Today I’m happy to have Jen Campbell on the blog as part of her Blog Tour for The Bookshop Book. It’s available now and Jen has been nice enough to do a mini interview with me. Hurray!
What is the first thing you look for when you go into a (new) bookshop?
Friendly staff, awesome displays, squishy chairs and great staff recommendations.
Whilst writing this book, was there anything you learnt about bookshops and books that surprised you?
I found it amusing how long we’ve been declaring the death of the book – that was something that crept up time and time again when I was researching. Newspapers are full of articles these days about the death of the publishing industry etc – but in the 1400s, when the printing press was invented and it was announced that books would no longer be written by hand, a bookseller in Florence was so outraged that he closed his bookshop in disgust and declared this new technology the death of the book. Ha! Over 500 years later and books are still here, as are bookshops. I think we’re going to be ok. 😉
What propelled you to write a book about bookshops over anything else?
Well, my first book came out in 2012, when I’d been working in bookselling for five years, and it was called ‘Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops’ – a book about all the funny things that have been said to me (there are quite a few!). When the book came out, I got to go on book tour and met all these amazing booksellers in fantastic bookshops (like Wigtown: a bookshop town on the west coast of Scotland by the sea: twelve shops all on one street. One of them is the largest secondhand bookshop in Scotland with a bed in amongst the books. Another is a feminist bookshop run by a lady called Gerrie who not only sells books but is also a humanist celebrant, so she marries people too! Sometimes in the bookshop itself!). So, I was going to all these places, and in turn going off and researching other strange bookshops – travelling bookshops; tiny bookshops; bookshops in the middle of a rainforest. And I thought, ‘Hey, I need to write about this.’
Who was your favourite interviewee from the book and why?
Everyone I talked to had something fantastic to say. I interviewed authors as well as booksellers, and asked them what sort of bookshop they would open if they had the chance. Ian Rankin said he’d open a music bookshop/cafe; Tracy Chevalier said she’d open a bookshop in a train station filled with chocolate; Audrey Niffenegger is actually planning to open an art bookshop in Chicago in real life and Cornelia Funke said she’d open a bookshop in the middle of a forest.
This book has been heavily tied in with the Books Are My Bag campaign. Do you think it’s important for people to take advantage of a physical bookshops over online retailers? Why?
Good bookshops are places to get lost in. They are places to fall in love with books. They present you with books you didn’t know existed – and you browse them in an entirely different way to the way you browse online. It’s all about the experience that they offer. The smell, the touch, the feel of being surrounded by books (and people who love them!); the events they put on, and the people you get to meet. If you want to buy books online, then do – that’s absolutely fine (though if you discover a book in a bookshop it’s only fair to buy it there!). It’s a simple happy, message really: if you love your local bookshop, please don’t take it for granted.
What’s your next project after touring with The Bookshop Book? Will there be a fiction book on the horizon or is non-fiction where your heart lies?
I’m writing a novel at the moment (eek!), and also working on a children’s project. I’m quite excited about both of these things!
Thanks to Jen for answering my questions and to her publishers for organising everything. The Bookshop Book is out now and can be found online and in bookshops