June hasn’t been as warm and sunny as we might have hoped, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been full of wonderful things! We’ve launched some amazing books, had fascinating Q&As with their authors, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves—we hope you have too! It’s also Pride Month, so we wanted to bring you some author and book recommendations that we thought deserved some love. We’ve got book announcements, author interviews, and some key dates to pop in your calendars, so sit back, relax, and get reading!

The World’s End Murders: The Inside Story by Tom Wood: Glasgow Launch a Fantastic Event!
By Annemarie Whitehurst

Thank you to everyone who joined us at Hillhead Library in Glasgow for the launch of The World’s End Murders: The Inside Story, on Sunday June 23rd. The event hosted a deeply fascinating discussion led by Tom Wood on his involvement in the World’s End case, his many experiences and knowledge from his long service in law enforcement, and the process of writing this true-crime book. The event concluded with a lively Q&A session, where Tom answered many intriguing questions from both his guest speakers and the audience, followed by book sales and signings.

From left to right: Guest speakers George Barnsley and Jane Hamilton, author Tom Wood, and event chair Annemarie Whitehurst.

The audience was also delighted to listen to not one, but two guest speakers. First we heard from George Barnsley, Ringwood author of The Lanarkshire Police Chronicles, who spoke about Tom’s work and the World’s End case from his perspective as a former police Superintendent. Next, Jane Hamilton took the mic. As a prolific crime journalist, long-time associate of Tom’s, and guest speaker at the launch of Ringwood’s bestseller and Tom’s first book with us, Ruxton: The First Modern Murder, it was a pleasure to have her back to speak about the World’s End murders and crime reporting. We’d like to thank both George and Jane for their integral roles in this launch.

The event concluded with Tom signing copies of The World’s End Murders: The Inside Story for eager guests. You can grab your own copy on our website here for £12.99.

The speakers and Ringwood interns

Many thanks to the staff at Hillhead Library for hosting the event, the team of The World’s End Murders: The Inside Story at Ringwood, and all those who attended the launch, both in-person and online. And congratulations to Tom for this achievement! We can’t wait for your next book.

R.M. Brown’s Song of the Stag Launch a Roaring Success!
Written by Rachel Harley

The launch of R.M. Brown’s Song of the Stag kicked off in the rustic yet lively Tinsmith in Dundee on the evening of June 27th, surrounded by Scottish flags left over from our dashed football dreams. They set the stage for an exciting, patriotic evening filled with readings from Rebecca herself, friends, and a speech from Drew Campbell. Campbell, former President of Scottish PEN, celebrated Rebecca as the newest voice in Scottish literature, following in the trailblazing footsteps of the likes of Hugh MacDiarmid and Naomi Mitchison.

Rebecca Brown right) and Ringwood intern Annika Dahlman (left) in front of a captive audience!

Song of the Stag features a fantasy reimagining of the Scottish fight for independence, complete with Scots (‘Old Storrian’) and Gaelic (‘Leid’). Rebecca’s passion for the novel shone through as our Q&A session told all about her inspiration, from her proudly Dundonian background, to her playlists filled with cinematic remixes and Taylor Swift songs to daydream to – and she even spilled about a sequel. If you didn’t catch the livestream, you can still watch it here.

For those lucky enough to have already read Song of the Stag, it was no surprise we sold out of all books available on the night and had queues round the bar waiting to get their copies signed!

Ringwood interns and author Rebecca Brown.

Read more about Song of the Stag and order your copy here!

Pride Month: Queerness in Scotland, Scottish Publishing, and Author Recommendations
Written by Philippa Thompson

This month is Pride Month and here at Ringwood we would like to celebrate with some author and book recommendations!

In 2021, Scotland took a great step in focusing on equality in education by becoming ‘the first country in the world to embed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) inclusive education across the school curriculum’ (see the www.gov.scot website for more information). The commitment to education that values inclusivity, equality, and diversity is something to be proud of and to celebrate this Pride Month!

Within publishing there has been a rise of representation for LGBTQ+ relationships and characters in the last century, particularly in the last 20 years. Also, the number of University courses dedicated to exploring queerness in literature has risen, with scholars examining the evidence for queer relationships and portrayals of queer individuals in the Renaissance and 18th Century Literature. The importance of this increase in LGBTQ+ representation within education and literature not only emphasises the significance of equality, but exposes audiences from a range of ages to diverse viewpoints. Now when you walk into a bookshop there will likely be a section for queer literature, especially during Pride Month!

