What would be the name of your Imaginary Bookshop?
Where would it be located?
In a magical forest . . . high on a hill, with a few fairy lights in the trees, a cool breeze, distant sea views beyond the far amber lights of a town . . . in spite of which . . . thriving custom at the bookshop.
Any special features?
Tree houses, hide outs and magical platforms among the treetops (also known as balconies), under the stars. I ’d offer special overnight stays in a fully furnished tree house (luxury and candle light, optional patchwork quilt) with the book of your choice – plus twenty percent off a second book if you can read the first one before morning. Entrepreneurial?
What would make your bookshop different from the others?
The tree houses would be pre-bookable and yet there’d always be one available last minute. And perhaps some beautiful quotes carved in the trees like: ‘Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold’, Zelda Fitzgerald.
What sections would you have? What would you ditch?
I think banning anything would make it less interesting, so I wouldn’t ditch anything. I’d try to have a section on everything under the sun, Humble Insects of the Hebrides . . . The Hermit who Never Went Out . . . Thoughts On Cement . . .
What would be on your display table and why?
This is going to be a mad dog’s breakfast, because there are so many books that have hit me.
My groaning display table would have, under ‘Fiction’, David Copperfield, Jane Eyre (this is a bit like a dinner party) by Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, Perfume by Patrick Suskind, The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Kim by Rudyard Kipling, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.
Under ‘Reference’ there would be: The Book of Decorative Furniture by Edwin Foley, England’s Lost Houses by Giles Worsley, Daily Rituals by Mason Curry. And ‘For Beauty Reasons’: The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden.
For ‘Autobiography and Biography’ we would see: Confessions of Rousseau, The Morville Year by Katherine Swift, West with the Night by Beryl Markham; C. S. Lewis: A Biography by A. N. Wilson, The Coming of the Fairies by Arthur Conan Doyle, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool by Peter Turner, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, Plus an ‘Unforgettable Sub Section’ of If This is A Man, The Truce by Primo Levi, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Last but not least, under ‘Children’s’ I’d place The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss, The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (Small chairs available under table for children’s reading.)
If you could have one author living or dead for an author event who would it be?
Not surprisingly, C.S. Lewis. But this is a close call between himself and The Brontes Reunited For One Night Only.
What sort of event would it be?
C. S. Lewis . . . On the Other Side of the Wardrobe: an event for children in the afternoon, with a reading from towards the end of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, which is the beginning of everything else . . .
‘All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page. Now at least they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has ever read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.’
And in the evening, a talk for the adults in the main tree house, all decorated with moss and twig diorama forests displayed on biscuit tin lids, such as the ones A. N. Wilson says Lewis made as a boy. Could they have been the beginnings of Narnia I would ask him?
A customer asks why they should buy your novel?
May I prescribe a few hours of a little light escapism?
What cake would be served at the launch?
Hot chocolate fudge brownies.
You can buy Martini Henry from your favourite bookshop.