7 questions for Matthew Sullivan, author of ‘Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore’

Matthew Sullivan

Sara Roth, KREM 2

SPOKANE, Wash. — What is the metaphor behind all of the books in Moses Lake author Matthew Sullivan’s literary mystery Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore?

Sullivan’s novel was the inaugural book for the KREM 2 Book Club. Members read the book before the March 7 meeting, which took place on Facebook Live.

Because Sullivan couldn’t join our live chat, KREM sent him seven questions about his page-turner that captivated the book club.

Note: Matthew Sullivan is an author, as well as a literature, writing and film professor at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake. The KREM 2 Book Club features books by authors with Northwest ties. If you’d like to join the book club, visit the Facebook Page here. The April book will be The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac by Sharma Shields.  

KREM: There were books everywhere in Midnight – the bookstore, library, the dad’s house, even in a coffee shop scene, where someone bumped into a table full of books. Were the books a metaphor and if so what for?

MATTHEW SULLIVAN: In my mind, books are used by characters throughout the story as a way to ward off the various ghosts that haunt them. We all know that books can be an escape, and I wanted to take that to the next level, and think of ways that their escape might reflect a desire to find sanctuary after experiencing something horrific.

KREM: The cut-out messages were very creative. How did you come up with the idea of this puzzle-piece mystery, and were the cut-outs a metaphor for Joey’s fragmented life?

MS: Working for years in bookstores, I came across more than a few books that had been defaced, often with images cut out for nefarious purposes. That was the initial seed. And the cut-outs definitely capture the broken way that I think about Joey—about the way that he, given his history, might communicate with the world. He’s not going to Tweet, you know?

KREM: The ‘BookFrogs” were such a unique subculture. As someone who previously worked in a bookstore, is this a subculture that exists? Did you base the book frogs off people you know?

MS: The idea of calling people BookFrogs is entirely fictional, and I’m somewhat embarrassed to share that in an early draft I was calling them the “Wordslugs.” (Gah!) Side note: The Italian version of the book translates them to the “bookstore-mice”! I love that.

That said, the idea of the BookFrogs is definitely based in reality. Coming back to the idea of books-as-sanctuary, in my experience working in bookstores, as well as being around a lot of libraries (I’m married to a librarian), I’ve spent a lot of time around people who need these “public” institutions as places to go, not only for learning, but sometimes to interact with society or just because they have nowhere else to be. I sometimes see a similar pattern in community colleges.

To read the entire interview, visit the KREM 2 website HERE!

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