An Interview with David Headley: The Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award
By Ana Cecilia Matute
The Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award was established in 2017 to celebrate contemporary, storytelling fiction. It is the “only prize that rewards storytelling in all genres; from romance, thrillers and ghost stories, to historical, speculative and literary fiction,” and is a brilliant prize to follow if you enjoy keeping up to date with the narratives winning over readers. This award is organised by Goldsboro Books, a renowned bookshop in London, and gives the winning author £2,000.
This year for 2022, The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper was the winner of the prize, the first in a trilogy that tells the story of Amara, a forgotten woman working in brothels in Pompeii to survive. The novel explores how women like her live and the complexities and nuances of their personal lives, where trauma and violence are a sadly frequent occurrence. The novel was awarded the prize for “its rich and immersive historical detail” and the powerful way Elodie Harper explores the world of slavery. Elodie Harper is a journalist with an English Literature degree and currently works as a reporter for ITV News Anglia. She is the author of two thrillers The Death Knock (2018) and The Binding Song (2017).
The Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Awards are special because the works are chosen by booksellers. The prize’s focuses on writing and innovation, encourages those from across the bookish spectrum and makes for a wonderful shortlist-reading experience. Prizes like the Glass Bell Award have special value for those interested in the industry, it highlights new powerhouses in narrative writing and can share exciting insights into the tropes and writing styles driving more readers’ choice.
Delving into the longlist of a prize like this can also teach us a lot about what we are writing as a society, why some books are appealing and creating more impact, and how they connect to readers at a certain time. It’s always been fascinating to us, that fiction helps us to see different aspects of our own lives in many diverse ways through characters we read about, and from many varying perspectives. Storytelling can help us process our own thoughts and teach us about the experiences of others.
We talked with David Headley, the co-founder of Goldsboro Books, book collector and award-winning bookseller. He has dedicated his life to his passion for books, working on some amazing projects that strike to spotlight new narratives. He also hosts a podcast called Confessions of a Book Collector, where he interviews upcoming authors and booksellers and shares his personal experience in the field with listeners.
Learning about publishing implies learning about its history, what is happening at the moment, and how we can work to improve for the future of the industry. David Headley has had a rich and varied career that has led him through different paths in publishing, and in this conversation, he shares with us some of his thoughts about the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Awards and their significance in literature landscape.
How do you think the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award innovates and stands apart from other awards?
“There is no other award that does what the Glass Bell does. It is available to anyone traditionally published in the UK and is entirely genre-less. It is also exclusively chosen and decided by the booksellers at Goldsboro, as opposed to a submission process from publishers. It is primarily driven by passionate readers and there are practically no boundaries as to who can win this award.”
Describe the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award in one word and tell us why.
“Innovative – because it is open to practically anyone writing a brilliant novel and published (firstly) in the UK.”
Has storytelling developed or changed a lot in the years you’ve been running the prize?
“To my mind, storytelling is storytelling – it hasn’t changed. Of course, books and the market change every year, indeed seasonally, but we have been consistent from the very beginning: our mission is to highlight quality storytelling.”
What features or characteristics do you look for while reading to choose the longlist?
“An original story confidently told and with a voice that we can’t get out of our head. Beautiful writing is all well and good, but we look for a wonderful story told in a way that promises to stay with us long after we’ve turned the last page.”
What are your ambitions for the future of the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award?
“That it will become even more recognised as a prize that acknowledges the limitless boundaries that books can push. There really are very few characteristics that make a book eligible for the Glass Bell Award and I want to keep that 'arms open' approach going. If you’re published first in the UK, and it’s fiction, then we will absolutely consider it. These kinds of books are why we are lucky enough to do what we do.”