Billy Surface

Interviews

Nancy Perot Opens the Bookstore of Her Dreams

With Interabang Books, a story that began 25 years ago gets a happy ending.

You opened an independent bookstore in the year 2017. Is this like that movie Brewster’s Millions, where you have to spend a lot of money or else you won’t get your inheritance, and you figured that the bookstore was a good way to burn through the cash?
Now that is a funny question. No, this is something I have always wanted to do. Twenty-five years ago, there was a charming little children’s independent bookstore in Snider Plaza, called Rootabaga, that was closing its doors and was for sale. I seriously considered buying it. The timing wasn’t right then, but I’ve just been holding on to this dream of having a bookstore ever since. I’ve always loved books. My mother, who is just a wise and wonderful person, always read so much to all of us. I was an English major, and I had 12 years as a freelance writer. So I’ve always loved books and the written word, and I think cities need bookstores.

You’re at Preston and Royal, right across the street from a Barnes & Noble. So do we have a book war here?
No, not at all. I think we are very different types of stores. It’s like a boutique versus a department store. It’s a different experience.

The three owners are you; the GM, Jeremy Ellis; and a book buyer, Lori Feathers. Who deserves the most credit?
A lot of fortunate coincidences brought Jeremy to me. I needed somebody who really knew the business to run it. Jeremy had moved back to Dallas after running the Brazos Bookstore in Houston, and he was looking for a partner. He has 25 years of experience in the industry and knows all the ins and outs. We just hit it off right away. He knew Lori, who performs the most important function of being the book buyer. And there’s also a children’s buyer, a very talented woman named Lisa Plummer.

How did you pick the name Interabang over Accent Aigu or Umlaut?
Jeremy and I had pages and pages of names. We thought about Preston Trail Books. And we thought about literary names—Chapter Two, Prologue. And so then we were looking at this long list, and I said, “What is that word?” And Jeremy said, “Oh, I’m glad you asked. An interabang is an exclamation point and a question mark together.” It’s sort of wonder and curiosity and discovery and revelation and all the things that a bookstore can be.

How do you manage your own book reading? Do you own a Kindle?
I have used a Kindle. I really don’t like it. I prefer holding the real book. I so often will underline passages or turn down pages, and I do think your library tells the story of your life. Once I’ve read a book, it’s like an old friend, and I want to keep it around. So I found a Kindle not to be a satisfying way to read at all. You don’t know where you are in the book, and when you finish, it just vanishes.

What is sitting on your bedside table right now?
One I just finished reading, a book called A Whole Life, which is a translation from German that’s in the store. It’s a really beautifully written book about one man’s life during the war in Germany. I’m going to India in October, so I’ve got a big stack of books about India. I read a lot of nonfiction. I think one of the best lately was Empire of the Summer Moon, by S.C. Gwynne. That book really resonated with me, and it has lingered.

What’s your favorite book of all time?
That is a tough question. I loved Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. I just thought it was a beautifully written book. She’s actually coming here in September.

What will be your measure of success for Interabang?
We do need to make it work as a business. But if we are enriching the community, then I think that’s the greatest measure of our success. We’ve received so many kind and wonderful compliments, everything from “What in the world are you thinking?” to “Oh, thank you so much for being here.” 

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