‘I actually find these books very comforting, as they remind me of how much good is done every day in the world.’
For a start I should catch up on Gabriela Cabezón Cámara’s The Adventures of China Iron (Charco Press) which was shortlisted for the Booker. I like the sound of Tania Skarynkina’s collection of essays from Byelorussia, A Large Czeslaw Milosz with a Dash of Elvis Presley (Scotland Street Press) and the new edition of Douglas Watt’s The Price of Scotland (Luath Press), which takes another look at the Darien Scheme. Perhaps most compelling for me is Kerri ní Dochartaigh’s Thin Places (Canongate), this ‘mixture of memoir, history and nature’ examines ‘how violence and poverty are never more than a stone’s throw from beauty and hope’. Having grown up in Northern Ireland during the troubles with one parent from one community and one from the other community, Ní Dochartaigh found some solace in natural landscapes.
At Vagabond Voices, in September 2021 will bring Volume II of our Estonian pentalogy by A.H. Tammsaare, Truth and Justice, which has had more success in North America, even though the rural world of late nineteenth-century Estonia has many parallels with the Highlands in the same period. The pentalogy, which is similar in construction to A Scots Quair, shifts to the cities in this volume and then pass through the Revolutions of 1905 and 1917 in the next volume. Volume IV takes us into the interwar period independence, and finally in the last volume, the protagonist returns to the countryside for a reflective summary of those eventful years.
Before that, we will be bringing out three books in March and April: Siblings is a short novel by Magnus Florin, whose pared-down prose narrates more through what is suggested and through what is written down on the page. Mither Tongue is a collection of poems by Jidi Majia in Chinese and Nuosu (a minority language in China) and translated into English and Scots. How about that for perfect symmetry! Anne Pia’s The Sweetness of Demons is an evocative series of responses to fourteen of Baudelaire’s poems, which emphasises the range and originality of the great French poet who embodied the fin de siècle. An ambitious and thankfully very successful project.
I have just read Shuggie Bain (Picador) and loved every minute of it. It is a painful read, but the pain is all redeemed by love. It is also a good Covid read, because it makes you realise that there is always someone worse off than yourself, and no matter how much we suffer with restrictions, there are still children out there who suffer more simply because of poverty. Also that this suffering can be transmuted into wisdom. Yes there is a great deal in that book.
I am looking forward to Scotland Street’s first themed publication year. ‘International Women 2021’ will publish women from Canada, South Africa, India, the US and Scotland. The Christmas novel 2021 will be my own, The Hat Jewel, started in 2014 and winner of Hawthornden Fellowship 2018, and Lavigny Fellowship 2019. It has certainly been a long time in coming. My former editor, Jenny Uglow, advised me to publish it under SSP. So here goes.
Suzanne Kennedy, Sales and Marketing Director
My son will be getting Alex Wheatle’s The Humiliations of Welton Blake (Barrington Stoke) for his forthcoming January birthday — sure to be a great introduction to his teen years!
Home of the Wild by Louise Grieg and Julia Moscardo is a stunner from us for this coming season. A perfect lockdown picture book about a young boy with a real connection to nature and the natural world who finds an orphaned fawn. He nurtures her to independence and then must learn to let go. Culminating with a gentle turn of events this is luminous, gorgeous and heartwarming.
Kirsten Graham, Marketing Campaigns Executive
The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle is exactly the type of book I loved to read as a child – full of wonder and adventure, with characters you want to be best friends with. Featuring a magical library and portals that can transport you around the world, it’s the perfect world to escape to!
Elaine Reid, Community Marketing Manager
In our gorgeous forthcoming picture book Olwen Finds Her Wings, co-created by mother and daughter team Nora and Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin, Olwen the baby owl longs to roar like a bear or hop like a hare, but finds she can’t. What can little owls do? Set in a beautiful woodland landscape, you’ll find yourself encouraging Olwen on as she continues her search to find out what makes her special.
Ali Begg, Sales and Marketing Assistant
A new David MacPhail book is the comic relief we all need this Spring, and Velda is the hero that we deserve. Fearsome, swashbuckling and hilarious in equal measure, with cracking zany illustrations from Richard Morgan, I can’t wait to see Velda the Awesomest Viking in print and start recommending it to parents. Particularly ideal for reluctant readers or kids that are making their first forays into chapter books, join the fun as Velda proves she’s the roughest toughest Viking around!
As we plummet into another lockdown, I find myself in search of journeying narratives, and Randa Jarrar’s upcoming Love is an Ex-Country (Sandstone) looks to be an incredible and powerful story. Told as a road trip across the USA, it charts her extremely personal experiences as a Palestinian daughter shamed for who she is, and a teenage mother rebelling against an abusive family. And. Look. At. That. Cover. Beautiful stuff.
