In an interview on the Voice website, Kathleen McCleary indicates that Coffee@home, Ellen Flanagan’s coffee-and-home-funishings shop in the novel House & Home, is based on a local independent coffee shop in Virginia. I wondered if “Hole in the Wall Books”, a setting in the novel, had roots in a real bookstore. Kathleen offered to write a guest post for She Is Too Fond of Books, sharing how real-life observations and her creative imagination combined to form this inviting bookstore (that I’d love to visit, if only it existed outside the novel!). Read what she has to say about creating this fictional shop:
Several readers have mentioned that one of their favorite scenes in my novel is the scene that takes place in a little independent bookstore in Manning, Oregon, somewhere between Portland and Cannon Beach. While many of the places mentioned in the book are real (the Lazy Susan Restaurant, Paley’s Place, etc.), Hole in the Wall Books is completely a figment of my imagination. But as a lifelong bookstore aficionado, I used many bits and pieces of real bookstores in creating it.
I got the name “Hole in the Wall Books” from a used bookstore right here in Falls Church. I’ve never actually been inside Hole in the Wall, but I love the name. The exterior of the bookstore in my novel looks exactly like an antique store I used to visit in the Adirondacks, in upstate New York. The interior of the store, with comfy chairs for reading and little nooks of books, was taken from my memories of Annie Bloom’s, a lovely independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, where I used to live. My kids and I used to spend hours in Annie Bloom’s sitting on the floor and looking at books.
Another inspiration was Crawford Doyle bookstore on Madison Avenue in New York City, from which I took the old wooden floors, mix of new and used books, and friendly, knowledgeable sales people. Dottie, the bookseller in my novel, is based on my aunt, Dorothy McCleary, who has worked at Crawford Doyle for many years. (I gave Dottie some peculiarly northwest touches, though, like the nickname “Dottie” and wearing clogs!)
The idea of grouping books by place was entirely my own. As someone who has always been profoundly influenced by place – be it my house, the view out my window, my town, or my state – I loved the idea of categorizing authors by geography. The work of many writers is absolutely inseparable from the places those writers loved, in my mind. There are many authors who are so profoundly tied to places that I can’t think of them without their settings: Willa Cather (Nebraska), Isak Dinesen (Africa), James Joyce (Ireland), Mark Twain (Mississippi) – you could go on for forever. More recently, Stephanie Meyer and Washington’s Olympic peninsula seem forever intertwined now that I’ve read Twilight.
I’d love to hear about your favorite bookstores. And, I’d love to hear about the authors you associate strongly with particular places. Maybe they’ll provide fodder for my next novel!