Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Taking a Chance On An Indie Bookstore

I went to Virginia last weekend, to visit my mother in her memory-care unit and spend time with my sister, who lives nearby.

Seeing my mother, who doesn't know her grandchildren's names or ages or what day of the week it is, can be very hard. This is a woman who watched Wall Street Week in Review every Friday, traveled to China, read every serious political biography.  I follow my sister's guidance on coping with the visits, which is to surround them with positive experiences: a garden tour, a museum, a walk by the river. 

This time I suggested stopping by a bookstore I'd wanted to find for over a year: One More Page Books, in Falls Church. I met one of the managers at Book Expo America, when I signed paperbacks of my second novel, The Chalice, at the Mystery Writers of America booth, and she seemed nice.

"This is always a risk," I warned my sister on the way to One More Page in her car. Some independent bookstores don't care for historical mysteries and fail to order them. Once I took my tender-hearted young son along when checking out a literary bookstore in Manhattan. When the clerk snootily said "Oh, no," to my question whether they'd ordered my first novel from Simon & Schuster, he cried on the sidewalk later. "They don't like you," he said. I hastily pointed out that it's nothing personal. But I hadn't taken a family member along on one of my expeditions to brick-and-mortar land since that tear-stained day.

It was a cool, cloudy Saturday morning when we slipped inside One More Page. Feeling nervous, I made my way to the fiction shelf, zeroed in on "B," and spotted The Chalice. I sighed with relief. My work was there. I decided to "out" myself and say hello to the manager, not the same person I met at BEA. She couldn't have been friendlier, and we had a lively conversation about historical novels on her sales table, from books by Lyndsay Faye and Leslie Parry to Sophie Perinot and Stephanie Dray. This is a store that happily carries historical fiction. Whew! I hope that when The Tapestry paperback comes out, they will stock it too.

My sister snapped a picture, and we were back in the car, on our way to see our mother. It was still a tough visit. Afterward, we headed for the National Gallery in Washington DC, and I tried to soothe my troubled soul by looking at Rembrandt and Holbein. 

But I'm grateful to One More Page, for starting the day with a feeling of warmth and welcome. It's not only for professional reasons that I support the independent bookstores, a vital force in the health of the publishing industry. It's also because personally, it feels nice to be part of their world.