Haverfordwest, where the Victoria Bookshop played host to #IndyBookTourCymru2019 on day 28, has a unique place in my family’s life. Though it was an hour’s drive from home, for a period of about three months when I was 8 and my brother 7, my parents drove us to Haverfordwest every Sunday morning after milking so that they could teach us to swim. Though it was well over 30 miles away, it was our nearest swimming pool. It’s not now, I hasten to add; Newcastle Emlyn and Cardigan both had pools by the time I reached my early teens.
Since then, I don’t suppose I’ve been back to Haverfordwest more than a handful of times but it still felt as if I was coming back to somewhere significant. Unlike most of the bookshops I’ve visited this National Crime Reading Month (just in case you’d forgotten…) Victoria Bookshop is quite large and is what, in the old days, might have been called a newsagents and stationers as well as being a bookshop. But it still has a huge children’s section which also has games, bookshelves full of school text books and reference books, a well-stocked local books section, and shelves and shelves of paperback fiction. And, on this particular day, it also had a whole set of shelves by the huge front window full of None So Blind and In Two Minds.
The shop’s bookseller, Bethan, has worked at Victoria Books for sixteen years and both she and Marley Davies, the shop’s owner, know their business inside out. Like all good booksellers they know what sells and when, what books will appeal to which demographic and how to market them. Signed first editions are popular locally which benefits authors as any copies not sold at signing sessions can be stickered as ‘signed by the author’ and sold subsequently. The bookshop also sells books at the Llangwm Literary Festival, reaching further readers.
In between chatting to customers and signing books, I enjoyed very interesting conversations with Bethan (that’s her in the photo below) about my experiences on #IndyBookTourCymru2019, what we’re both reading, my process as a writer (which, as it involves finding out what happens as my characters do, rather than telling them, closely resembles being slightly unhinged…) bookselling and reading, life in west Wales and my love of research and need to rein it in on occasion so I can actually get on with writing my novels.
I chatted to one customer for quite a while about the book he’s currently writing and offered some advice as to how to stop his narrative spinning off into ever more disparate directions. I love talking about the process of writing and rarely get a chance to do it, so when the opportunity presents itself, I’m happy to stand and talk book structure and point of view till the cows come home.
Many, many thanks to Marley and to Bethan for a most enjoyable visit to Victoria Bookshop yesterday and for ensuring that I’ll no longer associate Haverfordwest primarily with its swimming pool!