Thursday, March 22, 2012

Generally Horrible Questions: Karen Hayes

Our pal Karen Hayes (left) and her business partner,
author Ann Patchett.
Karen Hayes is the slightly less famous co-owner of the new bookstore in Nashville, Parnassus Books.  (The other owner is some author named Ann Patchett.)  Karen has long been involved in the book business and worked with us at Random House, but she's new to the other side of bookselling--the part where you run the bookstore and help the customers.  Since Karen is a woman business owner and we're saluting the dames for the rest of March, we asked her to answer our questions.

Generally Horrible Questions: Karen Hayes

1. We are pretty sure the following musicians/singers have some connection to Nashville…pick your favorite (we think we know who you will pick it rhymes with Hiley Byrus). Black Keys, Johnny Cash, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Ke$ha, Dolly Parton, Miley Cyrus, Dwight Yoakam, Jack White, Earl Scruggs, Taylor Swift or… Donna Summer?
It is so hard to choose!  I guess it would have to be Ke$ha, cause you know I’m all about the $.  That’s why I’m in the book biz.  [Finally someone comes clean about all the money floating around the book business!  Apparently it's all in Tennessee....road trip!]
A busy day at Parnassus Books

2. Your business partner is Ann Patchett, so you sure as hell better have read all her books. What’s your favorite? It’s okay, she doesn’t read this blog…be honest.
Thank god she won’t be reading this, because I haven’t, as of yet, read all her books.  Please don’t tell her.  I love State of Wonder (and no, it is not the only one of hers I’ve read).  [Gianna has read nearly all her books and Truth and Beauty is her favorite. Liz's favorite is Bel Canto...not that anyone asked.]

3. As you may know, Liz and I are starting a band which Dan Chaon has named The Uncircumcised Girls. We want to debut in Nashville. What is the coolest venue in town?
Parnassus.  We can set you up.  But you must bring Dan Chaon with you. [Of course he will come with…he’s our roadie!]

A brownie troop visiting the store.
4. We are looking for that book…it was on TV last week (I can’t remember what show)…it’s about a woman who might be sad…it’s blue, oh, and “The” is in the title. Can you find us that book?  No, but I will try. [Oh yea..its about 300 pages long, that should help.]

5. Who is your favorite person you ever got to train at Random House? Gianna, of course 

6. Author you most want to sign in your store? Is it Stephen Colbert? Because we think Ann nailed that down when she was on his show.  He would be the one.  That would be so much fun.

7. Gianna or Liz?  Liz, of course. [Obviously.]

8. I’ve never read _________________ and I’m so ashamed.  There are way too many to choose from, including the aforementioned books by Ann Patchett.  [We are starting to think that Karen hasn’t read ANY Ann Patchett books and she is desperate to cover her tracks….]

9. What book(s) changed your life?  There are many books that have altered my perceptions, but the only book I can say that truly has changed my life would be State of Wonder.  The change came, not through the reading of the book, but through the timing of the publication.  Ann’s tour for the book gave her the platform to talk about the store (and independent bookstores in general).  I’m sure the store would have been a successful local bookstore if Ann had been in between books, but it would never have gotten such national attention.

10. How’d you end up owning a bookstore with Ann Patchett?  When/where did you first meet her?  We had met very briefly earlier, but the first time we really talked was April last year.  I sat down to lunch with her and a mutual friend of ours to present an idea I had to get a bookstore coop started.  I was hoping that she would join with some other friends and interested parties to help with the fundraising.  She said she was not too fond of committees and that maybe we should just do the whole thing ourselves.  I said alright. [Committees are awesome! They are simply the best way to not get things done.]

11. In honor of Women’s History Month, who’s your favorite ballsy dame?  I think you could probably guess who it is.  Hint, she is the only person I’ve seen stop Colbert in his tracks twice in one interview. [It's obvious you’re talking about Bill O’Reilly and we think YOU'RE ballsy for calling him a dame.]

12. What are you currently reading?  The Hunger Games.  My book group is reading it. [...Never heard of it.]  What upcoming book has you giddy with excitement?  I’m excited about The Unexpected Guests which has the best handle of the year from my Harper Rep, Kate McCune…Downton Abbey meets Edward Gorey.  [Dammit Karen! Would it kill you to at least once mention a Random House book, or god forbid a UT Press book? You're lucky our bosses don’t read this blog!]


  1. Ann Patchett kicks Colbert butt! I LOVED that interview! Oh, I also thought the inapproproate questions Gianna asked were pretty good, too.

  2. This was fun! I used to be a bookseller at Lemuria (True Story) before I moved to the Kingdom of the Yankee and Karen used to be my sales rep back in the day.