Catching up

I can’t believe it’s been almost three weeks since my last post!

I do have an excuse, though.  I’ve been busy traveling.  First to Bainbridge Island, then to Texas, then to the Midwest.  I’m home again now, dashing toward an April deadline…

Today I want to talk about Bainbridge Island.  Here’s the view from the ferry last month:

View from ferry

Bainbridge Island is a magical place, a little village on Puget Sound just across from Seattle.  Would you like to know what I was up to there?  I was going to keep it top secret, but I had so much fun that I just have to share.  See if you can guess from this picture that says 1,000 words:

HVF and Sarah and Victoria at Eagle Harbor 1-2013

That’s me on the left.  Sarah’s in the middle, and Victoria’s on the right.  If you guessed “Heather is at a bookstore,” you are correct. But I wasn’t just visiting a bookstore, I was working at a bookstore — UNDERCOVER!

That’s right, I was on a spy mission of sorts…

Being a writer has its perks, one of which is doing cool stuff for research.  Sometimes my job involves travel; sometimes it involves interviewing people, or reading a lot of books on a particular subject (for instance, I read a zillion biographies of Louisa May Alcott as background for THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB).  This time around it involved pretending to be a bookseller for a couple of days.

Fortunately for me, I have a friend on the inside at Eagle Harbor Book Co. in Washington State. Victoria Irwin and I were colleagues many moons ago when we both worked for The Christian Science Monitor, my favorite news organization in the whole world and the place where I got my start as a writer.  And now, all these years later, we’re both still working in words, but life has taken us to new places — Victoria to a bookstore, and me to writing fiction. She didn’t hesitate when I asked if I could come shadow her at work for a few days, and find out what goes on behind the scenes at a bookstore.  She even let me stay with her and her family!  Now that’s true friendship.

Here’s the thing — the novel I’m working on now (working title: ABSOLUTELY TRULY, which may change before it’s published in Summer 2014) is set at a family-run bookstore in a small New Hampshire town.  Being an avid bookworm, I have of course spent many happy hours in bookstores, browsing and buying. And being an author, I have of course spent many happy hours in bookstores, meeting readers and signing books.  But I really had no clue what goes on behind the scenes, and in order for my novel to ring true-to-life, I needed more information.  So over the course of a few days, I “helped out” at Eagle Harbor Book Co.  (I say “helped out” because I don’t know how much help I really was — I mostly asked a lot of questions and got in the way.  But they were really nice to me anyway.)

What a wonderful bookstore!  And what wonderful booksellers! They’re passionate about books, have read everything under the sun, and know everybody on the island.  Or at least it seemed that way.  And they know their customers’ dogs as well, and keep jar of dog treats for them behind the counter.  Yep, dogs are allowed in the bookstore, too. You’ve gotta love a place that lets dogs come in and browse.

If I were going to design a bookstore, it would look like Eagle Harbor Book Co.  It’s light and bright and airy, with beautiful wood floors and big windows and shelves bursting with colorful books.

Main bookstore photo

Plus, there are lots of nooks and crannies where customers can sit and browse…

Front nook

Bookstore armchair

Of course, I got to peek behind the counter:

Counter at Eagle Harbor

And I got to see the secret cupboard where chairs are kept for author visits:

Secret cupboard

And I spent time in the back office, too, which was as comfortingly messy and stuffed with books as my office at home:

Bookstore back office

One of the things I was most fascinated by was the book club section.  There are a LOT of book clubs on Bainbridge Island! (Maybe it’s the rain, or maybe something about island life makes people want to curl up and read?)  Some of the clubs meet at the bookstore …

Book Group Sign

… while other are private. But their monthly reading choices are displayed on several large bookcases, so that other customers can see them and be inspired.  Brilliant, right?  I wrote down tons of titles that I want to read, too.

Book Club reads

Possibly the best part, though, was meeting some of my fans.  I was downstairs in the Used Book Annex when Cara and her daughter (she of the gorgeous Anne-of-Green-Gables hair) caught up with me. Our smiles say it all, don’t they?

HVF with Rene, Fiona, Cara

Rene, one of the bookstore owners, is on the left. She’s a long-time bookseller who knows and loves children’s and YA books, so we bonded over that.

I also met two more fans who came all the way over from Seattle on the ferry to see me!  The three of us had a great time talking about THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB.

Such beautiful and intelligent girls, all of them!

Heather at Eagle Harbor Books 1-28-13

All told, it was an amazing trip.  I can’t thank Eagle Harbor Book Co. enough for letting me hang out with them for a few days! And I can’t wait to immortalize them in my new book.  Stay tuned.



Desperately Seeking Austen

Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, England
Earlier this year, I traveled to England for research.  Following in Jane Austen’s footsteps was pure delight — and fellow Austen fans can read more about my trip here, in a recent article from The Christian Science Monitor.


Jane Austen wrote many of her novels, including the final draft of Pride and Prejudice, at this modest little table —
no computer, no room of her own, just paper, a quill pen, and her lively imagination.  Amazing! 
(By the way, the visitor on the left is not Jane, but awestruck me.)