“It’s time you took a break and had a coffee,” said Oddbjørg, as she beckoned me to follow her through to “inner sanctum” behind the wonderful multi-lingual emporium of HN Jacobsens Bókahandil.
Affectionately known simply as “the old bookshop”, Jacobsens’ has been going since 1865 and has been in its current premises for more than 100 years. It was founded by Hans Nicolai Jacobsen, a bookbinder. He and his philologist son, Jakob, were strong advocates of Faroese culture and language, the latter having existed in written form for only around 15 years at this point. Among more recent customers is President Bill Clinton.
These days the shop is run by a trust, which was established by the founders to ensure that Jacobsens would always sell books. With Independent Bookshop Week starting on Saturday (June 15) here in the UK, this felt like a very apt reminder of the place that both books and bookshops hold in our culture: booksm, and all the liberal and cultural values they represent, are the antithesis of Farenheit 451 and stand for the bastion of “society” against the advance of an individualistic virtual world.
Set featured image 2Entering the “inner sanctum” was to take a step back to the days of Hans Nicola and Jakob themselves: This 19th century museum of a room was furnished in the traditional style: landscapes by Sámuel Joensen-Mikines, considered the father of modern Faroese art, adorned the wood-panelled walls, as too did a portrait of the founder himself.
A small French window led out to a carefully tended sheltered garden, rich in colours that belied the northerly latitude.
The idea of a signing here had come about after a Faroese friend had posted a Facebook picture of The Episode outside the shop, after the bookshop had ordered it for him. Oddbjørg had pushed the boat out for my modest little event, despite having made it clear they wouldn’t exactly be queuing round the block. But I did sell and sign a few – to Faroese and Americans – and The Episode is now on the shelves at this wonderful emporium. I’m pretty confident I won’t ever have a more northerly stockist!
This was my third signing – one at the Write Festival, at the National Centre for the Written Word, in South Shields, and the other at Waterstones, Darlington, as part of the town’s Writers’ Festival. My next is at the “small but perfectly formed” Waterstones, in Morpeth, on Saturday June 22.
I’m learning to be philosophical about these events: you’re probably working at or near minimum wage at a signing, or at least I am, but you are getting noticed and you’re getting books on the shelf. Indeed, the first print run of The Episode is now all but sold, so my publisher, Sixth Element, and I are exploring both print-and-distribute on demand and litho options.
I’m also finding that, with next week very much in mind, the independents are really great to work with and I’m confident I’ll have more events to announce on that front soon.
The Episode has been getting more publicity, with a double-page spread in Flybe’s magazine, Flight Time, and my first coverage in Cumbria, where much of the book is set, in the wonderful Keswick Reminder.
I’ve an extract in the upcoming issue of Booklaunch and expect to be working with the team there on improving their reach in the North. No-one could ever say that getting a first novel off the ground is light on shoe leather, or on air miles, for that matter.