ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Victoria Josslin’s résumé contains an array of experiences – artist, freelance magazine writer, art gallery publicist and education director, short story writer and founder of an online art discussion website.
Now she can add novelist to her résumé.
Josslin’s debut novel is “The Bookstore of Other Languages.” It’s a summery entertainment featuring Bryce Hanford as the protagonist.
Bryce, whose wife recently left him, is trying to figure out the direction he wants to take his computer business and, more important, how to add romance to his life.
Bryce, living on the fictional Eliza Island off Washington, hooks up with the beautiful, restless Marina. Marina would rather travel the world on her own. Ah, but she has a equally beautiful, youthful aunt, Astrid, in France. She thinks Astrid might be the right match for Bryce.
Meanwhile, Bryce remains close to his parents and the members of his extended family, including the manipulative, slippery cousin Brenda.
The bookstore of the title first comes into play before Bryce agrees to bring an injured Brenda back from Albania, where she’s hospitalized.
Bryce stumbles upon a small, new, out-of-the-way Seattle bookstore. It has books in many languages and it also uses transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, for language learning.
Josslin, the author, said TMS is an actual medical procedure to treat depression and strokes. She applies TMS to an imagined linguistic procedure in the novel, in what Josslin called “wish fulfillment.”
A bookstore employee tells Bryce she can program TMS to embed a language of choice in the neural pathways of the recipient’s brain. Bryce chooses a week’s worth of business Albanian because he’s off to bring Brenda home. It’s the first of two trips he must make to Albania to rescue her.
Bryce also buys two weeks of TMS-embedded tourist French at the bookstore before visiting Astrid.
One of too many subplots brings in the bookstore’s owner, who may be lying about his identity.
There is also an excess of lesser characters in those subplots – for instance, the young couple Justin and Kendra. They run Bryce’s computer business while he’s on his travels, fall in love, get married.
The novel introduces a flap over Kendra’s mom’s demand that Justin’s dad pay for some wedding expenses.
Josslin explains the large number of characters. “I didn’t just want to have three people in the story. It seems too claustrophobic,” she said. “I am continually struck by the web of connections. There’s this grand network that ties us together.”
Josslin said she’s always wanted to write fiction. She began writing short stories about six years ago after quitting her day job. A few years later, she committed herself to writing – and indeed did write – 50,000 words during National Novel Writing Month. That set the stage for writing the novel.
Josslin, who created the artwork on the book’s front cover, spends six months of each year in Albuquerque, where her husband, David Margolin, is from, and the other six months on Bainbridge Island, Wash., where she has lived since 1986.