RT recently announced their list of nominees for the 2011 RT Book Review awards. I’m pleased to announce that Darkness at Dawn was nominated for Best Romantic Suspense! Winners will be announced in the May edition of RT.
Claude Nougat of The Blog recently posted an interview that he had done with me for the release of Darkness at Dawn.
To read the full interview, visit Claude’s blog.
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: ELIZABETH JENNINGS, writer and founder of the best writers conference in Italy
Elizabeth Jennings, a writer with twenty years of experience, has just published Darkness at Dawn with Berkley Sensation (Penguin). When you meet Liz (that’s how her friends call her), you are immediately reminded of Carol Joyce Oates line: “this is a person of surpassing integrity; a man of utmost sincerity; somewhat larger than life”.
But of course, she’s not a man!
She’s very much a woman, a dedicated mother and wife, and a prolific writer (three books a year don’t scare her). She is not only a shoot-from-the-hip suspense author with a poetic streak when she sticks in romance in her novels – like in Darkness at Dawn, so far, one of my favorites! – she is also an amazing conference organizer.
She founded nine years ago, and is personally running, what has become the best writers conference outside the US and UK: the Women’s Writers Festival in Matera, Italy. It claims to be and is in fact the only international writers’ conference in the world, bringing together writers, agents and editors from across Europe and the United States. The next session is scheduled for 29 September-2 October 2011.
Try to be there, it’s bound to be full of interesting people, from agents and editors to published writers and newbies. I know she’s got lots of goodies in store for participants and I’ll let her explain it all in the interview below. And, icing on the cake: Matera, a UNESCO-classified town in Southern Italy, is a great place to visit!
Most recently Elizabeth organized a 4-day session of “brainstorming at the Spa” in a lovely hotel in Matera, with a thermal pool in troglodyte caves. That was a blast! Some twenty writers, both newbies and multi-published, participated along with one literary agent, Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary (link to her site: http://www.bookcentsliteraryagency.com/).
None of the participants is about to forget that experience: rather than focusing on fine points of writing technique (can be very boring!), the group was prodded along by Elizabeth and Christine who never tired of asking pointed questions. We very literally “brainstormed” ideas for stories – digging into what makes a good story, the very basis of literature…
Here I’d like to take you through an interview I was lucky to do with her just a few days ago…
Question: What is your new novel, Darkness at Dawn, about?
Answer: Darkness at Dawn is a romantic suspense, a genre I love writing. It allows such latitude for digging into characters, into their lives, into what has shaped them, into how they grow. The suspense element is often a pressure cooker reducing them to the bedrock of their personalities. My heroes and heroines (that’s the name for the male and female protagonists in Romancelandia) are complex creatures but their bedrock is a sense of honour and loyalty, and they are courageous, not always in ways you’d expect.
Darkness at Dawn is essentially a quest. The heroine, Lucy Merritt, leads a very quiet life immersed in the arcane art of manuscript restoration. It fulfils her on several levels—it requires deep scientific and artistic knowledge, it is painstaking (being narrowly focused on something you excel in and which is difficult and rewarding is one of life’s greatest pleasures). Her job and her life are tailored to fit her psychological need to have a safe and controlled environment because her childhood was anything but.
Her parents were cultural anthropologists who used their profession as a cover for espionage. In truth, they were CIA operators, and very good ones, who were able to go into the world’s hotspots as scholars and gather intel. This was the life of adventure they chose but it wasn’t the life their little daughter would have chosen. Her life was following her parents around to dangerous places where her parents did dangerous things and where a wrong word could blow their cover and endanger their lives. She watched her parents die in a blazing gunfight in the Himalayan Kingdom of Nhala when she was fourteen.
No wonder she prefers the quiet life and no wonder she wants to refuse when the CIA calls her to infiltrate Nhala once more because there is a dangerous threat to the world—a deathly virus which, if unleashed, could cause millions of deaths.
