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 Scotland Street Press, who publish a range of books across fiction, non-fiction and more.
What’s your story?
Author Jean Findlay returned to Scotland in 2014 after 20 years away having published a biography with Chatto and Windus in London and Farrar Straus and Giroux in New York. Writing the biography of the translator of Proust, Stendhal and Pirandello spawned a passion for literature and translation. Scotland Street Press was born in Scotland Street, Edinburgh, and registered as a company in 2016. Naivety about the nature of the book industry helped, and incredulity learning several years into the business that 8% of the cover price is what a publisher should aim to earn on each book. Writing is more lucrative. However, publishing is full of good people with a lot of vision and high ideals. It is certainly a more selfless occupation. The company now employs four part time in the office and several freelancers, and we distribute more books to the US than to the UK.
Tell us about some of your key stories.
Being sponsored by Publishing Scotland to go to the Frankfurt Bookfair in 2016 was the first real journey in the worldwide industry. There we found the only stand that was more impoverished than Scotland Street Press: the booth from Books from Belarus. We bought rights to Tania Skarynkina’s A Large Czeslaw Milosz with a Dash of Elvis Presley, won a PEN Award for its translation and for the first time in the history of Belarus, their author was invited to speak at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Belarusian is a banned language and those who use it to write, speak or sing are imprisoned. We then took on Alhierd Bacharevic’s Alindarka’s Children and controversially translated this from Russian and Belarusian into English and Scots. It was long listed for the Republic of Consciousness Prize, we have just sold the rights to New Directions in New York and are now (June 2022) reading a long article on it in the New York Times. We are also big on poetry which is called a ‘market failure category’ by arts administrators. We pair poets with artists and have published eight books of these collaborations so far. The first was by Murray Lachlan Young and Julie Verhoeven.
What draws you to a story? What makes a good story?
Often the most extreme and unbelievable stories come from real life. Because of this we publish biography, memoir and history. Our first memoir is by therapist Sara Trevelyan about her life-journey and marriage to Jimmy Boyle, ex convict and sculptor. We like memoirs by older women who have lived courageously, taken risks and accumulated their wisdom to pass on. From Corsets to Communism is the biography of Zophia Nalkowska, Polish novelist who lived through two wars and documented the Warsaw Ghetto in one of the first works of anti-fascist literature. Marjorie’s Journey tells of a young Scotswoman who took ten children by ship from Glasgow to South Africa to escape World War II.
The House that Viewed the World is the history of a house in Edinburgh since it was built in 1750. As one of its occupants was also the builder employed to build the White House in Washington, the book had a launch with the White House Historical Society as well as at the WS Library in Edinburgh with Edinburgh World Heritage.
What stories should we look forward to or check out this year?
This year of Scotland’s Stories sees the publication of The Queen’s Lender by Jean Findlay – a novel about the birth of the United Kingdom seen through the eyes of the court jeweller, exploring the crucible of the English Language at the time when Middle Scots descended on the English Court. Also Elizabethan Secret Agent – the biography of William Ashby the spy who turned James VI of Scotland away from Europe and towards England.
Bloody Scotland is featuring our crime series by C F Peterson this year.
The big non-fiction growing for three years under the tutelage of SSP is the biography of James McBey the Aberdeenshire painter who went to North Africa, became a war etcher and painted TE Lawrence. It is a romp of a read through the last century and full of great paintings. The Aberdeen Art Gallery is having an exhibition of James McBey’s work just after the launch of the book in December 2022, and will sell the book alongside the exhibition, this being the first biography of the Scottish Artist.