Here at Birlinn, we love Book Week Scotland. A whole week celebrating the wonderful world of Scottish books, authors, libraries, bookshops, festivals…what more could we ask for? It’s a fantastic initiative run by the Scottish Book Trust which reaches communities all over Scotland, and this year, for the first time ever, Book Week Scotland is set to connect with thousands more people across the world as it takes place completely online.
This year’s Book Week Scotland theme is Future, so we asked some of our lovely authors to recommend their favourite up-and-coming writers in Scotland. We’ll spotlight the recommendations on Twitter every day this week – keep an eye out on our feed @PolygonBooks.
So, without further ado, here are many reasons to look forward to the Future!
An astonishing trend in Scottish book publishing is the recent publication of world-class books which reflect on youthful upbringings. They are mostly too honest and earthy to be given the name ‘memoirs,’ nor do the fit into any obvious fictional genres. These are books that reflect on family, community and the social bonds that either unite or drive people apart.
Deborah’s Orr’s posthumous book Motherwell: A Girlhood is about the author’s relationship with her complicated mother set against the backdrop of an industrial town facing near inevitable decline. Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain is a dysfunctional love story between a boy and his mother. Andrew O’Hagan’s Mayflies, set in the summer of 1986, portrays a “brilliant friendship based on music, films and the rebel spirit”. But the standout for me is Young Team by Graeme Armstrong, a love letter to friendship with the visceral challenges of gang life of North Lanarkshire. So many books, so little time.
If you want the elevator pitch for Sharon Bairden’s debut novel, Sins of the Father, here it is: dark pasts, haunted characters, unexpected twists, turning pages…
For Book Week Scotland, I’m delighted to share with you my ‘one-to-watch’! Gillian Duff is an up-and-coming novelist who hails from my part of the world, Angus. Gillian’s graphic story The Domino Effect was published this year, and she is currently seeking representation for her debut crime novel, Hidden in Plain Sight, set in Scotland’s rural north east. The novel was completed as part of Dundee University’s MLitt in Crime Writing and Forensic Investigation, for which Gillian received the prestigious Val McDermid Prize. The novel was inspired by her time in Hong Kong, and explores themes of identity and cross-cultural connection.
Eris Young, a recipient of a New Writer Award 2020, is one of those up-and-coming writers whose projects I look to with keen interest. They have published a non-fiction book, They/Them/Their, which is a textbook on nonbinary identities for the layperson and university library alike, and have been producing speculative fiction – stories cleaving close to the visceral experience of the everyday, but a bit askew – for some time now. Longer fictional works are on the horizon, which will I’m sure be full of their signature creativity and that red thread of tension that distinguishes much of their work to date.
Poetry lovers, keep an eye out for Karen Hodgson Pryce. Her poetry has appeared in Lighthouse, Northwords Now, Black Bough Poetry, The Poets’ Republic, Butcher’s Dog, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Mslexia and more. It is also in the Landfall anthology (New Voices Press) & Shared Stories: A Year in the Cairngorms anthology. She won 3rd Prize in the Café Writers Open Poetry Competition, 2019 and is currently preparing her first pamphlet for publication. I love Karen’s work for its constantly inventive way of exploring the poetic form, for her mastery of image and sound and for the breadth of her vision. She lives in Aviemore, where apart from writing, she spends her time loch swimming, trail running, road cycling and hill-walking all over the Scottish Highlands.
I’d like to sing the praises of up and coming writer Alex Kane, aka Emma Kennedy. Emma has had one of the toughest routes to publication I’ve ever witnessed. Not one, but two publishers contracted to produce her books went into bankruptcy before any ink appeared on a page. Undaunted, Emma, who writes as Alex Kane, kept going. And faith in herself and her work has brought much-deserved rewards. With three books already under her belt, she’s just signed a new and lucrative deal with her publisher Hera. But this isn’t just a tale of tenacity. Emma has a rare talent, producing edge-of-the-seat thrillers that are beautifully crafted.
One to watch. Seek her out!
Check out our Events page to find all the Birlinn events taking place during Book Week Scotland, including a special event on Facebook Live with Morgan Cry, Douglas Skelton and Denzil Meyrick on Tuesday 17th Nov at 7pm.