What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Something simple and straightforward. Probably 'The Bookshop'; why make it more complex than that?
Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
With my social hat on, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, which is where I grew up. It's an old textile mill town left behind in the 21st century and becoming increasingly insular and poor. Books were what opened up a wider world for me when I was a child in that environment. I want every child to have that chance.
With a romantic hat on, it would be a destination shop on its own island off Scotland. A Lindisfarne of books.
But most practically, the best place would be in Worcester, where I live. It's a gorgeous old town without an independent bookshop, but with plenty of spare retail space, a population that cares about education and culture, and a literary festival every June.
Would your bookshop have any special features?
Coffee during the day; cocktails at night; a small performing stage. There's an incredible bookshop in Trieste, where James Joyce used to write, that is in equal parts coffee shop for writers and bookseller. I'd love to recreate that space where I live.
What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
The emphasis on enjoying the world of books in situ as well as just being a place to buy. See coffee and cocktails above. I'd also have creative writing workshops in the shop at quiet times of day - bringing the creators of books into the selling environment, providing teaching opportunities for local writers, and building an active literary community around the shop.
What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
I wouldn't ditch a section, but I'd ditch books that are clichés. No celebrity bios, no books that are the continuation of last year's trends, no books on Hygge. Maybe I'm just showing my prejudices here, and this makes me sound like a snob. But each of us only has so much time in our lives to read, and I want everything I read to bring something new to my experience, not just to be a comfort blanket of the same thing over and over again.
Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
The five books most enjoyed by the staff in the last month - with a couple of paragraphs on why. I'd want a mix between well-publicised books, and those that have had no publicity at all. The latter are the ones it's hardest to find out about - that's where a bookseller can really help. Also a display of independent press books. There are some hugely exciting books coming out of these presses that deserve much wider audiences.
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?
Hemingway and Fitzgerald - the hunter and fisher vs the epitome of the Jazz Age. It would be a debate on whose style was a more true representation of life and why readers should read them. In reality Hemingway's style won in 20th century writing - most writers now aim for simple words, clarity, etc. But what if Fitzgerald had won; we'd be in an entirely different literary world. I'd love to see them battle it out. In costume.
A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
It shows you what depression is like from the inside out, what it is like to be in a different state of mind, what the effect of that is on relationships, on decisions, on the direction your life takes. It's also beautiful, and claustrophobic, and disconcerting. And it was long listed for the inaugural Republic of Consciousness Prize for small presses; who can say fairer than that?
What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
I'm really not a cake person. Can I have cheese?
The Storyteller is now available from your favourite bookshop.