Heritage,  Literary Pursuits

Of Bookshops and Long-Lost Cousins

When I grow up I want to be a writer. More specifically, a novelist. I really do. I know I’ve been saying that for awhile but I’m still working on it.

I haven’t always wanted to be a writer, though. When I was younger my big dream was to own a bookstore. I never had the capital for that, and I can see now that it’s not a very practical dream.

Maybe me becoming a writer isn’t either. But at least it doesn’t require capital.

However, I am, and always have been, a life-long learner and avid reader. As long as there is something new to learn and something interesting to read, I’m happy.

A few weeks ago I shared a stack of books that I was getting ready to read and review. In the process of sharing I discovered that I was related to one of the authors. I had no idea when I requested to review The Secrets of Paper and Ink that author Lindsay Harrel is actually my third cousin!

My Review of The Secrets of Paper and Ink

It was the bookstore setting that first drew me to The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel, and then the story kept me reading. It revolves around 3 women: 2 contemporary and 1 historical.

Sophia (an American) is recovering from traumatic events in her life so she binge-reads to self-medicate. (Yep, that’s probably what I would do under similar circumstances.) She is finally convinced that she needs to get away for awhile to heal, so she decides to spend the summer in Cornwall, England, which is where her favorite author was from.

Ginny (also an American) owns a struggling bookshop in Cornwall. For financial reason she decides to rent out the room above the bookshop, and it turns out that Sophia is the one to rent it. Sophia agrees to help out in the shop in exchange for rent, and the two women become good friends.

During the course of organizing all the old books piled up everywhere Sophia uncovers an old journal written by Emily (the historical character). The story then moves back and forth between the three women, showing how their lives intertwine and parallel.

I enjoyed the unusual setting, the intrigue of the old journal, and the element of romance and faith. Great read!

Interview with Author Lindsay Harrel

I’ve never met Lindsay but when I posted her book cover as my “currently reading” post on Instagram I tagged her. It was fun to make the family connection. I asked if I could do an author interview with her on my blog and she graciously agreed.

Karla: Lindsay, thank you for taking the time to answer questions for me. I look forward to getting to know you.

Lindsay: You too, Karla! It’s so fun to discover our shared ancestry. I love how small the world can sometimes be. 🙂

Lindsay’s great-grandmother is the one on the left. Mine is in the plaid dress.

Karla: Being third cousins means that we have great-great-grandparents in common. Our great-grandmothers were sisters. Your great-grandmother was my Aunt Lue. (Well, great-great-aunt, but we never said it that way.) I remember meeting Aunt Lue a few times years ago. She was always so friendly and sweet, as was my own great-grandmother, Liffa. What’s interesting to me is that they were the second generation from our ancestor Lucinda Bock whose gravestone says “She prayed for her children.” I have no doubt in my mind that those prayers are still trickling down to bless us all these generations later. Have you seen the results of that in your own life?

Lindsay: Most definitely! My grandparents (Lue’s son and his wife) were strong believers and I know prayed for their kids as well. My father (their son) and mother have prayed for me too. I love seeing the faithfulness passed from generation to generation. Obviously, it’s a choice for every person, but growing up in a home where I was loved and taught about Christ made a world of difference for me too.

Sisters: Liffa, Alta, Vella, Lue – circa 1920

Karla: Your book, The Secrets of Paper and Ink, revolves around an old journal and what became of the woman who wrote it. Have you ever found an old journal like that? Or what inspired that storyline?

Lindsay: I wish I had! That would be awesome. However, after my mom passed away, I found some prayer journals she had written, and the evidence of my mom’s faith in the face of trials impacted me greatly. That idea that past generations can affect and inspire those of us in the present resonated with me and I wanted to write about it.

Karla: Have you ever been to Cornwall, England? What made you decide on Cornwall for a setting?

Linsday: I haven’t, but now it’s definitely on my bucket list. Honestly, I watched the PBS show Poldark and fell in love with the scenery. It felt so romantic and like the perfect place to tuck a little bookshop that would become a haven for Sophia (and Ginny too, eventually). 

Karla: I love to visit old bookshops because you never know what you might find. What’s the most interesting bookshop you’ve ever visited? Is Rosebud Books (the bookshop in The Secrets of Paper and Ink) inspired by a real place?

Lindsay: I love them too! I haven’t been to too many small bookshops in small towns, since I live in a large city, but the best bookstore I’ve ever visited was The Strand in New York City. What fun to dig through the piles and piles of books and discover what’s hidden in them. Rosebud Books is loosely based on a small bookstore in Wigtown, Scotland, where you can rent a flat above the bookstore and run the bookstore for the duration of your stay. I modeled the inside of the bookstore off of what I think the perfect bookstore would look and feel like, though.

Karla: Another fun book with a bookshop setting that I read recently is The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay. I understand that you and Katherine will be hosting a Facebook Live Chat this week to talk about your “bookshop” books. How did that come about?

Lindsay: We are! It’s going to be lots of fun, with bookish talk and giveaways. I met Katherine at my very first writer’s conference in 2012, just before her debut novel Dear Mr. Knightley released. Now we publish with the same publisher, and because we both happened to write bookshop-centered novels this year, I approached her about combining our efforts and doing a chat for our readers. I think it’s going to be so much fun! (Here’s the link in case anyone is interested in RSVP-ing: https://www.facebook.com/events/841415749548229/

Karla: I have it marked on my calendar so I’ll “see” you there! Thank you again for sharing with me!

Lindsay: Thanks for having me, Karla!!  


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