Thursday, August 15, 2013

Behind the Bookshelf: Interview with a bookseller, Kelly Justice

Photo by Scott Elmquist
We're hanging out in one of my favorite cities again this week. Meet Kelly Justice, owner of Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia. Yep, that's right. This badass lady owns a bookstore! Raise your hand if that's ever been your dream.

Kelly bought this Richmond institution (it's been around since 1978) in 2008 but began the process of turning the bookstore into a community destination in 2000. Lucky for you, if you can't make it down to Richmond, you can visit the Fountain Bookstore's online home.

What are you currently reading? Thoughts on it?

Right now I'm reading Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him. Many years ago I was half owner of a comedy booking agency and the number of my comics that looked to Pryor for inspiration was astonishing.  His life parallels the racial struggles of the nation at the time and his interactions with friends and acquaintances are like viewing a snapshot of an entire generation of entertainers.  It is an ultimately sad book, too.

What books are you most looking forward to this year?

I can't WAIT to sell Want Not by Jonathan Miles.  It's a tough book that won't be for everyone, but, man, is it a mammoth success for the type of reader that is not afraid of a bold message.  Also, The Disaster Artist.  It is revolting, hilarious, wildly improbable, and inspirational.

Did you set any reading goals for 2013? If so, what are they?

Not really.  I'm pretty satisfied with my reading attitudes and habits.  I should probably read more poetry.  And business books.

What three characters would you invite to the bar for a drink?

Hmmmm...a lot of authors come to mind, but I do that pretty regularly.  Let's see....let's have a dangerous evening, shall we?

1. Hannibal Lecter
2. Dorian Gray
3. Tom Ripley

Just to see who survives the night.  Villains are always more interesting than heroes.  Of course, I might not live very long with these three as bar companions, but all of them enjoy interesting conversation and company.

If you could convince any two authors to write a book together, who would it be? Why? 

I'd like to see China Mieville write a picture book with Adam Rex.  Wouldn't that be wild?

What's the most annoying book you see flying off the shelves? 

Any political "hate book" from either side.  Just watch TV, it's easier.

If you could give people one piece of advice to prep them for entering a bookstore, what would it be?

Any bookstore, or mine?  OK.  Two answers:

1. Any bookstore: The person behind that counter/shelving that book/cleaning that cat box is a human being with feelings.  So is everyone in service.  It takes less effort to keep your mouth shut than to say something mean and unnecessary.  "No thanks, I'll just get it on Amazon." is on the top of this list of crappy, unnecessary things to say.  I don't come into your house and explain how I'm going to take food out of your child's mouth, do I?

2. My bookstore: Open your eyes! Don't just look at the size of the shop and say, "They don't have anything." (See 1.)  People who give us a shot realize that it's a browser's paradise of colorfully showcased books that are carefully selected to satisfy and delight!  The store says "I love you! I picked these out just for you!"

What's your catnip, that familiar plotline or genre you can't help but pick up and devour? 

Here's a sample from the teaser copy of the upcoming Parasite, which I loved, by the way.  Just got a star in Publishers Weekly, too. 

This is my crack:

"A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.
We owe our good health to a humble parasite - a genetically engineered tapeworm ..."

Hit me.


  1. Anonymous8:42 AM

    loved your answers on "Shelf Awareness" (same as above) If only it came true

  2. I love Kelly and Fountain Bookstore. I just wish I lived closer. Her author evebta are definitely worth the drive from Roanoke. Stepping into her store makes you feel at home and validated as a reader. Even buying from her via Twitter is a treat. So glad to see her highlighted here.

    1. That's such a wonderful sentiment. Bookstores like that are definitely work a trip to Richmond :-)