One book by a Scottish publisher that I’m really looking forward to reading is The Unusual Suspect by Ben Machell (Canongate). I can’t resist a good crime thriller and this one is all the better for being true. It tells the story of Stephen Jackley, a British geography student who at the start of the global financial crisis in 2007 reinvented himself as a modern day Robin Hood and began robbing banks to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. He used disguises and fake weapons and robbed several banks before he was eventually apprehended and it was discovered that he also had Asperger’s. It sounds thrilling and promises to be ‘dark’. Perfect.
I’m so excited to be publishing Jeni Iannetta’s Bad Girl Bakery Cookbook in October. Jeni was a passionate home baker before moving to the Highlands and opening the Bad Girl Bakery. Quite soon customers were traveling from miles around to visit her cafe and she was producing tens of thousands of portions of cake a month and supplying high-profile clients like the National Trust for Scotland and the Caledonian Sleeper, to name just two. She takes pride in creating cakes that celebrate flavour and texture and look impressive but don’t take ages to prepare. With no-fuss recipes that utilise home-baking techniques, this book unlocks the secrets to many of her most popular bakes and is sure to inspire joy, not only in the eating but in the process of baking too.
One thing that got me through the last year was getting out of the house and going out on my bike so I’m thrilled that the first title in our new Food for Sport series is a cycling book. It’s by Kitty Pemberton Platt and Fi Buchanan, and shares how female cyclists fuel their rides. I first saw Kitty’s illustrated food diaries on instagram, and loved how she celebrated the reality of life on the bike: yes, you might start the day with granola and a protein shake, but it turns out a handful of Haribos and an espresso is what is going to get you through the last 25km of a hard days ride. The book brings together diaries from a whole range of cyclists from enthusiastic amateurs to professionals across a range of distances, with tips and hacks for what works for them. Fi Buchanan (of the greatly missed Heart Buchanan deli in Glasgow’s West End) has created corresponding recipes to charge you up pre-ride, keep you going while you’re on the road and share with friends once you’ve hit the finish line. As well as providing inspiration on easy and tasty ways to fuel up, it’s a celebration of the female cycling community. Out in June.
A new Alan Warner book is always a treat, so I’m very much looking forward to reading Kitchenly 434 (White Rabbit) – it sounds like classic Warner territory: male delusion, romantic misadventure and the resentments of the class divide in a rock star’s Sussex Mansion at the tail end of the 70s. I can’t wait.
Onjali Q. Raúf is one of the most exciting authors at work in children’s publishing today, able to address pressing social issues in a way that makes them accessible to younger readers and encourages discussion, so we’re thrilled to be publishing The Great (Food) Bank Heist with her in July 2021. In this story Onjali gives a heart-rending child’s-eye view of the growing problem of food poverty and as with all her stories, she provides relief through her unique ability to combine empathy with humour in a madcap adventure that sees a group of enterprising friends use their ingenuity to expose a shameful heist targeting the local food bank. We can’t wait to share it!
As an Italian, I really cherish the opportunity to access Speculative and SFF fiction in other languages. Translating from other languages and into other languages is a big part of what I set out to do with Luna Press. So this Spring we have two releases which cross that language barrier. The first is an SF collection by Brazilian author Fabio Fernandez, Love: An Archaeology. The second is an anthology of Greek SF, Nova Hellas: Stories from Future Greece. This particular book will be released in English, Italian and Japanese.
Another important aspect of Luna Press is going beyond fiction, through the projects of Academia Lunare, where papers and essays are explored further through the use of short stories. In June, we’ll be publishing Jane Alexander’s The Flicker Against the Light and ‘Writing the Contemporary Uncanny’. The insightful essay is enriched by clever storytelling to bring us all into the world of the uncanny.
Finally, as a speculative Scottish Press, we are always on the lookout for amazing and entertaining Scottish authors. This is how we met Barbara Stevenson, from Orkney. Barbara’s fabulous sense of humour, paired to her surreal imagination, will be brought to life in The Dalliances of Monsieur D’Haricot. And I am also thrilled that it will be released in Italian as well.
Because of my passion for translated works, I always look at Charco Press’s releases with anticipation. Whether is a new author or an established one, I get a chance to read fabulous South American literature. I’m also interested in Radical Acts of Love, by Janie Brown (Canongate). It’s about an oncology’s nurse conversation with the dying. I actually find these books very comforting, as they remind me of how much good is done every day in the world. I also want to read Love is an ex-country by Randa Jarrar (Sandstone). Randa is from Palestine, a land where I have spent a bit of time. Her personal account sounds intriguing and I’m really looking forward to hear it.
We’re bringing out great books in 2021. Three that I want to particularly highlight are In a Veil of Mist by Donald S Murray, How to Survive Everything by Ewan Morrison and Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet.
After the wonderful reception for As the Women Lay Dreaming, both from readers in the Western Isles and an audience far beyond, we are thrilled to publish another deeply poignant novel from Donald based on a little-known piece of Hebridean history. Evocative literary fiction exploring the human cost of war and the Cold War arms race: the perfect follow-up to Murray’s Paul Torday Prize-winning first novel.