But Lucy is the very definition of a brave person—one who can overcome her fears—and she accepts.
The hero, Mike Shafer, of the Army’s famed 10th Mountain Division doesn’t shy from danger in any way. The 10th forges its men from steel and then makes them harder. No, Mike’s problem is accepting that all his expertise and courage and fighting skills make no difference in the cat and mouse game of international intrigue, where Lucy shines. And by the time his skills do come into play, carrying a grievously wounded Lucy through a snowstorm, he is head over heels in love with the bravest woman he’s ever met.
I love writing about these kind of people—the kind who step up to bat, the kind who don’t shirk their duty, the kind who show bravery in every way there is. And when they fall in love, it isn’t ‘sunshine love’ just as their patriotism isn’t ‘sunshine patriotism’. I fully expect my heroes and heroines to stay in love and with each other to their dying day.
So, dear reader, if love and danger and adventure and just a little hot sex entice you, you might want to give Darkness at Dawn a try!
Q: How long did it take you to write it? What inspired you?
A: Like most romance writers I have (per force) learned to become a fast writer. We have contracts and publishers are not amused when we don’t meet deadlines. Many writers have scarred welts across their backs from publishers’ lashes. (Just kidding. Sort of). So I wrote Darkness at Dawn at my usual pace. Start to finish, rough draft to final, four months.
For some time now I’ve been wanting to write about a girly-girl who likes a real cushy and danger-free existence (which would be moi in a younger, thinner version) who completely confounds expectations and is immensely, incredibly brave when it becomes necessary. And as a foil, I needed an incredibly physically brave man who underestimates her and has to reassess his image of bravery.
Because, dear reader, Lucy does something amazingly courageous. Something very few people would have the courage to do, knowing full well the consequences. Read the novel to find out.
Anyway, I wanted those two elements, I read a fascinating article about bioweapons and by the magical alchemy of a writer’s mind the book was born.
Q: When did you start writing?
A: I started writing in 1991, the year my son was born. The year the Soviet Union collapsed. An epochal year. And the year I turned forty (which had nothing to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union, promise). I turned forty. I was a successful simultaneous interpreter, but the cost of success was high and getting higher. I’d always wanted to write. And so the classic question–if not now–when?
So I did what all US writers do, I turned to the amazing amount of information online. I now, with hindsight, realize how privileged we all are because there is tons of help on tap. Not so for Italian or German or French writers.
I joined the Romance Writers of America, the only large writers organization open to unpublished writers, which is amazing. An unpublished author can access reams of information on how to structure a novel, how to write a query letter, the names of agents and editors…priceless. What is an impossible hurdle in Europe is made available to Americans.
Anyway, I starting writing my first novel in 1991. It sucked. I sent it around to friends who kindly, gently told me it sucked. I joined critique groups who said…you get the idea. I rewrote that book eight times. Eight. I sent it out and sent it out. I wrote book after book and sent them out and sent them out.
In March, 1998, while I was in Brussels working for the EU, someone called me in my hotel room. An editor for Kensington. She loved one of my books and was acquiring for a new romance line. Did I have anything else? Yes, I did. Five more books. And they were published in the space of a year and a half. The first book I wrote was the fifth book I published.
So I guess the moral of the tale is–persevere.
Q: Did you pick a genre first, then wrote a book to fit in, or was it the reverse, I mean: did you write the book you felt like writing, then tried to determine the genre once it was finished?
A: Oh man, this is a toughie because at the same time that I decided I was going to give writing a real try, I was also getting sick of the travel involved in simultaneous interpreting. I worked for the European Parliament which meets in Strasbourg one week, Luxembourg another week, Brussels another week and one week in capitals, depending on the working group. I lived on the road, slept in hotels much much more than I slept in my own bed. I was away two-three weeks a month. And I had a husband and a small child, both of whom I loved.
