Hello Jen. Thank you for joining us. Firstly, congratulations on The Bookshop Book becoming the official book for the 2014 Books are my Bag campaign. Can you tell us a little about it and how you developed the idea for the book?
Thank you! Well, I’ve always loved bookshops; they’re magical places full of nostalgia and possibility. They’re places to get lost in, and discover different worlds. I’ve worked in bookselling for the past seven years (since working part-time whilst completing my degree), and I’ve written a couple of books about the weird things that customers say in bookshops (because lots of weird things are said!). However, I also wanted to showcase the other side of the bookselling world: the bizarre but wonderful stories hidden behind the shelves; the history of the bookshop; the idea of the travelling bookshop, and bookshops in remote places… Book touring with Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops led me to places such as Wigtown, a fantastic town with a dozen bookshops on the west coast of Scotland, which led me to discover that there’s an International Organisation of Book Towns – with several Book Towns across Europe and one in Australia in an old gold mining town. There are so many wonderful places out there that I thought needed to be shouted about: such as a bookshop in Africa that also sells cows, and a man in America called Walter Swan who opened up a bookshop that only stocked his book and nothing else… So, I asked my editor if I could write a book about weirdly wonderful bookshops around the world… and he said yes!
Did you visit all of the shops mentioned in The Bookshop Book?
The Bookshop Book looks at over 300 bookshops across six continents, so sadly I didn’t get to visit them all – though I spoke to people who had. I got to most of the bookshops in the UK, Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam (where I lived on a houseboat for a few days). When I was writing the book, I’d get up early and Skype with booksellers in Asia (like Ayuko, who runs a sushi-making class inside a bookshop), and Australia/NZ; then I’d go to work in my own bookshop, before skyping with booksellers in North America in the evening. So, I felt as though I was living in several different time zones – it was a bizarre, but wonderful, time.
If you could time travel, where would you go and why?
Paris in the 1920s – home of the literary salon!
What’s your favourite word?
Onomatopoeia. Skeleton. Circus. (I couldn’t pick!)
Do you have any writing rituals?
I try not to have them, because I think if you’re too rigid about it then you make excuses not to write. However, I like to write in an environment that’s as quiet as possible, though if it’s poetry I’m writing then I like to have music on in the background – normally Dustin O’Halloran.
Out of all the books you’ve read which three have made the most impact on you?
Oh, this is a tough one! Erm… Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll; Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson; His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman.
Where’s your favourite place to write?
At the kitchen table, looking out at the garden.
Which fictional character would you like to meet?
Who would you invite to a fantasy dinner party?
Shakespeare and Marlowe (to get all the gossip on Elizabethan theatre).
Five tips for new writers?
Read. Read. Write. Read. Read.
About Jen: Jen grew up in a small village by the sea in the north-east of England. After studying English Literature at Edinburgh University, she moved to north London to sell books and write stories. She works part-time at an antiquarian bookshop. Jen’s first book, Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, was published in 2012 and was a Sunday Times Bestseller. The sequel, More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, was released in 2013. ‘Weird Things…’ is available in nine languages, and was a finalist in the Goodreads Choice Awards. Her new non-fiction book The Bookshop Book was published in October by Constable/Little, Brown, and is the official book of the 2014 Books Are My Bag campaign. For more information on Jen, visit her website: http://www.jen-campbell.co.uk/ You can also follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/aeroplanegirl Jen is also on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/user/jenvcampbell To find out more about the Books are my Bag campaign, visit: http://www.booksaremybag.com/