What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
The Bookshop Café – short and to the point.
Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
The Bookshop Café would be in one of the streets off Seven Dials in Covent Garden. I love that part of London. It’s got shops and cafes that aren’t part of high street chains, and sections of the roads still have cobblestones. It’s magical.
Would your bookshop have any special features?
Yes. It would have a beautiful open plan kitchen, where cooks could prepare and serve delicious food and the best tea and coffee and fresh juices. There would be a large section devoted to free second hand books, donated by customers. People could just take them if they wanted. We’d charge for the new books. There would be armchairs as well, and a sofa or two for people to lounge about. It would be modern, but comfortable. I’d encourage people to read and talk to each other, and not use the place as an office where they could get free wifi.
What would make your bookshop different from all the others?
The free books and the wonderful food. Everyone who worked in the bookshop would love both reading and cooking, and be able to talk eloquently about both.
What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
I’d have all the usual ones – cooking, fiction, non-fiction, plus the free book section. I wouldn’t have a children’s section, because around the corner, I would have another bookshop devoted entirely to them.
Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table?
I saw a lovely picture recently of a table of books with blue covers. It was for the people who couldn’t remember the title of the book they wanted to buy, but remembered the colour of the cover. So I might try that, changing the colour of the book covers every couple of days.
If you could run only one author event, who would you have? You can pick a living or a dead writer. What sort of event would they run?
This is an impossible question! I think I’d choose Charles Dickens, because he is the best storyteller. I’d let him do and say whatever he wanted.
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?
I’d say that it’s a bit weird, with a lot of random tips on food and recipes, and a bit funny and sometimes very sad. And that once they got to know my heroine, Anne Morgan, they would like her very much.
What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
Why would anyone have just one cake when they could have two or three? I’d bake a Delia Smith coffee and cardamom cake, a River Café pistachio and lemon cake and Claudia Roden’s fantastic flourless orange and almond cake. Oh, and just one more – Elizabeth David’s flourless chocolate cake. It’s always a winner.
Suellen Dainty grew up in Sydney, where she worked as a journalist and television reporter before moving to England more than two decades ago. She has worked for Sky News as a producer and director for the original series of The Book Show. Her experience running a B&B in Somerset and shadowing Michel Roux Jr at Le Gavroche, for his biography, have heavily inspired her writing of The Housekeeper. The Housekeeper is her second novel, her debut, After Everything was chosen as one of Target’s Emerging Authors in the US (the American equivalent of the Richard and Judy Book Club). She lives in west London.