This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Mostly Books is like the very best sort of bookshop. You duck through a bottle-green door, and make the fish-with-bells ring above your head. Then you step in, and it smells of paper and ink and something beeswaxy and timeless. It’s the sort of place to find an adventure, or a secret, or something that thrills you right out of your ordinary life.
There’s a slim, smart-looking lady in front of me, and a young girl pops up from behind the counter. You get the impression she may have arrived there through a secret till-hatch. The young girl is wearing shorts and a pair of thick fingerless gloves, and I wonder what place she may have come from, just moments before.
The slim lady is asking about a book for her thirteen year old son, and the girl sweeps her off through an opening to the side, drilling the lady on her son’s literary tastes.
I’m told this is typical of Mostly Books. They don’t just know their books, they know their readers, their buyers, their reader’s parents, their reader’s school teachers, reader’s friends. Then they stock and advise accordingly.
The owners, Mark and Nicki Thornton, opened the shop seven years ago, and as they’re not on the High Street, realised they’d have to take their books to the readers, rather than just rely on passing traffic.
I first speak to Mark on his mobile. ‘So sorry,’ he says. ‘I’m trying to wrestle with a marquee.’
He tells me it’s for the bookshop’s courtyard garden. ‘We’re getting ready for another event, and not everyone can fit in the shop.’
It’s not a small shop, I say. Will there be a lot of guests?
‘I should think so,’ says Mark, and there’s a distinct clang. ‘Can I ring you back?’
I next speak to Mark just before he’s about to whiz off to a local school. ‘We do a lot with schools,’ he tells me. ‘Author signings, celebrating World Book Day, that sort of thing. Fun.’
It does sound fun. Mostly Books are also embracing e-books, and have teamed up with Angry Robot to supply a reader with both the e-copy and the physical book.
‘I didn’t want to ignore the digital revolution,’ he says. ‘I wanted to join in. I think we have to.’
‘Is that a bit risky?’ I ask. ‘Might your customers just go straight on-line in the first place?’
‘No,’ says Mark. ‘They want the actual book, especially children. 80% of our week-day sales are children’s books. The electronic copy just gives a reader flexibility.’
His voice is confident and assured, and he tells me his background is IT. He goes on to explain he’s worked all over the world, from pig farms in Oklahoma, to oil wells in Libya and with pygmies in the Congo.
‘Golly,’ I say, riveted.
‘My wife’s a writer,’ he adds. ‘And technical journalist. Mostly Books was always our dream.’
And what a dream. It seems very obvious now, that people who’ve led such extraordinary lives, should have such an extraordinary bookshop.
I stand in their shop, smelling the beeswax smell, feeling the chatter of stories all around me.
I turn, slowly. I’m surrounded by possibility and invitation: it makes me grin, like a loon. I wonder to which shelf I should turn. With whose adventure I should join in.The Mostly Books Website