Today we are speaking with Jack Scott, manager of the Expat Bookshop and publishing guide for Summertime Publishing and Springtime Books. The Bookshop is an online shop operated out of England where Jack lives.
MicAndPen: Thank you for joining us, Jack. I’m guessing that you need to be an expat to run this bookshop. Can you give us a brief synopsis of your experience?
Jack: I’m a former expat – a repat you could say. Back in 2008, I flogged off the family silver, jumped ship and waded ashore to Turkey with my husband, Liam. Our plan was to put our feet up and watch the pansies grow, but so many extraordinary things happened around us, I just had to write them down.
We’d wake up each morning thinking: blimey, what next? What started as a comical email narrative to the folks back home, morphed into a blog I called Perking the Pansies. For some inexplicable reason, the blog struck a chord and raced up the charts, even getting a mention in the Turkish national press. Someone suggested there might be a book in it. As it turned out, there was. Two, in fact. The rest, as they say…
MicAndPen: You are the first bookshop manager we’ve interviewed here. How did the Expat Bookshop start and how did you come to manage it? Also, we’d like to hear about Summertime Publishing and Springtime Books.
Jack: Summertime Publishing was founded in 1997 by Jo Parfitt, something of a force of nature in the writing world. Jo is a well-respected author, writing guru and serial expat who started Summertime to publish her best-known book, A Career in Your Suitcase, now in its fourth edition. Since then, Summertime and its sister imprint, Springtime Books, have published almost 200 books by a range of talented writers who have something fresh to say about the expat experience. These days Summertime specialises in third culture kids and issues affecting the global family; Springtime publishes titles in other genres such as memoir and travel. We pride ourselves in our ‘by your side from inspiration to publication’ approach and publish less than 10 books a year to maintain the personal touch.
Jo went on to found the Expat Bookshop as the only online portal to showcase books by, for and about expats everywhere. In 2015, Jo invited me to join the team as Business Manager. I now manage the bookshop as well as all the technical aspects of the publishing process from production to sales.
MicAndPen: I have noticed that there are mostly non-fiction books in the bookshop. The few fiction books are for elementary children. Leoshine, Princess Oracle is aimed at teen and adult readers. Can you think of any other fiction books you have come across that help TCKs understand themselves and the world through fiction?
Jack: Most expat books we see – whether for adults or children – are about getting there, getting settled and coping with the shock; written by people who bought the T-shirt. It’s about sharing and learning and that’s important.
Our most recent book – Raising Global Teens by Dr Anisha Abraham: a handbook for parenting in the 21 st century – has a unique expat twist and is receiving lots of attention and rave reviews. We also recently published a gorgeous illustrated children’s book by Swedish teacher, Heidi Olsson, called Hannah and the Flying Carpet. The author wanted to help refugee children in her class adjust to their new life: a laudable aim and a subject often neglected by publishers.
But you’re right. There’s definitely a gap in the market for expat-themed fiction. I don’t know why but we simply don’t get fiction writers coming to us. If they did, we certainly would consider publishing them.
MicAndPen: There are studies about fiction helping us with our sorrows and gifts. How do you think reading about cultures and upheaval might help a Third Culture Kid process their unique experience?
Jack: Throughout human history, words of fiction have provided answers to age-old questions big and small. Fables, parables, myths, folklore or tall tales – passed down, written down and repurposed – nothing grips the imagination quite like a cracking story told well that can resonate with the reader and light the way.
Finding ourselves on the page can help us look at life differently, help us see solutions. This is as true for an expat and third culture kid as it is for anyone.
MicandPen: What books do you enjoy reading?
Jack: As a child of the media age, I tend to take my fiction visually. Most of the books I read are non-fiction – memoir, history, social commentary or politics – and then usually around a pool. That’s when I have the time.
So I asked my husband, Liam, who is much better-read than me. This is what he had to say:
“For me, fiction’s all about the escapism. As a child I got lost in everything from Enid Blyton to HG Wells and it was in the branches of ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ or meeting the Eloi and Morlocks in ‘The Time Machine’ that I first discovered the excitement (and dangers) of travel; I also learnt about
But there’s more to it than that. Fiction taught me about emotion, that bad things happen, good things happen and surprises happen. That life is imperfect but it’s exciting. When it comes to expat fiction, I guess it depends how you define it.
There are some wonderful books set in a ‘foreign’ setting. Sebastian Faulks’ gripping novel ‘Birdsong’ features an Englishman who moves to France before the outbreak of the First World War. ‘A Woman of Bangkok’ by Jack Reynolds is a thrilling and atmospheric classic set in Thailand. There are so many. What matters most is the story.
Sure, the setting can add something – sometimes it becomes a character in its own right – but nothing beats a good story.”
MicAndPen: Couldn’t have said it better. “Nothing beats a good story.” Thank you Jack and Liam for giving us your insights into the reading world! We wish you and the Expat Bookshop all the best for 2021.