In honour of Scotland’s efforts to support LGBTQ+ communities, here are some recommendations of queer Scottish authors and their works.

Firstly, check out Gay Monkey Business by Ophelia Po, winner of the Ringwood 2023 Grant Muir Prize! This work is absolutely fantastic, exploring the difficulties of coming out in heteronormative societies.

One recommendation is Val McDermid and her crime novel Report for Murder (1987), which is the first novel in Britain to portray a fictional lesbian character.

Another recommendation is the late Scottish poet Edwin Morgan, who publicly came out in 1990. His poem about the Loch Ness Monster is one you might have heard of, but remember that all his poetry is wonderful, with some including Glaswegian Scots!

A second poetry recommendation is the fantastic Carol Ann Duffy. A Glasgow-born poet who went on to become the first female and openly queer Poet Laureate, Duffy’s collection of Love Poems capture the passion, romance and emotional pains from losing love.

A further recommendation from a fellow intern here at Ringwood is the excellent author Jackie Kay and her novel Trumpet (1998). An almost lyrical novel, it explores the lived experience of famous jazz artist and trans man Joss Moody. It is told mainly from the perspective of his adopted son Colman, after the death of the artist. The novel delves into issues of expected familial bonds, transgender issues and above all love.

In parts it is a truly heart-wrenching piece of literature, yet the constant tenderness from the narrative provides a truly captivating reading experience. A great recommendation, Hannah!

Finally, keep an eye out for the Ringwood Short Story Competition, which particularly encourages submissions from underrepresented communities including, but not limited to, LGBTQ+, non-binary people, people of colour, women, and/or disabled communities. Here at Ringwood, we are committed to encouraging diverse voices and challenging the ‘norm’ to be more inclusive!

From all of the team here at Ringwood, we hope you have had a wonderful June and Pride month!


An Interview with Kirsten MacQuarrie
By Júlia Pujals Antolin

For fans of historical fiction from feminist perspectives and misunderstood women comes the upcoming Ringwood novel, Remember the Rowan, by Kirsten MacQuarrie. For this month’s newsletter and in honour of Pride Month, we have invited Kirsten over to explore the relationship between the main characters, Kathleen Raine and Gavin Maxwell, and how the book touches on topics of queerness in the post-WWII upper-class society in England and Scotland, and confronting gender stereotypes and roles. In the interview, Kirsten also sheds some light on what the book is about, what first drew her to the topic, and how she has navigated fictionalising real-life people with great tips for upcoming writers. So, read away, take notes, and keep your eyes on this newsletter and Ringwood socials about the launch of Remember the Rowan in September!

What first drew you to Kathleen Raine?
Like many readers, particularly in Scotland, I first encountered Kathleen Raine through Gavin Maxwell and in particular Ring of Bright Water, his world-famous book that later became an internationally successful film. It remains relatively little-known that Ring of Bright Water took its title from one of Kathleen’s poems, Part Two of  ‘The Marriage of Psyche’, yet while her poem is reproduced in full at the start of the book, to this day Kathleen’s name is buried amidst acknowledgements rather than included alongside her own words – meaning that in the audiobook version of Ring, it sounds as if Gavin wrote the poem himself!
Historically, Kathleen has either been ignored entirely or treated as something of an embarrassing footnote in retellings of Gavin Maxwell’s life, and those seeking to discover more about their relationship tend to encounter two infamous ‘facts’: that Kathleen had an unrequited love for Gavin, and that she ‘cursed’ him at the rowan tree outside the cottage they shared at Sandaig, a primordial spot in the wildest reaches of the West Highlands known as Camusfeàrna in Ring. Needless to say, neither rumour tells the whole story, and I’ve been outraged by the misogyny that threaded such depictions of Kathleen as some sort of lovesick witch. In truth, she remains one of the greatest, most underrated poets of the twentieth century, and it’s a travesty that more people in Scotland and beyond haven’t heard of her. Through Remember the Rowan, I hope readers will be inspired to play their part in tackling that historic injustice and to grow to know and love Kathleen as I have. Scottish literature will be immeasurably richer as a result!

