While Flyleaf bookseller Jeremy Hawkins was finishing up his first book, “The Last Days of Video,” the staff got a taste of both.
Hawkins’ book has been in stores for a few weeks, with its official launch on Tuesday at Flyleaf. This is his first published novel and has been in the works for about six years since his time at UNC-Wilmington where he received an MFA in fiction.
“The Last Days of Video” tells the story of three people working in a video store on the verge of going out of business in a town loosely based on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area. Hawkins said people from the area will recognize the setting, down to the unique businesses.
The video store, and much of the book, was inspired by Hawkins’ 10 years working for VisArt Video, a family-owned chain of video stores in Chapel Hill and Durham. The book is set in 2007, when video rentals started being replaced by companies like Redbox and Netflix.
“It’s sort of my love letter to VisArt and to movies in general,” Hawkins said of the book. He said the demise of the brick and mortar industry helped the plot finally come together.
At UNC-W, Hawkins worked with Clyde Edgerton, a North Carolina writer. Edgerton read five drafts of the book and helped Hawkins refine the plot.
“He ended up with me at UNC-W — I as a professor, he as a student — and he asked a lot of questions,” Edgerton said. “He listened really well to advice about editing and in three years had come into a really fine thesis which has turned into his first novel.”
“I’m proud of his work and proud to be associated with it. And to be a friend.”
While writing his novel, Hawkins had to balance two other jobs: working at Flyleaf and running an editing website called The Distillery. Hawkins said the support from Flyleaf and its owner, Jamie Fiocco, has been tremendous.
“Jamie has been amazing, not only giving me gainful employment and being really flexible with me for the small book out I’m doing,” Hawkins said. “They really promoted the crap out of my reading.”
Fiocco said she and the staff enjoyed the book and have a close relationship with Hawkins and his publisher. The book is on display front and center, she said, and will stay there as it’s currently selling well.
Watching Hawkins go through the process of finishing the book, choosing a cover and working with his publisher demonstrated how much authors go through to get a book out, Fiocco said.
“It’s fascinating, and it’s a reminder that authors are really putting a little piece of themselves out in public,” she said.
While the book is about the decline of the video store, independent bookstores have been thriving in the last few years, according to data from the American Booksellers Association.
Hawkins said he’s grateful to have been embraced by the American Booksellers Association, which nominated Hawkins for their “Indie Next” list for April, and the independent booksellers’ community.