Behind the Bookshelf: Interview with a bookseller, Steven Darling

Halloween awesomeness

Halloween 2008 :-)

Meet Steven, one of my favorite people. I first met Steven when we were both working part-time at Barnes & Noble and spent many an evening closing down the store and thinking up crazy activities to maintain our sanity. While Steven no longer sells books, he still offers up some sage advice. You won't find him hanging out on social media, but if you're into the local classical music scene, you might see this Fairfax County music teacher playing in one of the local orchestras.

What are you currently reading? Thoughts on it?

Lately, I’ve been reading the Percy Jackson series. I’ve always liked mythology, and I like how Rick Riordan incorporated the ancient myths into the modern world. When I started reading the series, I didn’t realize there were actually two series within the series. The first set was okay, but felt a little young. This second series I like a lot better. It’s just a little bit more grown up, which is silly considering they are young adult books. That said, if you’re going to read them, I recommend reading all of them. The second series references a lot of stuff from the first series, and I like to know the back story. The one I just finished was The Son of Neptune.

What books are you most looking forward to this year?

I’m not usually very informed about books that are soon to be released. I did pre-order Allegiant (Veronica Roth) since it was on sale for my Kindle for pretty cheap not too long ago. I guess that’s one to look forward to.

Did you set any reading goals for 2013? If so, what are they?

I never set reading goals. I tend to go through periods of voracious reading and periods of almost no reading at all. Since this past summer, I’ve been reading a lot. I attribute this to figuring out how to borrow library books on my Kindle from the comfort of my couch.

What three characters would you invite to the bar for a drink?

Hmm. I’m not really sure. A lot of the books I read are young adult books, and I don’t know that it’s appropriate for those characters to drink. Maybe some of the characters from Christopher Moore’s books?

If you could convince any two authors to write a book together, who would it be? Why?

Another tough question. Maybe Christopher Moore and J.K. Rowling? Hogwarts with a sense of humor?

What's the most annoying book you see flying off the shelves?

Not having worked in a bookstore for a while, I’m not sure what’s flying off the shelves. That said, and even though I haven’t read it, I don’t see the fascination with 50 Shades of Grey.

If you could give people one piece of advice to prep them for entering a bookstore, what would it be?

If you’re going in for something specific, know what you’re asking for. I was never good at the questions like, “Well, I want this book… I think it’s about a kid, maybe the cover was red with this weird little clovery thing on the front? Maybe the kid’s name was Charlie? Or Albert?” If you don’t know what you want, at least have a little direction. I remember that people would come in and say, “I like nonfiction. Where is that section?” That’s a really, REALLY broad topic. Finally, to keep the booksellers happy, a friendly attitude goes a long way. Also, remember that they have to put away everything you take out and leave somewhere else.

What’s your catnip, that familiar plotline or genre you can’t help but pick up and devour?

I’m a sucker for end-of-the-world and/or dystopian novels, especially if they’re young adult. They’re easy to read, and usually quick. I love imagining what a changed world looks like. If there’s a map of the new world, even better. I just went to check which series are on my Kindle. Among the more popular things like The Hunger Games and Divergent, I’ve got the Legend series by Marie Lu, Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness, Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne, Maze Runner by James Dashner, Extinction Point by Paul Antony Jones, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, Stung by Bethany Wiggins.