Interview with Rayna Nielsen from Blue Cypress Books

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

Our upstairs event space is definitely one of my favorite spots in the shop. One wall of the room has floor to ceiling windows. When the sun is pouring into the space I can sit up there surrounded by books, it is heaven.

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

OK I don’t know if it’s “cool” but I love facing out Convenience Store Woman because it is cute and unassuming but the book is totally different than the cover would suggest.

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

There are so many but if I am picking one new release and one backlist they would be All the Right Reasons by Bethany Mangle and Perfume by Patrick Suskind.

4. Do you have a strange customer story?

There are so many but the one that came to mind first is the gentleman who spent a very long time trying to convince me that all paper should be made from cotton rather than trees (I have no opinion on this matter) and he was sure that if he could just get me on board then he could get other indie bookstores on board and then we could change the world and also could I read his poetry and tell him what I think.

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

I met John Connolly while working BoucherCon a few years ago – we talked about the hadron collider. It was awesome.

I have been hosting a virtual event series since right after the pandemic began which has given me the opportunity to talk with so many amazing authors, too many to list.

Also, one of the most memorable virtual events I hosted was actually one that was postponed. We had an event with Chuck Palahniuk and right at the last minute there were technical difficulties and Chuck couldn’t sign in so we decided to postpone for a later date. The attendees were already in the Zoom waiting and they were amazing, they spent over an hour swapping stories and sharing their memorabilia with each other. It was a really special thing to be a part of and made the event when it did happen a few days later even better.

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

You’ve all heard the one where we just get to read all day, right? We do get to read a lot of books before they hit shelves for the masses but we have to read them after we go home from work just like the rest of you. 

Another thing people don’t think about is the amount of work booksellers take home with them, we are passionate about what we do so not only do we read a lot of books we are also constantly reading trade magazines and flipping through publisher catalogs and watching that show based on a book and reading the article written by that author we know, and researching that meme that’s going around on our downtime to stay on top of what is coming out next and what is hot right now in the world of books.

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

Least favorite task is shelving books in certain (to remain unnamed) sections. 

Favorite part is the scavenger hunt that ensues when a customer says something like “I need a book for my sister who likes horses but mostly only reads self-help books” or “I saw this book, it had crisis in the title, it was a romance” I love finding the right book just based on a few hints.

8. Can you recommend an underrated readalike book for one of the store’s top titles?

We sell A LOT of Circe and if you like  but are looking for something a little easier to get through I would recommend Bull by David Elliot. I loved that one.

Rayna Nielsen is a bookseller at Blue Cypress Books in New Orleans, La.