The Fountain

I launched my second novel, Love and Lament, yesterday at Richmond’s Fountain Bookstore, the same place I launched my debut effort two years ago. Or, rather, Fountain did the launching, and I was the lucky beneficiary. In the past two years it has become more and more clear to me what a risky, labor-of-love adventure running an independent bookstore is. And what an act of defiance, against the odds, against trends. Proprietor Kelly Justice and her staff have created a cultural hub, the flowering, literary center of Virginia’s capital. It seems to me that every indie bookstore has its own character: Fountain has a funky, Shockoe Bottom charm, and Kelly is one of the sweetest, coolest booksellers I know. I’ve told her I could easily imagine local writers from times past stopping by on a regular basis. Edgar Allan Poe would’ve lurked outside, finally making up his mind to come in (after arguing brilliantly with himself, and perhaps saucy blogger Rebecca Schinsky going out and hooking her arm in his). Once inside, he’d mainly want to know how his own sales were going, and he’d leave with an armload of books that he could skewer in the pages of the Southern Literary Messenger. Thomas Nelson Page would drop by in some dapper outfit, removing his hat with a gallant bow to the ladies. And Ellen Glasgow would share the latest gossip about the neighbors.
We need these bookstores, because they’re more than quaint giftshops. Books give meaning and shape to our lives; they entertain and educate us like nothing else. And bookshops, with their experts and events and local individuality, create a community of committed book-lovers. It’s wonderfully heartening to know that there has been a recent uptick in indie business.
Inspired by true events, my new novel is an old-fashioned Southern family drama with lots of Sturm und Drang. It’s quite different from my first, a historical crime story, but in both cases, Kelly and Fountain were among the earliest, most vocal champions, and I’ll always be thankful.