Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Guest Post: S.J Bradley's Imaginary Bookshop

Hi Sarah, congratulations on the publication of your novel, Brick Mother and thank you for popping over to Writer’s Little Helper and becoming the latest author to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop series.

My review of Brick Mother will be appearing in the next month or so but I can tell you that I am half way through it and its great.

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Picture taken by Ricky Adam

What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Hello! Thanks. My bookshop would be called 'The Accidental Bookshop'. It would be half bookshop, half art-party.

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
My bookshop has a front and a back door, and they're in unexpected places. The front door is up a cobbled backstreet, and on the way to it you walk past half a dozen unchained pushbikes, and a tea room, and the front windows are bowed and leaded. It's not really in the central part of town, and it looks like a tiny place from the outside.

Then there's a sort of magic as you walk through the shop, because there are a load of secret staircases and passages. Though the bookshop feels quite compact, it actually covers a lot of ground – and the back door goes out into an industrial estate under a motorway flyover.

Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.
Yes! There are lots of secret doors and revolving shelves. If you come in through the back door, in the industrial estate, you go up a set of steps, past something that you're not sure whether is a scale model of an brutalist shopping centre, or a piece of junk somebody left there by accident. The stairs turn around and back on themselves, and you come out on a little wooden landing, with two doors. Should you take the left door, or the right?

Well the truth is, it actually doesn't matter. One day, the left door might bring you out in the reading room – a large oaky room, with comfortable chairs, and a huge desk. On another day, the left door might bring you out into the cat petting part of the bookshop (Jessica - this is such a great idea. This bookshop needs to happen!) – a small, light room, with lots of cushions, and dark corners where cats can sleep. The secret passages in the Accidental Bookshop rearrange themselves all the time. That's part of what makes it such a wonderful place.

The other thing is that some of the books trigger other sets of secret shelves. So if you pull a certain book out – London Pleasure Gardens of the 18th Century, maybe, or Animal Farm – the first shelf disappears, and in its place appears another. So if you don't like the book you've chosen, you end up putting it back on another shelf, and finding something altogether different, and new.

It's a wonder for anybody who doesn't know what they're looking for, and a nightmare for anybody who loves order and alphabetisation.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
One thing that is special about the 'Accidental Bookshop' is that it doesn't have any real classification system. The reason for this is that it's fun to stumble upon something you didn't know you would like. So, instead of keeping all the fiction and non-fiction seperate, or having a seperate 'women's fiction' or 'fiction in translation' shelves, everything's all jumbled up together.

You might come in thinking you're looking for a book about the Vietnam war, and end up picking up a second-hand version of one of your childhood favourites, instead. It's not what you think you came in for, but you love it just the same. The bookshop is a wonder of discovery and accident.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
I would have lots of fiction in translation, lots of children's fiction, and lots of story-books for adults. There would be a lot of graphic novels, and little self-made biographies and picture books. The obscure and the artistic would be encouraged.

What wouldn't be sold in the Accidental Bookshop? Business books, and political biography. I wouldn't sell the kind of books that allow politicians to rewrite their own history, and represent themselves as important, or justified, figures. Instead, I'd have a large section of historical and political books written by people whose voices aren't often heard – groups involved in grass-roots struggle. Workplace organisers, anti-globalisation activists, and the like.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
The display table would be a bit of a shambles. The cats keep getting up on there, and knocking things over. It's probably best to draw a discreet veil over the display table, to be honest. It's got paw prints all over it.

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?
I'd like to get Harvey Pekar in to do a graphic novel writing workshop. He can come in and tell all the visitors a story, and they can all have a go at drawing it. Afterwards, the results get pinned up on a bunting line in the study.

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel, Brick Mother and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
I'd say that it engages your emotions in a realistic, and non-dramatic way, in a tale about institutions, and life, and loss. I'd say that it'll draw you in and make you think about things you've never considered. It's a serious book, but also a book that's very human, and touching.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
I love all types of cake so I found this question very difficult. It's generally true that people will go anywhere for cake, me especially. The trouble would be in me not eating the cake before everybody arrives...

I'd probably serve a dairy-free cherry chocolate cake, with lots of pink icing – and a cherry on the top!

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Picture taken by Ricky Adam
Bio: SJ Bradley is a writer from Leeds, UK, whose short fiction has appeared in various publications. In 2013 she was shortlisted for the Willesden Herald Short Story Prize and her novel, Brick Mother, is out now on Dead Ink Books. She is the curator and organiser of the non-profit literary social Fictions of Every Kind, which aims to give support and encouragement to anyone engaged in the lonely act of writing. Her blog is at www.sjbradleybooks.blogspot.com

Brick Mother is available from your favourite bookshop.

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