So in the back of my mind when thinking of writing was also–I need to earn a living.And, well, romance is a commercial genre. So it’s the chicken and the egg. Which came first?
The stories that came to me were romances, mostly. And the romance market was knowable. So that’s where I went.
I note also that you said–the book you felt like writing. I don’t think anyone makes a living as a writer with only one book in them. I very definitely felt like I was wading into a new life, not writing one book. Because if you are of the opinion that you are becoming a writer, as opposed to writing a book, then the genre makes no difference. you’ll knock at the door that opens. and once you walk in–the whole world awaits you.
Q: This is, of course, a novel of romantic suspense. Are you working on something else? A novella? Do you like shorter fiction? What is the advantage (drawback) in your opinion?
A: I love novellas. The novella length (about 30-40,000 words) is a sort of invention of the romance genre. Other genres, such as mysteries and science fiction, have perfected the art of the short story, because their roots are in the genre magazines like Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Analog. The romance novella comes from readers liking the short form, and publishers have discovered that anthologies are a very good way to introduce new authors to readers.
Most romance anthologies have three novellas. The headliner, whose name is in bright lights, is a very popular romance author (Nora Roberts has been in dozens of anthologies) and then come two relatively unknown names and if the unknown writer is lucky, in about ten years’ time she’ll be the headliner for an anthology with two younger writers.
I don’t see any disadvantages, really. A good novella is essentially a full blown novel, with a complete narrative arc and character development, only shorter. Delicious reading on a short trip or at bedtime. Often the anthologies have a theme and it’s fun to watch three gifted writers riff on Christmas, or vampires or those rakes in London during the Regency. So you get three flavors in one book. Win win.
Q: Have you ever considered writing in another genre? And if so, in what genre and why?
A: I wrote a women’s fiction, Homecoming. It would now be called a women’s fiction with romantic elements. And I wrote a murder mystery, Dying for Siena, set in Siena during the Palio. I love writing thrillers (romantic suspense books are thrillers with better sex than the men can write) but I don’t think I’ll be writing any other mysteries, the puzzle element doesn’t fascinate me. I like adventure and strong emotions, not someone puzzling over something in a room.
I’m back to reading my very first love, science fiction, and am seriously contemplating making a switch for a while—science fiction with romantic elements. I love apocalypse stories because they respond to a deep-lying anxiety in me that society is headed off the rails. Maybe writing about the world collapsing with exorcise my fears.
Q: What is your opinion on the sea changes the digital revolution is bringing in the lives of writers? I know you believe it opens up new opportunities that have never existed before, in particular the possibility of self-publishing e-books without incurring the stigma attached to vanity publishing. This adds a whole new dimension to the options an aspiring author may have: going through publishing with a “legacy publisher” is no longer a must. For those already published like you, it opens up the possibility of e-publishing their backlist. Would you consider self-publishing in future?
A: This is a very interesting topic. Contrary to widely-held opinion, it’s not that hard to be published nowadays. Certainly compared to when I started publishing in the late 90s. (God that feels like a generation ago now!). It’s arguably harder to land contracts with the big 6 ‘legacy’ conglomerates, but there is a plethora of epublishers and small presses who are looking for content as long as you are writing a commercial genre.
What’s really exciting about the digital revolution is not HOW you are published (legacy publisher, self publishing) but rather that the digital revolution has solved the age old enormous problem of distribution which was once a huge wall between reader and writer. That wall has come down as clangingly as the Berlin Wall. What’s exciting is that a reader in Buenos Aires can enjoy your steampunk fiction and a reader in Thailand your romance and a reader in South Africa your thriller. That’s big. That’s epochal. That’s revolutionary.
As for me—for complex reasons I don’t own the rights to any of my backlist and won’t until about 2019 by which time either the publishing industry will have established a direct tube in my veins to suck my blood, or the ice caps will have melted taking southern Italy with it, or I won’t be interested in writing anymore because I’ll be so rich I’ll have servants to breathe for me.
