Last weekend a message dropped into my FB Author Page inviting me to take part in a “Donated by the Author” community book exchange offered by an independently run coffee shop.
As an indie author, I was instantly intrigued. Well, who can afford to dismiss opportunities to get their book in the hands of a reader?
Over the next day or so I exchanged messages with the owner, took a trip to the local post office and by Monday a copy of Ellen was winging it’s way to join in the exchange programme.
Two things I love are reading and coffee so the thought that these could be combined in a one stop shop was music to my ears!
So, where is this wonderful haven? It’s The Gingerbread Tea House in Widnes, Cheshire, England.
Being of a curious nature I wanted to know more about and also to show my support for this venture.
So, without further ado, allow me to introduce coffee shop owner and aspiring author, Nicola Duty.
Thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions for me, Nicola. So, can you tell me a bit about the history of The Gingerbread Tea House? (I love the name)
N –When my kids were little I always used to love baking with them. One of their favourite things to make were Gingerbread.
When I decided to leave teaching and open my own business, The Gingerbread Tea House seemed fitting for our family business.
I opened the cafe a little over two years ago. Partly because my husband and I were fed up of being unable to find quality food when out and about. I wanted to offer quality food prepared fresh to order, that’s what we do! It’s difficult at times, especially when it’s busy and I have lots of different orders at the same time, but I love it.
What inspired you to offer a book exchange to your customers?
N–I’ve always had a passion for reading myself. I love the way you can escape into another world, how you can engage with the characters and be taken on a journey along with them.
When I was teaching I found that far too many students had no interest in books or reading. The quality of students work suffered as a result. I felt that it was important to do something to help. I had a little space so I decided to use it to start the book exchange.
Do you cater for children’s books as well as adult books?
N–We have books for readers of all ages, including children.
Tell me about the Donated By An Author piece? Do they just go into the “library” to be swapped around?
N–The “Donated by the Author” section of the book exchange is new, but the expectation is that books will be taken away just like any other book. I have asked authors donating books to make a note on the inside cover stating that they donated the book to us and asking the reader to pass the book on once they’ve finished with it. That could mean returning it to the book exchange or passing it on to a friend or relative. The idea is to get people reading and also get the authors noticed. For authors donating books I create a Facebook post including an image of their book and a profile.
(Oops…. I might not have added that commentary inside the copy of Ellen I popped in the post. Sorry!)
You mention in the bio on Facebook that you’re also a writer. What genres do you write?
N–I’m more of an aspiring writer. I used to write plays for the kids in my street when I was growing up. In adulthood I’ve tried my hand a few times, but work and commitments and various distractions I never actually finished anything. I am near the end of a project at now. It needs editing and tidying up, but it’s almost there and I feel quite proud of it.
As for genre, I’d say it’s kind of a mystery. I already have the idea for my next book, but I don’t want to start it until I’ve finished this one.
Have you published anything or do you have a blog to share your work ( As an aside, if you have any short stories or poems you’d like me to share via my blog I’d be happy to lend my support. I’ve done the same for a few folk who are just starting out.)
N–I haven’t published anything to date, but “Chasing Butterflies” should be finished later this year.
Hmm… butterflies…another of my favourite things. Consider me intrigued, Nicola!
Who are your favourite authors? Slightly cruel question, I know.
N–Oh so many! Jane Austin, Patricia Cornwell, Stephen King, I was obsessed with Dean Koontz for a while too.
Which authors are proving to be the most popular in the Gingerbread Tea House?
N-To be honest it’s difficult to tell which authors are most popular. The books normally come and go while I’m busy in the kitchen! John Grisham seems to be fairly popular.
Would you consider running a book club in the café where your customers could meet once a month to talk about a particular book? (Just a thought)
N–I actually tried to start a writers’ group at the cafe, but sadly those interested couldn’t all come at the same time. It may be something that we look at in the future.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of running The Gingerbread Tea House?
N–Most of my customers are regulars and many have become friends. Making people smile and providing good quality food is the most rewarding aspect by far.
Now, for a bit of fun, can you tell me:-
1 your favourite food?
N–A juicy, rare fillet steak with chunky chips, Asparagus, oven baked mushrooms and tomatoes.
2 your favourite holiday destination?
N–I love holidays. I like to try to visit different places. I love Barcelona and Paris, but I also love Portugal.
3 your favourite song or band/artist (if that’s easier)?
N–My favourite song of all time is Creep by Radiohead. It was out when I was in my late teens. As a bit of a misfit it seemed to suit me perfectly.
I also like Oasis, The Arctic Monkeys, Hudson Taylor, Kodeline and Jake Bugg.
Thanks, Nicola. I wish you all the best with this venture and many hours of happy reading!
I’d love to see this community book exchange in coffee shops take off across the country. It’s a quick and easy way to connect readers and the “Donated by the Author” is a great incentive for authors to connect with their readers.
Here’s a sample of the submissions received so far-
Now, I think it’s time to get the kettle on then sit back and chill with a good book, don’t you?
If you want to learn more about The Gingerbread Tea House, check them out on Facebook