Archive August 2011

Brendon Books in Taunton, travelling editor, Water for Elephants

Brendon Books & Maps

Lionel Ward at Brendon Books in Somerset was kind enough to invite me for the next stop on the travelling editor roadshow. I’d never been to Taunton before but it looked both charming and pretty and not at all in Devon as I’d first thought.

Taunton Castle, travelling editor, Water for ElephantsTaunton Castle, travelling editor, Water for Elephants

Taunton Castle - haunt of Judge Jeffreys

Time for a quick recce before the book group began so off I went down old narrow windy streets, (not) past a sweetie shop, (not) past a clothes shop (damage done in last two) and the Castle. The Castle was famous/infamous for the Bloody Assizes in 1685 with ‘Hanging’ Judge Jeffreys presiding and dispatching in a 17th century version of Britain’s Got Traitors. I was famous/infamous in my history class for finding him the most attractive man in the National Portrait Gallery – look, I was ten, what did I know?

Brendon Books is in a pretty location in an historic narrow street called Bath Place. The book group met over the shop and pizza. Perhaps Water For Elephants wasn’t a choice the group would have made had I not been visiting but they graciously went at it with a will, had all read it and gave it solid ratings.

Astute and original questions followed about why start Two Roads, the business of the business and how publishing works, the latter being something most of us in it find hard to explain. The group’s next choice was voted on most democratically – a South American novel (thought Tristram Shandy would ace it myself). This group was less concerned with new releases and the book club ‘hotlist’ than exploring already-published titles. I’m constantly surprised or reminded (can’t decide which) by how different people’s tastes are and how dangerous it is to say ‘oh this is a book group book’ or ‘reading groups will love this’… it’s like saying ‘people who like meat/have brown hair /are 25 will like this…’ Interesting evening.

Taunton, travelling editor, Water for Elephants

Taunton streets - excellent baskets

Lionel’s wife, Jo, runs their lovely B&B at the Old Rectory, where I stayed that night. We sat up till late over wine and cheese discussing publishing, literary festivals, the education system, rubbish TV, local tourism and cosy crime (the last two are not connected). Slept like a log.

Like many good independent booksellers, Brendon Books is an important part of the local community is looking for ways to keep the business growing. The inaugural Taunton Literary Festival – slogan ’40 events over 11 days ‘ takes place from 15-25 September, they have really good writers coming and clearly a lot of work has

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gone into it – I wish them luck and hope it does well, it’d be good if it became a regular event.

Next stop the Atkinson-Pryce bookshop in Biggar and the Edinburgh Festival.

Gerrards Cross, Travelling Editor, Water for ElephantsThe travelling editor (aka me) has been hitting the road again, or rather the trains. The idea behind the travelling editor was to get out and meet as many readers as possible. So I have offered (and am still offering) to visit ANY book group properly organised through a local bookshop. The ones I am visiting over the summer are all reading Water for Elephants which is a terrific starting point for discussion. Afterwards, the conversation tends to wander through such topics as: Two Roads/publishing in general/favourite and unfavourite books/books to film and the surprise highways and byways of book group chat.

Chorleywood Bookshop, Travelling Editor, Water for Elephants

Sheryl and Morag at the Chorleywood Bookshop

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been to Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire for the Gerrards Cross and the Chorleywood Bookshops respectively. Good to talk about Water for Elephants and what I’m trying to do with Two Roads (always good to get that straight in my own head!) and distribute some spread-the-word books and proofs. I’d like to thank the owners of both these terrific independent bookshops, Morag and Sheryl for their hospitality, the lifts to and fro the station and Janet, the manager of Gerrards Cross, for setting up the great library event. Both events were really well attended and well organised with some interesting points and points of view!

I’ve never belonged to a book group before (can’t imagine why no one asked me) but since starting Two Roads, I’ve been to many and even started a group here at Hodder. Easy to think we sit around all day in publishing having the equivalent of book group discussions but sadly not. Loving it.

I’ll be back for the

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Chorleywood Literature Festival in November and I’m really looking forward to that. There’s a terrific line up.

Next stop Taunton…Brendon Books.



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