The book is based on real people and real events. Did you find the research aspect of writing particularly challenging?
The wonderful thing about writing about writers is … their writing! Kathleen wrote very candidly about her feelings for Gavin in one volume of her autobiographies, The Lion’s Mouth, whilst Gavin mentioned her much more obliquely in a couple of his works. I began writing Remember the Rowan during our lockdown winter, which certainly presented practical challenges in terms of accessing archival resources – in the passport-style photo on my National Library of Scotland card, heading to Special Collections to consult Gavin Maxwell’s papers on the same week that services reopened, I’m grinning ear to ear! – but reading and above all absorbing their words has been both a pleasure and a privilege. As readers will discover in my Author’s Note at the end of the novel, it has also led me to uncover a range of hidden gems, poetry and prose, that are presently out-of-print. If they enjoy Remember the Rowan as much as I hope they will, there is even more literary exploration to be had! I feel very conscious of, and committed to, Remember the Rowan championing Kathleen Raine’s real-life legacy, and it has therefore been especially moving to share the journey to publication with her colleagues, friends and loved ones at The Temenos Academy, the educational charity founded by Kathleen ‘in light of the sacred traditions of the East and West’ that continues to offer a home for what she termed ‘the Arts of the Imagination’. A percentage of whatever I earn through the novel will be donated to Temenos, so readers can rest assured that my retelling is intended to play its part in keeping Kathleen’s flame alight.

Considering you are talking about real people, too, did you find writing and creating characters out of real-life Kathleen and Gavin difficult or rather exciting?
As I’m sure existing fans of Ring and his other books can attest, Gavin’s charm simply shines off the page, undiminished by the decades, so it was a rather enjoyable challenge to conjure him creatively and see him through Kathleen’s eyes. Funnily enough, I did contemplate early on whether or not to write from the alternating perspectives of both Kathleen and Gavin, which would have made for quite a different – albeit hopefully still interesting – book! As readers will shortly discover, however, an ongoing theme of their twenty-year connection is Kathleen’s uncertainty as to what Gavin truly felt for her and why, so retaining that sense of mystery and (mis)trust felt far more emotionally true.
Kathleen, on the other hand, has come to mean the world to me, personally and professionally, and my greatest anxiety about the novel has always centred on my ability to do her justice! Throughout the past three years, I have read and reflected on every piece of her writing that I could lay my hands on – from the Christmas cards she sent to her neighbours to 
Blake and Tradition, her two-volume academic magnum opus, and everything in-between! I hope to be more like a translator than a mimic: sharing her story with a new generation and challenging her ruthless tendency to self-blame for everything that went awry in her relationship with Gavin by integrating the extra social and emotional context that comes from historical (or herstorical!) hindsight. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie puts it, the purpose of fiction is not just to tell what happened, but how it felt. My priority with Remember the Rowan has been to capture the emotional truth of what Kathleen experienced throughout those twenty years.

Queerness is a key aspect of the relationship between Kathleen and Gavin. Was there any point where you feared falling into stereotypes?
In fact, I hope it’s the opposite, because it’s that queer mid-century context and the compassion it rightfully demands that shifts elements of Gavin’s treatment of Kathleen from stereotypical ‘bad boy’ behaviour into a much more nuanced anti-hero role. Homosexuality between men was not decriminalised in Scotland until 1980, eleven years after Gavin’s death, and the early years of what I call his ‘some-requited love’ with Kathleen unfold at the height of homophobic persecution, tragically epitomised by Alan Turing’s death. As a queer person myself, and returning to the issue of stereotypes, I think it’s key to remember that historical figures were not simply dealing with that externalised hostility – how could anyone internalise a safe, stable and supportive view of themselves when the world around them is shaped by condemnation? Nor does that suffering exist in isolation. There is no doubt in my mind that the toxic ripples of Scotland’s historic homophobia caused immense pain and confusion for not only Gavin but Kathleen too, and others around them.
In a subtle way, queerness can also be found in Kathleen’s side of the story. Her openness to sustaining a deeply romantic, emotional, and even spiritual relationship that was not grounded in sexual intimacy – a truly Platonic love – feels both historically rich and light-years ahead of her time. I often joke that one of my favourite real-life Kathleen quotes is not poetry at all but a line within 
The Lion’s Mouth where she criticises views of sex from a purely behaviourist perspective, without the sacramental, spiritual transformation of love, as nothing more than ‘the rubbing together of little fleshy appendages’! Her understanding that sex need not be a defining indicator of intimacy has a radical potential far removed from stereotypical victimhood.

