Across 2022, the Year of Stories, we are spotlighting Publishing Scotland members, who will share their own story in their own words. Get to know Sandstone Press, the Highland-based publisher behind a range of titles, from nature books to the International Booker-winning Celestial Bodies.
What’s your story?
Sandstone Press is an independent publisher based in the Highlands of Scotland, founded in 2002 by Robert Davidson with Moira Forsyth. We were writers at the time, not publishers, so this has been a twenty year journey of learning a great deal very fast – and that never ends. We have always enjoyed the rich and various nature of publishing which is endlessly interesting and full of surprises. We’ve been fortunate enough to win prizes and achieve award listings for many of our books, and we’re proud to say we have been Saltire Society Scottish Publisher of the Year twice, in 2014 and 2019.
Tell us about some of your key stories.
Prize listings are always wonderful news. Booker long-listings for The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers and The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris, and Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi winning the International Man Booker in 2019, were wonderful achievements for our authors and for us. They made a significant contribution to our growth as a company, in addition to having an impact on sales. We’ve also been lucky enough to see two of our translated crime series adapted for screen in high-budget, critically acclaimed TV shows. Babylon Berlin and Wisting both make enthralling viewing – though we think the books are even better!
We’re known for our outdoor books, including John Allen’s Cairngorm John, a Sandstone outdoor classic about an almost forty-year career in Mountain Rescue, now in its third edition, and Andy Howard’s award-winning Secret Life of the Mountain Hare, our first large format wildlife photography book; since then we have gone on to publish wildlife photography books annually. Juliet Blaxland’s The Easternmost House took us into writing on the environment and rural life; it was selected as The Times Nature Book of the Year and short-listed for the Wainwright Prize.
What draws you to a story? What makes a good story?
A good story is one that draws you into its world and keeps you there, utterly absorbed and compelled to keep reading. I love stories with unexpected turns and twists, and those that extend my understanding and knowledge. A story might be set in a country you’ve never visited or about people completely unlike those you know, but if it’s a great book it will transcend that to show you the connections between it and your own life and experience. It should also stay with you, so that you go on thinking about the characters or the narrative. The best fiction lingers long after you close the book.
What stories should we look forward to or check out this year?
2022 is off to a brilliant start! On the fiction side, we’ve been delighted with the response to Stephen May’s historical novel about Stalin’s 1907 visit to London. Sell Us the Rope, which has had rave reviews across the UK media. Hilary Mantel even said she wished she’d written it herself – so it’s definitely one to look out for. If you’re concerned about climate change and love dark speculative fiction, Kings of a Dead World by Jamie Mollart describes a radical solution to the world’s dwindling resources.
In non-fiction, Marram, which was Waterstones Scottish Book of the Month in April, is a magical blend of memoir and nature writing, exploring grief and mother-daughter relationships against the beautiful windswept backdrop of the Outer Hebrides. Later this year we’ll publish High Risk, which has been called ‘a riveting insight into a remarkable climbing era.’
We have published many fascinating memoirs, and this year we have two pretty special examples. Wah! Things I Never Told My Mother is due out in June, with high praise from fellow writers. Witty and poignant, Wah! is Cynthia Rogerson’s memoir of train-hopping, hitchhiking and living in squats, recalled between visits to her dying – but still sparky – mother. In August we’ll publish Over the Hills and Far Away, Nikky Smedley’s funny, entertaining and insightful memoir about being Laa-Laa the yellow Teletubby in the hugely successful TV series.
Our wildlife photography book this year, published in time for Christmas, will be Puffins, featuring Kevin Morgans’ stunning photos of these iconic and fascinating birds.