Monday, 25 January 2016

Leila Segal's Imaginary Bookshop

Today Leila Segal has popped by to be the latest author to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop series. This month sees the publication of her fantastic short story collection, Breathe. Breathe is a collection of short stories all based around Cuba.


Hi Leila, congratulations on the publication of your short story collection, Breathe and thank you for popping over to Writer’s Little Helper and becoming the latest author to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop series.

What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?

‘Before Night Falls’, after the memoir by Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, in which he grasps at every last moment of life.

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
Riding House Street, in London. This was where Olaudah Equiano, a freed slave, lived and in 1789 published his autobiography The Interesting Narrative, which helped lead to the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?

It would showcase photography and writing by women on Voice of Freedom, the anti-slavery project I lead: powerful work by women who have escaped slavery in all corners of the world – including China, Ghana, Albania, Ethiopia and Nigeria.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?

Before Night Falls would specialise in short fiction, poetry and photography. There would also be a large section on exploring and teaching creativity.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?

Books with beautiful covers – particularly Latin American and classic designs. Each month we would feature work by emerging writers and artists from a particular region of the world.

Would your bookshop have any special features?
Visual art, sculpture and photography exhibitions.

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 would invite Cirilo Villaverde – author of Cecilia Valdes, a 19th Century Cuban novel about the love affair between the son of a white slave trader and a mulatta woman. Villaverde was an anti-slavery campaigner; he saw colonial Cuba and the effects of slavery at first hand. I would interview him about his activism and how he distilled his feelings into the novel.

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your short story collection, Breathe and asks you to give them a reason why they should buy it. What would you say?
Because it will take you far away.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching Breathe in your bookshop?

Cuban tres leches cake and turrones (made from ground almonds and honey)


Leila Segal was born in London, of Polish, Lithuanian and Romanian descent. When she was little, she started to write. In 2000 she visited Cuba – as soon as she arrived she knew that she wanted to stay. She lived first in Havana, then the rural far West. Breathe – Stories from Cuba is her debut collection, written during this time. Find out more at

Twitter: @leilasegal

You can order Breathe from your favourite bookshop.

No comments: