Author of the Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, Matthew Sullivan kindly accepted to have a short interview with me, exploring the world of his book and the stories behind it.
- What inspired you to write Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore?
My main inspiration came from my years working at an indie bookstore in Denver. It was a time of great revelation in my life—books, booksellers, book shoppers!—and I wanted to capture that vibe. There were other influences, as well, such as a series of real murders that happened in my neighborhood when I was growing up: a man with a hammer attacked a family, in the middle of the night, apparently without motive, killing three. The police didn’t have any suspects for 34 years, but this past summer, a DNA match led them to a man who was a prisoner in Nevada. He’s currently on trial. The case haunted me when I was little, so it’s no surprise to me that it made his way into this story.
- Why this particular title?
The title went through a handful of changes. Ultimately, my editor thought it was important to get “books” or “bookstore” into the title, as a way to capture the setting. Made sense to me.
- Who is your favourite character in the novel?
I’m pretty connected to most of them, to be honest, since I spent so much time with them. I feel especially partial to Detective Moberg. He seems to have a deep history and a story to tell. I may revisit him in some future project.
- You tackle the themes of isolation and loneliness in your novel. Why these in specific?
I was really interested in capturing the ripple effects of crime—the way that the victim is not the only victim. And with such a dark crime at its epicenter, I found it appropriate to let it echo outward in ways that seemed emotionally accurate.
- What are the messages you wanted to pass to your readers with your novel?
We are the books that we read.
- What did you learn by writing this novel?
Writing takes persistence.
- What motivated you to become a writer?
I grew up in a really loud and fun household with seven siblings, and we were always telling stories, making things up, entertaining ourselves in creative ways. My mom was a writer, too, I think because it was a way to have some peace and quiet.
- What book do you love but feel it’s underrated?
I just finished reading a brand new memoir called Heavy by Kiese Laymon, about a young man coming of age and finding his place as a son and a thinker and a writer, all placed against the backdrop of being black in contemporary America. It’s original and sad and is packed with gorgeous language. It’s not underrated, but it definitely deserves more attention.
- What is your favourite word and why?
Blueberry. I’m as interested in the sounds of words as I am in their meanings, sometimes more. Apt is another one.
- What’s next for you?
I’m working on a literary mystery novel about a woman who grows up in a small lake town in rural Washington State, where I live. She leaves home as a teenager and on the night that she returns, some years later, she is murdered, and her toddler is discovered at the crime scene. I’m hoping and trying, as always, to balance out the grim crime stuff with a intriguing setting and some colorful personalities.