An interview with Ryan Elizabeth Clark of Gibson’s Bookstore

1. What’s your favorite area of your bookstore?

You can most often find me hiding in our brand new Horror section that started as a small display of mine and quickly grew into an entire section between SFF and Mystery. It’s my pride and joy.

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

I’m a sucker for a good cover and there are so many incredible ones! I could give you a huge list of my favorites (Goblin by Josh Malerman, Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix, The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera, The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green), but my current favorite and the one that catches my eye the most often is A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske.

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

I have too many staff picks to count but my most recent favorite is The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston. It’s the spooky romance you didn’t know you needed! A ghost writer for a famous romance author is struggling to make her deadline after a horrendous breakup causes her to lose all hope in true love, until she starts to fall for her editor…except that her editor was just in a car accident and, well, he’s a ghost. This book is my new favorite comfort read. It’s funny and tender and romantic and will surprise you again and again. (And yes, it has a happy ending, don’t worry).

My favorite backlist book right now is Goblin by Josh Malerman. It’s a novel in six novellas, all taking place during the same rainy night in the strange, creepy town of Goblin, MI. I adore this book, and I want to spend all of my time in Goblin. This book is a great place for new Horror fans to start. It’s a quick read, and the stories intertwine in really cool ways. It’s creepy and unsettling and at times genuinely scary, and I love it far too much.

4. Do you have a strange customer story?

My favorite customer story is absolutely the time someone asked me to give them a wake-up call the next morning at 6am so they wouldn’t miss their meeting. I tried in vain to explain that we weren’t a hotel, and giving wake-up calls was not a service we offered, and I offered to help them set their alarm on their phone, but they kept saying no, I had to call them directly. Eventually, after much back and forth they gave up and left. I sure hope they made their meeting.

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

As host of The Laydown Podcast, I’ve been lucky enough to interview most of my favorite authors: Erin Morgenstern, Josh Malerman (twice!), Hank Green, and so so many others. Between that and all of the events we’ve hosted, my childhood self would be fangirling nonstop. I think I was probably the most starstruck with Erin Morgenstern, because both The Night Circus and The Starless Sea have meant so much to me. I had a Night Circus-themed wedding, and years later I got to interview Erin Morgenstern for our bookstore podcast, The Laydown, and be her in-conversation partner for our event! Truly, a bookseller’s dream come true.

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

Very little reading happens during your shift! There are so many other things to do, that you almost never have a chance to sit and read. All of my reading gets done off the clock.

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

My least favorite task is definitely cleaning the bathrooms.

My favorite part about working in a bookstore is handselling! There’s no better feeling than chatting with a customer and finding the absolute perfect book for them, and seeing their face light up as you describe it. Even better is when customers start to come back to you specifically because they’ve enjoyed every book you’ve handsold them and now they’ll read anything you recommend.

8. Can you recommend an underrated readalike book for one of the store’s top titles? (For example: If your store sells a lot of The Song of Achilles, you might recommend Tin Man.)

I love this question. There’s a new book that I’m having so much fun recommending because it appeals to so many different types of readers. If you like Terry Pratchett, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Alice Hoffman, Madeline Miller, The Handmaid’s Tale, and/or The Master and Margarita, you absolutely must read The Splendid City by Karen Heuler. An exiled witch, a talking cat who loves beer, guns, and fish tacos, a treasure hunt, a missing witch, daily parades, regular government-sanctioned kidnappings, and a president of the state of Liberty (formerly Texas) who assures the citizens that everything is fine. It’s incredible and weird and sinister and everyone should read it. I got to chat with Karen Heuler for The Laydown and she was a delight.