This week we feature the lovely Alex Dunn! A true entrepreneur, after finding there were few Canadian subscription boxes for book lovers like her Alex set out to create her own. Novel Editions launched in November 2016 and it is already become one of my favourite sources for the best new fiction. Alex opens up about starting the business and life as a serial reader.
HPL: I’m going to start out with an easy question: what are you reading right now?
AD: I’m reading Idaho by Emily Something-or-other, which I will check the name right now because I can’t remember.
HPL: I’m always impressed when people just know the names of all authors. I forget author names about 95% of the time.
AD: It’s Emily Ruskovich!
HPL: Oh wow, that is a beautiful cover though.
AD: It is a beautiful cover. I haven’t actually read enough to give you an opinion. I’m about this far, but that’s what I’m reading.
HPL: So how did you get started with Novel Editions?
AD: I just graduated from university in April and I’ve always wanted to start my own business so I thought, “what can I do that I actually like to do?” And I’ve always loved reading so I thought what can I do with books, and the subscription box thing kind of came to light and I just went with it!
HPL: How do you pick a book each month?
AD: I read a lot. I read a couple books a week and hope by the end of the month something stands out. Once I choose the book then I choose the items and then I choose the theme, it’s always centered around the book. That’s the most important part, you really want a good book.
HPL: Do you ever think “I really want to do some sci-fi or fiction this month”?
AD: Sometimes! I really want to do different things each month. I don’t want people to get bored or to think it’s all the same stuff. I really wanted to go with a psychological thriller for March, so that is what we’ll be doing. Also, for February we are featuring Aboriginal authors from Canada, since I really want to feature Canadian stuff and Canadian authors. Diversity is good and none of the other boxes do that because they’re all in the US or they have mostly US customers. Whereas, we’re only in Canada so I’m able to do that without anyone saying “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
HPL: Do you have a way of reading or a pattern? Some of the people I’ve talked to will alternate
between a big book and then a small book for example. Or a big book and then some poetry.
AD: I try not to read things that are too similar, like if I just read book about someone in high school, I’ll do something totally different next for the next book. I find if you read a lot, a lot of the stories start to seem the same so that’s why it’s hard to find something really new and different every month.
HPL: What is a book that you love but would never put in one of your boxes?
AD: That I love but would never put in my box? Well, we only do new releases but I don’t think that’s what you mean.
HPL: Kind of like a guilty pleasure?
AD: I don’t really feel ashamed of the books that I read. I’m willing to share them! I really loved Wild by Cheryl Strayed, that’s one of my favourites. I loved To Kill a Mockingbird which I know sounds really cliché but I just re-read it and I would recommend that to anybody. I don’t really have any that I love and wouldn’t share.
HPL: That’s very healthy! You did a contest about Gilmore Girls recently. Did you watch the new show where Lorelai does Wild?
AD: Yeah! That was funny, I really enjoyed that actually. It’s a really good book and I really liked it. I feel like I kind of connected to her on a personal level, so I might be a little bit biased but a lot of people like it. Depends on what you’re into but it’s a pretty good memoir. Another good memoir is North of Normal.
HPL: I’ve heard there’s a sequel out for that.
AD: Yes! I’m really excited about it. I just read it because I asked for it during our Secret Santa [hosted by Victoria Stacey] and I still don’t know who sent it to me so I don’t know who to thank but it was super good! I actually talked to the author of that recently because she knew one of the reviewers for our box, so I got to talk to her and it was like a nerd-out with this. I was so excited. That’s the best part of the box by the way, you get to talk to authors and watch your stuff make people happy. That is the best part!
HPL: What are your favourite genres?
AD: I like fiction, just general fiction, memoirs. I know a lot of people really like young adult, I don’t really read young adults.
HPL: Neither do I! Sorry, readers.
AD: I did read a book though that was very good. It’s a young adult book book called The Female of the Species, and it’s about rape culture so it is very intense. If you’re very sensitive to animal abuse I would certainly avoid certain sections. I almost stopped reading the book but it was a very interesting read. It was very well done, I would recommend that too.
HPL: Do you prefer books that have really intense subjects? You’ve mentioned thrillers, memoirs, and now this.
AD: You know what, I like books that make you feel something. I don’t like books that you can read feeling kind of neutral, so whether it’s really positive or really negative I want to feel something. Otherwise why did I read this? I also think it’s good to look at things from other people’s perspective.
HPL: Do you have any favourite Canadian authors?
AD: Cea Sunrise Person, who wrote North of Normal is Canadian and is one of my favourites. Ami McKay, she’s actually the author for the book in our January box. I would like to re-read The Birth House but just the re-reading doesn’t happen very often.
HPL: You don’t re-read?
AD: I do re-read but I don’t re-read as much as I would like to. I’ll re-reread like classics or books that I really, really like. I re-read Anne of Green Gables every year in the summer. But that’s the only one that is consistent. I feel guilty almost re-reading because there’s so many other books! There’s too many books, too little time.