Take your pick.
Q: You have established the Women’s Writers Festival in Matera as a must venue on continental Europe for writers and agents. How did you get started?
A: When I was a beginner writer I got an AMAZING amount of help from writers’ conferences in the USA, notably the Romance Writers of America’s national conferences. You cannot believe what it is like to have the entire publishing industry at your fingertips while spending all your time with fellow writers. It is just such an amazing vibe and it sheds such light on this most closed of professions, writing and publishing. I knew nothing like this existed in Europe where publishing was still an industry shrouded in mystery. For all we knew, editors made decisions by consulting the I Ching or their horoscopes.
I am also a translator. I translated a book for the Italian Harlequin, Harlequin Mondadori, and established a telephonic friendship with its editorial director, Maria Paola Romeo. We were chatting and talking about establishing a writer’s retreat in Matera, which is quite beautiful and quite conducive to writing.
The writers’ retreat morphed into a writers’ conference and voilà! The International Women’s Fiction Festival.
Q: How do you ever find the time to both write your novels and organize the Festival? It sounds daunting!
A: Well, some writers write 7-8 books a year (Nora Roberts again). Here’s a link to an interview with Maya Banks, who writes close to a million words a year and earns close to a million dollars a year. It’s mind-boggling:
Now THAT’S a hard worker! It’s also an interesting post because Maya got her start with a digital publisher, Samhain, whose founder worked at Ellora’s Cave. Erotic romance gave digital publishing its first big push.
That’s the long answer. The short answer is—it’s not easy to get everything done. And sometimes I freak when I’m close to a deadline and sometimes I am stressed to the max.
Q: Will you organize another “Brainstorming at the Spa” with writers in future? As you say, it is better and cheaper than therapy, and this first session was a huge success.
A: Absolutely! And look for SEVERAL Brainstorming at the Spa sessions in 2012!
It was, hands down, the single most effective writing-boosting event I’ve ever been to. Amazingly effective in pushing you forward with your story, eliminating false starts and things that don’t work. It’s like pressing ‘fast forward’ on your writing. So check the website of the International Women’s Fiction Festival for the dates. We’re already thinking around April for 2012. Maybe April and November!
Thank you, Liz, for being so forthcoming and giving us all this information about yourself and your exciting writers’ conference. I know people who read us will want to buy your books and get in touch with you!
Since being released in early July, DARKNESS AT DAWN has been receiving amazing reviews! Yesterday, I was informed that The Romance Studio has given Darkness at Dawn a five heart rating!
This is what The Romance Studio had to say:
Terrorists have created a super virus that not only kills the person injected but also turns the body to dust. Lucy is a civilian but only she can get into the Nhala palace to stop the terrorist. Helping her is Captain Mike Shafer of the US Army, posing as her businessman fiancé. Together they face a madman and a race across the country to save several countries as well as Lucy’s life.
Quick pacing and dynamic characters made this a thrilling read. The characters were larger than life and the conflict they faced was terrifying and written is such a way that you couldn’t stop reading. There was nothing outstanding about each character but their lives were just so real that you felt like you really knew them. I really liked how Lucy and Mike recognized and respected each others abilities and personalities. Descriptive scenery made the reader really feel the cold climate and the struggles the ice and snow caused. The plot flowed seamlessly and I wasn’t aware of time passing because I was so involved in the story. This was my first book by Elizabeth Jennings but it certainly won’t be the last. I highly recommend this book to all who like their suspense intense and their romance heart-stopping!
Thanks to the great review, DARKNESS AT DAWN will be up for the 5 Heart Sweetheart Vote beginning 8/8/11. Click here to vote!
The newest book from Elizabeth Jennings, Darkness at Dawn, is now available!
Selected as a Romantic Times Top Pick and winner of the rare Gold Medal award, Darkness at Dawn has received rave reviews since it came out earlier this month.
