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 Saraband, a small independent publisher who has made a name on the big literary stage.
What’s your story?
Saraband publishes outstanding fiction – literary, historical and contemporary stories with unforgettable voices – and memorable nature writing, environmental and social issues and memoir. Praised recently in the Guardian as “a small but brilliant independent press,” we were the inaugural winners of the Saltire Society’s Scottish Publisher of the Year award. We have consistently discovered emerging talent, with many debut prizes and shortlistings to show for it.
From our inception in 1994, we have provided a platform for underrepresented and local voices, and we prioritise sustainable practices and production. We publish across all print and digital formats, with ancillary content in our podcast, video and social channels. Whilst excellent writing and good design and production are paramount, we’ve always embraced innovation.
Over the past few years our authors have won or achieved shortlistings for a host of literary awards, from the Booker and Rathbones Folio prizes to subject-specific or regional prizes such as the Wainwright Prize for nature writing, the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown, the Comedy Women in Print prize, the Polari Prize, the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, the Lakeland Awards and the Highland Prize.
Tell us about some of your key stories.
Graeme Macrae Burnet’s debut novel was among our first fiction acquisitions, and his second novel, His Bloody Project, is our best-selling and best-known novel to date. It’s been translated into more than 20 languages, and is set to become a true classic of Scottish literature, with its vivid evocation of crofting life and its dazzling interrogation of truth and sanity (it’s also an unputdownable page-turner!)
Another recent fiction highlight was Donald S Murray’s As the Women Lay Dreaming, a prize-winning fictional retelling of the aftermath of the Iolaire disaster, the UK’s worst peacetime shipwreck since the Titanic.
Among our most notable recent debuts is JA Mensah’s Castles from Cobwebs, an exploration of identity and belonging that was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott award in 2021 and is soon to be released in paperback; Jill Hopper’s wonderful memoir, The Mahogany Pod; and another memoir, the brilliant Bleak: the mundane comedy, R.M. Murray’s winner of the Best First Book at the most recent Scotland’s National Book Award.
Our non-fiction highlights include the mesmerising writing of Jim Crumley, widely regarded as Scotland’s leading nature writer, and especially for his Seasons series; veteran conservationist Roy Dennis’s sparkling, optimistic essay collections, Cottongrass Summer and Mistletoe Winter; and our “Handbook of Scotland’s —” series, with its perennially popular Wild Harvests and Coasts as two outstanding subjects.
What draws you to a story? What makes a good story?
In fiction, a good story is one you’ll remember in years to come – one with believable and compelling characters and original voices. Often these are the neglected voices that we rarely see in mainstream media, be they from geographically “remote” places or parts of society we don’t hear enough from. A great novel should make you think and feel moved, to care about the characters, and it should be impossible to put aside. In non-fiction, the author must have something illuminating to tell us about the natural world, about emotional truths, or something important in history or society. It should be beautifully written and engaging, as well as informative.
What stories should we look forward to or check out this year?
We have a fantastic spring list that is led in fiction by the paperback release of Graeme Macrae Burnet’s brilliant new novel, Case Study – surely the best reviewed book of the year! It has everything: compelling characters, clever literary form, metafictional puzzles, humour and an irresistible plotline.
In non-fiction, we’re publishing Catherine Simpson’s relatable, funny, candid, important memoir of her changing attitudes to her body as she navigates past and present life stages, rites of passage and crises: One Body, a retrospective. We’re finding this is appealing to readers of all ages, but it’s especially relevant to women in mid-life, as it also has a good helping of flashbacks to times past.
In humour/cosy crime, we publish the inimitable Olga Wojtas, who has a new adventure for Miss Blaine’s Prefect, this time involving Macbeth, the Weird Sisters and a Black Cat. It’s essential reading for fans of the “Scottish Play” and anyone with an offbeat sense of humour.
For fans of Scottish historical fiction, look no further than Sue Lawrence’s The Green Lady, a gripping tale of intrigue, treachery and murder set in the court of Mary, Queen of Scots – and all based on true events.