An interview with Gretchen Shuler of Fiction Addiction

What is your favorite area of your bookstore?

Walking into the front door. We are a small store, so when you walk into the store you are enveloped with the new book smell, and it is akin to getting a hug from the books.

What’s the coolest book cover that you like to have facing out on the shelves?

I have two favorite covers that I make sure are facing out: The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh, because of the beautiful colors and intricate designs that tells as much of a story as the book itself, and The Wedding Veil by Kristy Woodson Harvey, because it’s a beautiful bride walking in front of the Biltmore House.

If you had a staff pick for a recent new release, what would it be? Backlist pick?

My favorite new release staff pick right now is The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston. The idea of a ghost writer falling in love with a ghost was an intriguing idea. Then you add in Ashley’s punny antidotes and you have a book that will keep you giggling all the way through.

My favorite backstock pick is The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. It’s a modern twist of a gothic tale that follows three three prep school boys on a quest to find a lost king. It is my go to whenever I need a reading pick me up.

Do you have a strange customer story?

I don’t have a strange customer story, but I do have a very memorable customer experience that happened a few months ago. I had a family (grandmother, mother, and daughter) come to the store on a Saturday afternoon. They were very excited to be at the store. While they were looking around, they told me their story. They were on a book road trip from Alabama. The daughter was an avid reader, and loved in-person author events. However, the pandemic had stopped these events. So the grandmother gave her a road trip to all of the independent bookstores that had signed books of her favorite authors from Alamaba to the Northern Banks, North Carolina. We were the middle point of their journey. It was so much fun to hear about the different stores they had visited, and to see their enthusiasm while exploring the store.

What author have you been starstruck to meet or have gotten to host a fun virtual event?

I am a huge fangirl when it comes to authors. My work shirt says it all, “Professional Fangirl.” The best starstruck moment was meeting Alex London at YALLFest in Charleston, South Carolina. I had read his book Proxy, and I had made him a bookmark as a gift to celebrate his book. I was such a nervous wreck, I could not keep my hands from shaking. He took the time to talk to me and take a picture. It was one of my favorite moments meeting an author.

What are some misconceptions people have about working in a bookstore?

One major misconception I have seen is that people think we have read every book in the store.

What is your least favorite bookstore task? Favorite part about working in a bookstore?

My least favorite task is standing on a foot stool to get items off the high shelves. I am terribly afraid of heights (even the height of a step stool), and it always feels like I am walking on a tightrope. My favorite part of working in the bookstore is setting up the window displays. I love the ability to be creative and come up with new ideas. Some of my favorite window designs were our Black History Month window and Pride month window. I’m currently working on a Banned Books month display.

Can you recommend an underrated read alike book for one of the store’s top titles?

I actually had an encounter with a customer with a similar request a few weeks ago. She had just read Emma Straub’s This Time Tomorrow. She said she really enjoyed it, and wanted something similar but original. I recommend Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi. The books are similar with mystical realism, time travel, and family dynamics.

What is the best dedication or first line of a book that you can remember?

My most favorite dedication was in My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, the dedication reads:
“For everyone who knows there was enough room for Leonard DiCaprio on that door.
And for England. We’re really sorry for what we’re about to do to your history.”

What’s YOUR favorite indie bookstore that you’ve visited besides your own?

Blue Bicycle Books in Charleston, S.C.

Gretchen Shuler is a bookseller at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, S.C.