Elizabeth Jennings’ flair for romantic suspense leaps to a new level with this remarkable, pulse-pouding thriller.
This is an exhilarating romantic suspense in which readers will feel they are at the top of the world.
This is part two on ruminations of what happens if civilization falls. thoughts stemming from just having read the créme de la Crème of Zombie apocalypse literature:
There’s another aspect to be borne in mind beyond mere survival-and that is building up a culture afterwards. I live in Magna Grecia. If I had strong enough binoculars I could see the temple where Pythagorus taught math from my terrace (it’s about 15 miles away).
The very landscape, the very shape of the architecture around here bears witness to the Dark Ages. The local museums are full
of artefacts of life here two thousand years ago under the Pax Romana. And then the empire fell and that level of technology and any aspect of social life beyond mere survival were not to appear here for two thousand years.
The Greeks/Hellenes/Romans who lived here in antiquity had a high degree of technology, a safe and efficient highway system and prosperity due to commerce throughout the Mediterranean.
Excavations show how the cities were laid out along the coast
and along the river plains, open spaces, large streets, open temples. But what I see now is only hilltop villages with stone walls, only recently a good road system. I see the remains of a culture closed in on itself.
It survived, but at a huge cost. Though much of what I NOW see around me is attractive in the sense that there is general prosperity again only of a non-corporate kind (luckily) and a very sustainable culture.
I eat food produced by the farmer and livestock grower and vintner and olive oil producer who consumes those products him/herself and feeds it to their children. Not grown by agribusiness conglomerates whose board members are probably from 6 or 7 countries and whose only idea is to make huge profits, even if they have to poison us.
They don’t care. They eat better than what they produce.
This is a tightly-knit society and it is not unusual to have a trade handed down from father to son or daughter. Which
sounds awful but really isn’t. My butchers are 3rd generation and I swear they know each animal by name and there are no antibiotics in the feed.
Every evening, unless it’s freezing or raining, the main street is crowded until around 10 or eleven with three sometimes four generations, just out for a stroll. On the weekends, it’s amazing, it’s like the streets become salons. My town is, by official Italian statistics, the safest city in Italy, probably because of some of these traits.
I think we’re all agreed that we’re living in an unsustainable way and that the tipping point can come at any minute. A pandemic, a huge natural disaster that wipes out that 10,000 mile supply line for food and parts (and which is insane any way you look at it).
If enough people start thinking about this, there is a slight slight chance that we might rethink things ourselves, start devolving, start becoming more self sufficient, particularly in energy. Energy and food should be local. Networks are resilient. But our system might collapse all at once and send the smart few who have planned into the hills because all hell will break loose.
There’s a great apocalyptic novel called One Second After, one second after an EMP destroys everything run on electricity, civilization stops. And that is when you-know-what will hit the fan and there will be massive deaths and destruction. It will take a lot to survive that.
But over and above hunkering down and surviving, we need to plan for the After. We must save some medical and technical knowledge. We must be prepared to hand the core of our learning down to the next generation and the one after that. We must insure that some space be given to the arts because that is who we are. We are makers and producers but we are also artists and writers and musicians.
Some of our culture must survive. Only the best, because a lot of that is now crap, but some provision for a rudimentary library, for training in the arts, must be made. It takes a long time to learn to be a farmer, a mechanical engineer, a doctor. And it takes a long time to learn to play music, to paint and to write. Because we are
more than beasts of burden.
Honestly? I think keeping civilization alive will be the greatest challenge.
Well, so I’ve been reading a lot of zombie apocalypse books, as one does, and reflecting on what will happen when civilization collapses, as one does.
I live in a part of Italy that has been very poor until very recently and
people here are prepared as a matter of course for disaster. The food supply chain is not ten thousand miles long, but more like ten.
