Emily Gale chats about time-slip novels, half-eaten kumquats and swooning over Morris Gleitzman.
Why do you work in books?
Books keep me sane (ish), but I have to remind myself that I fell into children’s books by chance. My first job as an editorial assistant was just one of many I applied for after uni, and 15 years down the line, it seems outlandish that I could have ended up doing something different. I’ve worked as an editor, a writer, a reader for a literary agent, and 2012 was my first year as a bookseller. It feels like the missing piece, and Readings has been a place of worship since I left my hometown (London) five years ago.
What’s the best book you’ve read lately and why?
As a child I loved time-slip novels and Penelope Farmer’s Charlotte Sometimes was my favourite, so over Christmas I decided to try Playing Beatie Bow, which sounded like the Australian equivalent. I wasn’t disappointed. The atmosphere in Ruth Park’s novel is superb. I loved how the rather arch narrative voice (by our standards anyway) is balanced by the very real fallibility of the main character. It’s a clever book, rich in historical detail but never bogged down by it.
What’s the strangest experience you’ve had in a bookshop?
I haven’t been at Readings long enough to earn a string of stories, but one thing I’ve noticed is how rubbish I am at playing it cool when famous folk drop in to buy books. I swooned over Morris Gleitzman, felt like a shy hobbit next to Clare Bowditch and squealed, ‘You’re awesome!’ at Deborah Mailman while she was browsing picture books. The other day I found a half-eaten kumquat on a shelf – see, I told you I haven’t been here long enough to have any good stories.
What’s the best experience you’ve had in a bookshop?
Everyone said I would find my first Christmas working at Readings exhausting – and they were right – but it was also the most exhilarating time with a great sense of camaraderie. I loved it.
Name a book that has changed the way you think – in ways small or large.
Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty is the book that made me want to write YA, when I’d never considered that before. I read novels all the time that make me want to change the way I live my life, but usually I lapse back into my old ways within hours – so Feeling Sorry for Celia feels special because it had a defined and lasting effect.