What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Haven Books. I would have liked to call one of my children Haven, but my wife wasn’t having it.
Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
Within 5 minutes walk of wherever I am living. And yet always with bird song outside the windows. Except at night. That would be weird.
Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.
Homemade cakes, very gentle jazz (and I mean 1930s to 1950s, Billie Holiday style jazz) in the background. I would love a stage for musicians, singers and readers to entertain guests of the shop. We would also have a small cinema with a fabulous sound system and relaxing seats, where we would show films that had some link, however tenuous, to books. And let’s not forget a wine cellar.
What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
The coffee would be Italian-made and perfect. The cakes home made and fresh daily. The books would include secondhand books and brand new alongside each other on the shelves. I would also like to run a monthly Shakespeare workshop where people could come to get used to Shakespearian English. I remember it being like learning a new language. But once it clicked, it was like the sunrise in the middle of the night, and I couldn’t believe how brilliant Shakespeare was.
What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
Religious texts might get elbowed. Otherwise, I would have a broad range. Lots of fiction, but also travel, business (primarily for my wife) and other non-fiction. I might not spend a huge amount of time there, but I respect those who might want to. I’d like a section of film books, memoirs and autobiographies too. And cookery books. Love those.
Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
I think it would be fun to have other writers select their all time favourite books and put those out. So more of a curated selection that changes weekly. Certainly, Haven Books would not expect publishers to pay for 3 for 2 promotions to get onto the tables.
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?
John Keats, perhaps. I love his poetry and he always looks so pale and thin. In dire need of some good cake and some looking after.
A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel, Despite The Falling Snow and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
Since I wrote and directed the film, I became good at pitching (in an awkward, British, artistic way). So I would tell them that in Cold War Moscow, a young woman spy falls in love with the man she is spying on. Even as she starts to change her mind about betraying him, the net starts to close. If they don’t want to read it after that, I would suggest the religious texts as an antidote to Soviet spies.
What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
There can be no limits to cake. Fresh scones are a must, but that would be between 2 and 4pm so they can be eaten right out of the oven. Carrot cake, lemon cake and my famous chocolate fudge cake would also be daily offerings. Salted caramel sauce can be kept handy to pour over anything that people would like, from cake to ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’.
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You can buy Despite the Falling Snow here.