Everyone has at least a couple ofmonths’ worth of food (or at least olive oil and wine and preserves). And as I look around and think about this place through the prism of survivalism, I realize it is perfect. Plenty of water, it’s agricultural and above all it has a people still close to the land. Not like in the Midwest, with agribusiness monocrops but fields planted with everything you need.
Everyonehas a grandfather who still knows how to make olive oil, wine, dried sausages. The diet is Paleo – lots of vegetables, some legumes, a little
And I realize too that this place has already survived a catastrophe-the
fall of the Roman Empire. All the towns are hilltop towns to avoid bandits.
They are essentially fortresses. Families are extended and whole. Not
because they are better here but because poverty forces you to band
together. Divorce has only recently become a phenomenon.
You might hate your uncle Vito but he repairs your car for free and Cousin Emilio is an idiot but always passes on 100 liters of olive oil. And you hate to do it, but you prepare everyone in the extended family’s taxes for free. That kind of thing.
It’s not a modern lifestyle and people are rushing away from it, but if
catastrophe strikes-well, I want to be here. If things broke down people
would simply revert to a more brutal and limited lifestyle but they would
definitely survive. Unless we’re talking about radiation, of course.
Have I mentioned lately how much I love my Kindle? CHEAP READS!! As someone who is a voracious addicted reader, the ease of finding cheap reads to feed my frenzy is amazing. There are tons of books I’m willing to pay top dollar for (and even top Euro for). I actually bought the hard back of Stephen King’s The Dome. I think it weighed more than my head. I bought the hardback of Le Carrè’s latest three. But for someone who reads as much as I do, that way lies disaster.
And voilà, the Kindle! There is, of course, quite a lot of dreck among the self-published cheapo reads and I’ve downloaded my share. The kind of awful, semi-literate unedited crap that on page three you’ve had enough. Note to self: if there is only one review and that is an enthusiastic five stars by a reader who shares the same surname, step away from the keyboard. Lesson learned.
However, the degree of remorse for having bought a crappy at three bucks (the price of an espresso since the dollar’s so cheap) is entirely different from the remorse of having forked over €25.
And boy, I’ve had some entertaining reads! Fun and fast. Joe Konrath, for example. We all read his blog and for his service to humanity and to writers we should be reading his books, too. I’ve read a few–Draculas, Origin, The List (a little bloody for my taste) –come to mind. Enormous entertainment for hours for maybe 4 bucks a pop. Eisler’s shorts–The Lost Coast and Paris is a Bitch–were delightful. Craig Di Louie’s Tooth and Nail and The Infection. How did that guy not get snatched up by legacy publishers? Bella Andrè’s sweet erotic stories.
And you know what the best thing is? Those authors got just as much from me in royalties, earned just as much, as if they’d gone through the meat grinder of New York and I’d had to pay through the nose.
So wade your way through the dreck, it’s worth it. Happy reading!
Spelt is one of the oldest of the legumes or pulses. Neolithic man ate spelt, Bronze Age man ate spelt and it was very common in the Middle Ages. Now it is considered a relict legume–once common, now rarely cultivated. It is tasty and good for you and has not been overbred like wheat has. Sort of like a healthy mongrel dog as opposed to an hysterical and delicate overbreed purebred.
It’s mainly a winter dish, but cooking it now, in the spring, you can make use of spring onions and fresh garlic (the tender purple kind). I won’t give amounts because if you have ever cooked, even once, you won’t need measurements for this kind of dish. Q.B., as the Italians say. Quanto Basta. Enough.
Soak the spelt in water overnight and throw the water away in the morning. Gently sautée lots of fresh spring onions and new garlic in lots of olive oil. When the spring onions are very fresh, they are not hard to digest and you can kiss anyone afterward. So sautée them together with two or three small ripe cherry tomatoes, two sprigs of rosemary and, if you like, a chunk of Speck, a tender, smoked ham.
when the onions are tender, add the spelt and sautée it until it has soaked up the taste of the onions, garlic and speck. Add salt and then water. I use a pressure cooker, which is always clean and fast. You can cook the spelt in a regular pot but you have to keep stirring which is tedious. Surely you have better things to do with your time, like reading a book? Go check your email and read Doonesbury on Slate. Anyway, cover the spelt with twice the amount of water, close the pressure cooker and cook for 20-25 minutes.