How to Survive Everything is a biting satire wrapped in an electrifying thriller confronting the huge global issues of our time – from disease, fake news, consumerism and denial of science all the way to family dysfunction and mental health in crisis. Ewan is one of the most inventive, provocative and acclaimed writers of his generation, and once again he’s created a powerful and unforgettable voice in a young protagonist. On top of this, it’s extremely fast-paced and often funny.
It is a real honour to be publishing Graeme Macrae Burnet’s highly anticipated fourth novel; and dare we say – his best yet! Case Study extends Burnet’s playful ‘metafictional’ approach, and this time presents an enthralling, layered and profound novel exploring 1960s psychiatry and society. Drawing the reader so effortlessly into the mind and world of the protagonist, Burnet has created yet another set of unforgettable characters that feel deceptively real.
The team at NGS Publishing have found that there is one silver lining to the lockdown life – the opportunity to spend even more time reading books. On our combined reading lists, you will find The Wind That Lays Waste (Charco Press), Scabby Queen (HarperCollins), Duck Feet (Monstrous Regiment) and Wheesht (KDD).
We were thrilled to be working in the autumn on Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema by Vanessa Harryhausen, his daughter. The pioneer of stop-motion cinema is famous for films such as Jason & the Argonauts and he counts many Hollywood giants among his fans – but he was also a great Dad, husband and friend. This book, which is filled with personal images as well as many of Harryhausen’s famous and not-so-famous creatures, tells us the uplifting story of the real Ray Harryhausen from the point of view of his daughter and people who worked with him. Perhaps it is the sheer joy in the book that has resulted in the need to order a reprint just days after the first stock arrived.
Looking ahead, we are finalising a publishing programme for 2021 that we know will be an offer of real colour and fascination into the months ahead. Among the titles coming is a new, highly illustrated book about the incredibly popular Scottish artist, Joan Eardley. In exploring how she portrays land and sea, Patrick Elliott uncovers brand new findings and brings new insight into the artist’s work and her love of the coastal village of Catterline.
We have a lot of exciting books coming out this year. I’m particularly looking forward to publishing Joy Dakers’ and Catherine Grace’s Journeys With Joy: Scotland, a photography book with short stories, as it will not only display the varied beauty of Scotland, but there will be a captivating short story to kindle the imagination of the reader giving a new and diverse perspectives. We are also looking forward to publishing the poetry book, Reflections of a Scotsman by Gordon McGowan. The poems are funny, tragic, intriguing, and absorbing as he encounters all aspects of the world we live in. For children we’ll have Bernie the Bear by written by Catherine Grace and illustrated by Holly Richards about the antics of a bear lost in the city and how those antics relate in his natural home. Bernie really entertains and educates children about what happens when urban life encounters nature. I am also looking forward to reading Precious and Grace (Abacus) by Alexander McCall Smith. I have read most in this series No, 1 Ladies Detective Agency, as they are always heart-warming and absorbing read.
In looking forward to 2021 it’s hard not to feel the ever present shadow of Covid and Brexit looming over us. But this is also a year that is very exciting for us at Little Door Books. We have three different types of debuts publishing this year within our list spanning age ranges from zero to nine year-olds. Alongside our picture books we are thrilled to be publishing a board book for 0-3 year olds which is a TV tie in with the popular Cbeebies animated series, Hushabye Lullabye. We follow cuddly little alien Dillie Dally as he flies to planet dream in the a unique lullaby jukebox Hushabye Rocket. Written and created for TV by Sacha Kyle, we’ll be publishing in June.
For the 3 – 6 age range, in July we are publishing a Little Door Debut picture book by brand new illustrating talent Madeline Pinkerton and her book A Dragon Story. Her warm, classical-looking illustrations perfectly combine with a wonderful story about bravery, following your own path, and friendship. A story loving dragon and a feisty young girl who loves to tell stories develop an unlikely friendship.
Also on the debut front, in April, we venture into another age range as we publish our first chapter book for 6 – 9 year-olds, a magical, fantasy adventure written by award-winning writer and journalist David C Flanagan, Uncle Pete and the Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep. This is Dave’s first book for children and is a hilarious adventure of the imagination involving the remarkable journey undertaken by Uncle Pete and his fearless female sidekick, with themes of determination, collaboration, ingenuity, kindness and acceptance. It’s also got fabulously quirky chapter illustrations by Will Hughes.
With all this excitement and more coming up this year I hardly have time to read myself but I must say I am really looking forward to getting into some crime fiction with Chris Brookmyre’s new novel, The Cut, coming out in March and the next book in Elaine Thomson’s Jem Flockhart series, Nightshade (Constable) which is out in April. Spending every day running a children’s publisher I do like to escape with a bit of crime fiction.
Here’s to a 2021 of fabulous books for all ages, and I hope you will join us as we step out into this year with something new and different for our little readers.
‘Luckenbooth is a love letter to Edinburgh.’