29 December 2013

Interview with Jen Campbell, author of Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops

Author, Jen Campbell
Jen Campbell is the author of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops and works in an antiquarian bookshop called Ripping Yarns in London.  Jen managed to find time amongst the Christmas rush to answer a few questions for Carpe Librum.

Thanks so much for your time Jen.  Are you ever surprised by the success of your book: Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops?
Absolutely! 'Weird Things...' actually became a series of books by accident. They were initially blog posts, that then went viral, so it still makes me smile when I see 'Weird Things...' sitting at a counter in a bookshop.

When did you fall in love with books?  Did you grow up in a bookish home?
I loved reading when I was a child (I still do, obviously). I remember my dad reading Roald Dahl books to me every night before bed. I spent a lot of time in hospital when I was young, so books were my escape-route. Particular favourites were Ballet Shoes, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Green Smoke, The Indian in the Cupboard, The Doomspell Trilogy. I'd best stop myself, otherwise we'll be here for a while...

Working at Ripping Yarns antiquarian bookshop in London, what are some of the most exciting or memorable books to have passed through your hands?
Oh, so many. My favourites aren't necessarily the really old ones, but books with wonderful inscriptions in the front. Books with histories, and souls.

What would you like the general public to know about antiquarian bookshops? 
Antiquarian bookshops help reunite people with their childhood. We help track down half-remembered stories; books where the customer can only remember the colour of the cover and the name of the main character. It can be a very personal business, and I love it.

What's the most valuable book you have in the store at the moment?
We keep our most expensive books off-site, but we have a particularly interesting set of books from the 1700s, on etiquette.  Wow, I'd love to see those!

Tell us about your love of poetry.
I started writing poetry before I wrote anything else, and I feel a strong connection with it. I think of poems as strange objects in jars. You can capture whatever you like, and everyone who examines it sees something slightly different.

Do you write your poetry on a computer/laptop or by hand in a journal or notebook?
I tend to write poetry on a computer; poetry is about constant editing so I find it an easier to work that way.

What would you tell readers to encourage them to read more poetry?
Don't be scared of it. Don't think of poetry as something you were forced to read at school. There's no right way to read it. There are no wrong answers. Have a go.

Jen is currently reading
Vow by Rebecca Hazelton
What are you reading at the moment?
Right now I'm reading Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, Vow by Rebecca Hazelton, and Awake In the Dream World by Audrey Niffenegger.

What are some of your favourite books/authors?
I love Jeanette Winterson, Ali Smith, Margaret Atwood, Murakami... I adore Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy... and I fell in love with Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. 

Poetry-wise I like Liz Berry, Emily Berry, Melissa-Lee Houghton, Katharine Kilalea... again, I could go on.

I understand you have a non-fiction book coming out in 2014 called The Bookshop Book; can you tell us what it's about?
The Bookshop Book is a history of books and bookselling, a look at interesting bookshops around the world, and thoughts from authors and customers about what bookshops mean to them. 

Authors on board include Audrey Niffenegger, Ian Rankin and Jacqueline Wilson, and I'm looking at bookshops underground, in forests, in houses, on cattle farms... all over. The unusual, historical, beautiful, and simply weird. I'm excited about it.

Are you working on a novel as well? How's that coming along and what can you tell us about it?
The novel is on the back-burner at the moment, as I have a tight deadline for the non-fiction book above. I can say that it's dystopian, and for grown-ups. But that's all I can let slip right now.

Sounds really interesting.  Anything else you'd like to add?
Readers can find me on my Website, on Twitter or on Facebook.

Thanks so much for your time Jen, and best wishes for the release of The Bookshop Book!

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