When serving, add a drizzle of fresh olive oil and enjoy with some wholewheat bread. Delicious!
I got a really nice review from Night Owl for Darkness at Dawn. Very satisfying. I think Darkness at Dawn might be the best book I’ve written so far:
Title: Darkness at Dawn | Authors: Elizabeth Jennings
Score: 5.00 / 5 – Reviewer Top Pick Review:
This book is A-MAZ-ING. First we have Mike Shafer, an alpha hero that is to die for, he’s scrumptious and tough and an Army Captain. Second we have Lucy Merritt, a survivor, expert in manuscript restoration and quite possibly an off the scales genius. Lucy is such a fun character, she’s always thinking ahead and has chamaeleon abilities. She can blend into many situations almost seemlessly, leaving Mike internally scrambling to catch up with her quick wits. Thankfully Mike is quick on his feet. From Mike and Lucy’s first meeting the sparks begin to fly, and they are quickly thrust into the adventure of a lifetime in the Himalayan Kingdom of Nhala. What Lucy lacks in physical strength Mike more than makes up for, and some of the most interesting scenes involve him carrying her piggyback across wet rooftops one step ahead of the bad guys. I hesitate to say more because I don’t want to spoil the surprises for anyone. I thoroughly enjoyed the escapades in this book, and have it on my read again soon list. Elizabeth Jennings’ books just keep getting better, and this latest installment takes her work up a notch. The story line is inventive and exciting, with poignant scenes that tug on the emotional strings of the reader. Fans will be thrilled with Darkness at Dawn and new readers will find it a thrilling adventure of espionage and romantic suspense.
So, Barnes and Noble along the Waterfront, no more. And I’m told that the Union Square and Westfield Borders are gone now, too.
The Borders at Union Square sort of anchored the square and the Borders at Westfield–well, a shopping center NEEDS a bookstore, right? Wrong, I guess. You can have all the shops selling all the useless stuff, but apparently there’s no need to have books, too.
The Union Square Borders was my very first stop, every time, in San Francisco. We usually arrive late, after what feels like a trip from the Moon, but the very next morning, jet-lagged, I’d head off to the Borders. Walk in the door (or over the threshold because the door was usually open) and just stop and breathe in the atmosphere. then up the escalator with a stupid grin on my face because, well-THERE BE WONDERS. A huge bookstore full of books I hadn’t read! Waiting to be read!
There was this enormous hue and cry when the big box chains edged out the small indie booksellers and yes, in a perfect world, there should be cute little indie booksellers on every corner. Those were the kind of bookstores I was used to in Florence. Small, because of course space is at a premium in Florence. Crowded shelves. Dust. A slight whiff of mold. Two very nice English language bookstores, but small, too. Very definitely tilted toward the intellectual.
I’ll never forget when I moved to Brussels and discovered the huge SH Smith’s on Boulevard Adolphe Max. I walked in and my jaw dropped. A huge space! Enormous! Filled with books! But it didn’t smell of must! I’d head down every lunch hour from Berlaymont, even if it meant only having twenty minutes to browse. But at the end of Adolphe Max in the Jurassic, when I joined the Commission, was an amazingly ugly building (since justifiably torn down) called the Manhattan, where we interpreters often worked and it was five minutes from the WH Smith’s. Heaven. They had everything–thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, romance. It was there that I discovered romance because, well, who knew?
Much as I love indies, they just can’t compete. Couldn’t compete. Because I guess the era of the big box bookstores is over.
Sign on a closing Borders: NO RESTROOMS. TRY AMAZON.