Monday, September 20, 2010

Getting to Know you....

Hey all so let me introduce my partner in blog crime..well not crime exactly..More like bookseller blog crime.
John (aka johnnie_cakes on twitter) has been a long time bookseller in both chain and indie stores. John and I will be discussing in future blogs some of the issues booksellers face on a daily basis such e books, author signing etiquette and fan bookstore etiquette..(aka don't face that book!!)
In the meantime I thought I would ask John a few questions so that you all could get to know him, and love him like I do..

Tell us a little about yourself

When I was in high school, I started taking honors English classes
because I wanted to be around other kids that loved to read. It
didn't work. I was still the kid who always had his nose in a book. I
read too much for even the "smart" kids. I've spent the last 7 years
of my life working with books, so I finally got to find the other kids
that loved to read. I was born in Delaware, but Houston is home now.
I spent a couple of years selling model trains, did some time in a
fast food restaurant, and worked in several cafes as well.

How did you get into working in bookstores?

I've always wanted to work in a bookstore. For a couple of years I
ran a cafe in an independent bookstore, and after it closed I applied
to work at Borders. I loved the old cafe, but had initially applied
hoping to get to work on the book side of the store. So when I applied
at Borders I was very adamant about being a bookseller. At Borders I
did everything from merchandising, to new hire training, and
eventually was running my own store. Earlier this year I was offered
the amazing chance to work at Murder by the Book. I loved the seven
years I spent at Borders, but working at Murder by the Book has been
like coming home. I feel like I've found bookstore heaven.

Do you have a favorite genre?

It turns out that I do. I've gone through phases where I read nothing
but African-American fiction like Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston,
read nothing but books like Valley of the Dolls and Peyton Place, and
I had a Victorian Sensation fiction phase too. But, the one genre I
keep going back to over and over again is urban fantasy. Over the
last few years, urban fantasy has started to really take over my
library at home.

What are you reading right now? What did you just finish?

I just finished Patti LuPone's new memoir last night, and today I
started Double Cross by Carolyn Crane. I thought Mind Games, the
first book in her series, was fantastic and I'm really excited to see
what she does with the new book.

Listening to?

Lately I've had Florence + The Machine's album on repeat. Their
performance was the only part of the VMAs I could stand watching, and
loved it. I've also been listening to When Everything Breaks Open by
Matt Morris. Matt's album came out in January, and it's been an album
that I keep going back to over and over again.

If you could have a dinner party and invite 5 people living or dead who would they be?

Louise Penny
Daphne Du Maurier
Matt Morris
Tori Amos
Laura Linney

Do you write? do you have a WIP sitting on your desk?

I used to. The last time I really wrote with any kind of consistency
was when I moved to Houston and was trying to find my footing in a new
city. I've kept everything, and always say I'm going to try to write
again. We'll see if that actually happens.

Next week we talk ebooks and the different effect they have on the major chains vs indie stores.


  1. This is really interesting. I 'm really excited to follow this conversation about being booksellers, too. And this interview is fun to read. Victorian Sensation Fiction? I have to ask, what's that?

    Also, "aka don't face that book!" lol.

  2. Thanks's nice to know that you are interested.

  3. Victorian Sensation Fiction is really wonderful. Sometimes it takes a little more work to enjoy because the Victorians could be a little dense in their writing style. Two great examples are Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.

    They were essentially the pulp fiction of the time, dealing with scandalous topics that were controversial to the Victorians. Topics like insanity, murder, bigamy, and adultery often factored into the story. The authors also used plot devices like mistaken identities, misdirected letters and other things of that nature to further the stories. Some of the stories were based on real things ripped from the headlines at the time, and some of the Victorian Sensation novels are considered to be the start of the mystery genre.

  4. How cool! Thanks for this explanation! The Victorians really did have their wild side. I love that.