An Interview with Maryelizabeth Hart, Co-Owner/Events Coordinator for Mysterious Galaxy Bookstores
MARYELIZABETH HART is the co-owner/publicity and events manager of Mysterious Galaxy. Her non-working hours, when not spent reading or watching movies, are enjoyed with her family, including Mariotte and children Holly and David, on their Flying M Ranch in the desert scrub area of rural Arizona. Their three dogs – and plenty of native wildlife – keep them company there.
The Wardrobe: I noticed the Program for Young Adults at Schools and Libraries on your events page. Can you tell us a little more about the program and how it has been going? What are the goals you have for the program and can you see it expanding outside the areas of San Diego and Los Angeles counties?
Maryelizabeth Hart: We work to connect authors and young readers at events held at schools and libraries, usually with the support of the publishers. We have offered this program for about 15 years. We are proud of the ways in which we have worked to build this aspect of our community, and are hoping to help grow this program. Outreach to young readers is an important component of our ongoing vision – we are committed to growing readers. While our stores are physically in San Diego and the South Bay of Los Angeles, we actively support events and community outreach programs throughout Southern California.
TW: It has been a little while since you opened up the Redondo Beach location. How does the new location compare to the San Diego store? Did you find that there are any differences between the reading habits of the two communities? Are there any plans in the works for new locations–perhaps in Arizona?
MH: While Mysterious Galaxy is one business, the two locations definitely have different “personalities,” perhaps reflecting their respective communities. The San Diego location has a strongly established speculative fiction customer base in particular, and is invested in that community on a – dare we say – galactic scale. Redondo Beach, while still part of the genre community, also has a more diversified customer base, including a strong curated literature readership, reflecting our initial programs in that area. There are no current plans to have any more storefronts, although we do still periodically exhibit at conventions, including Phoenix Comicon and New York Comic Con.
TW: You must get asked for book recommendations daily, what is your go-to YA suggestion for all time?
MH: Because my regular workday is spent dealing with publisher peers rather than readers, I don’t get to make recommendations as often as I’d like. I value the opportunities I get to do so at conventions and in my occasional days staffing in-store. I’m not sure what my all-time go to YA work would be. Perhaps Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle?
TW: Is there anything that just came out, or is about to come out, that you are particularly excited about?
MH: I am very eager to read Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor, due out in early April. This trilogy, which began with Daughter of Smoke & Bone, is amazing and I am excited to see how Laini concludes the tale.
TW: What are some upcoming events you have at both Mysterious Galaxy locations?
MH: Jonathan Maberry, of the Rot & Ruin novels, will be signing in both locations this weekend. More spring events include visits from Melissa de la Cruz, Kathryn Rose, Samantha Shannon, and the Summer Story Crush YA extravaganza, featuring Kiera Cass, author of The One; Kevin Emerson, author of Exile; and Amanda Maciel, author of Tease. We will also be exhibiting at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and WonderCon in Anaheim.
TW: Of all the authors that have come for readings, who have been some of your favorites?
MH: After more than 20 years, I don’t think there’s a diplomatic way for me to answer than, other than the obvious: my husband, and business partner, and excellent writer, Jeffrey J. Mariotte. His best-known work for young adults is his Dark Vengeance quartet.
TW: Are there any trends in the YA genre have you been seeing lately? Are there any you wish would go away or come back?
MH: I think an encouraging trend in YA has been to see more diversity, whether it’s in settings or relationships, beyond the traditional Euro-centric hetro love triangles.
TW: It must be a dream job, to get to come to work and be surrounded by books, and to talk about those books all day long. How did you get started in the business? Is there anything you could do without? What advice would you have for anyone interested in working in a bookstore, or owning one of their own one day?
MH: I love my job, and consider myself very fortunate to have had a career in bookselling for nearly three decades. My first job during college was in a small children’s independent bookseller. I also worked for a chain bookstore for years before opening Mysterious Galaxy with partners Jeff and Terry Gilman. The book boxes certainly seem heavier these days than when I started – but now we offer electronic books via Kobo as well, so that’s an exciting alternative.
I would note that while it certainly can be a dream job, it’s a job, and especially for anyone considering ownership, I would recommend being thoroughly educated via the American Booksellers Association education programs, etc. to determine if it’s the right choice. Booksellers love books – but to succeed, one must also be conversant with the business of books.
*Interview conducted by Ben Jenkins*