication of The Understanding of Women and thank you for popping over to Writer’s Little Helper.
1. What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
I really want to be clever about this, but I'm not sure I'll manage it. I have a bit of a thing for well-named shops; there's a hairdresser in Christchurch called Shylock's which I've always thought was great. Maybe it'd just be “Where The Hell Is My Book” because that's a sentence I often say. Known to its friends as Helly.
2. Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
London is so full of unexpected tiny streets. I love turning off a main, claustrophobic street and suddenly feeling like the city's disappeared, so somewhere like that. Somewhere you hear rumours of and have to seek out, or discover by accident when you're trying to avoid the crowds.
3. Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.
Ooh, I like both of those ideas. I'd like it to be a place you can sit for a little while, or a long one, without feeling like you're just there to buy things. So tables and chairs and space around for people to read or work. Not a separate cafe section, but just as part of the shop.
4. What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
It'd have a fully stocked kitchen behind the till so when I got bored of customers I could bake cookies. Which would then make everyone love me.
5. What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
Since this is a fantasy and I can ignore sensible business practice, I would arrange books by my own personal associations. I like visiting bookshops to find books I haven't heard of, so I'd want to encourage that. For example, I read The Meaning of Night by Michael cox and A Girl's Guide to Kissing Frogs by Victoria Clayton on the same holiday, so they're connected for me, even though they're completely dissimilar. So maybe I'd arrange the shop autobiographically. Annoying for everyone but me. I'd also have sections of reading requirements like “Books For The Tube” and “Hefty But Worth It.”
6. Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
The display table would be my own personal book diary, with books I'm reading or have recently read. This is clearly a very egocentric shop. Also, if I woke up and happened to remember how much I used to love A Girl of the Limberlost, I'd put it on the table.
7. If you could run only one author event who would you have? You can pick a living or dead writer. What sort of event would they run?
Roald Dahl. No contest. I'd like to have a poker tournament with Roald Dahl.
8. A customer comes up to your till with a copy of The Understanding of Women and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
I like to think that my writing is a bit like comfort food, but hearty comfort food. Not donuts and chips, but homemade seafood chowder with crusty bread, or apple crumble with custard. So hopefully I can say that if you'd like to be in a good mood with the world, if you're low and you don't want to be, The Understanding of Women is a good choice for you.
9. What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
Just to completely blow my own for a second, I make an amazing chocolate zucchini cake, so it'd have to be that. I'd do it all layered and fancy, with cream cheese icing dripping all over it.
Bio: Janina is from a tiny country at the bottom of the world and now she lives in a big city near the top. She writes novels and plays and is rife with opinions. She likes sharing food but not kitchens.
You can buy The Understanding of Women from here.