How different do you believe Gavin’s art would be if he had been born in a society that accepted him?
Oh, that’s a tough question, playing literary Sliding Doors! One interesting aspect of it, that I will be presenting on at Scottish Literary Review’s Queer Form in Scottish Writing symposium next month, is that beyond Ring and his famous Sandaig series, Gavin’s travel writing, which is also referenced in Remember the Rowan, offered him a subtle yet significant opportunity to challenge homophobic thinking: illuminating different ways of living and loving around the globe to demonstrate, albeit in a more impersonal way, that, as Kathleen wrote in her wonderful poem “Shells”, ‘the world that you inhabit has not yet been created’. More practically, I think Ring and other books in the Maxwellian universe would have been able to openly feature a handsome companion or two – in turn allowing Kathleen to understand what Gavin couldn’t share with her, and to appreciate all that he could!

Did you find it difficult to write Kathleen’s darker, grittier side without falling into tropes?
I can’t think of a woman, and certainly not an intelligent, multi-faceted and multi-talented woman like Kathleen, who doesn’t have a darker side. We need light and shade to give us our dimensionality, and it’s the tropes that have been deployed against Kathleen – particularly the accusations of witchcraft, coming as late as 1968 and yet harnessing hideously misogynistic antecedents with which Scotland is only now reckoning – that fail to appreciate that richness. As readers of Remember the Rowan will discover, Gavin’s final book Raven Seek Thy Brother took its narrative framework from the curse of ‘a poetess’, ostensibly to blame for the many, varied struggles that had befallen him, and it frustrates me that people still find it more plausible to blame a woman’s ‘terrible occult powers’ than to give a man responsibility for his own life, or indeed to accept that there are countless things we humans can never control. Especially when, in his first book, Harpoon at a Venture, Gavin himself derided a man who claimed that a passing woman must have caused his shipwreck: ‘He was not likely to remember his inefficiencies when he had so desirable a scapegoat as the witch-woman to bear them into legend.’ Precisely! Or to quote my Kathleen within the novel, ‘If I had any control over your fate, Gavin, you would have known it long ago. You would have loved me as I love you.’

What are you hoping people take away from this story?
The name Kathleen Raine! I’m personal proof of the fact that encountering Kathleen’s poetic vision can transform lives for the better, yet I believe the historic mistelling of this chapter of her story has held back her reputation in Scotland. My novel takes its title from ‘On a Deserted Shore’, the epic poetic sequence of love and loss that she composed after Gavin’s death, in which she asks ‘Shall you and I, in all the journeyings of soul, remember the rowan tree, the waterfall?’ If I’ve done my job, readers will remember her, now and forever.

How has your advocacy for and work surrounding libraries inspired your writing?
I’ve already mentioned the National Library of Scotland and I wouldn’t be a writer without our nation’s outstanding network of libraries: offering uniquely equitable spaces to learn, listen, and discover free riches. Once I finally made my way to the NLS Special Collections reading room, I was able to sit with, amongst many other gems, Gavin Maxwell’s handwritten fair copy of Ring of Bright Water. I say ‘fair’, but for me, its true beauty was to be found in the mischievous otter splashes that decorated the opening page, evidence of where Gavin had written it beside the Sandaig waterfall. Libraries are often the only non-clinical, non-commercial space left in our communities and we must continue to fight for our legal right to access the treasures they care for: the stories of yesterday turning the readers of today into the writers of tomorrow.

You can now pre-order Kirsten’s Remember the Rowan here for just £9.99 (from 12.99)! Her novel will officially be launched on Saturday 21st September, 2 p.m., at The Mitchell Library in Glasgow. We hope to see you there!

Don’t miss our latest podcast episodes!
By Annemarie Whitehurst

This month has been a busy time for Ringwood Publishing, as we’ve launched not just one, but two highly-anticipated books: The World’s End Murders: The Inside Story by Tom Wood and Song of the Stag by R.M. Brown. In the lead-up to these launches, the Ringwood Publishing Podcast released exclusive interviews with both Wood and Brown which delve into their writing processes, expertise in their particular genres – true crime and fantasy – and much more. Listen here!

Order The World’s End Murders: The Inside Story and Song of the Stag today through our website! 

Do you have a favourite Ringwood author you’d love to see on the podcast? Or are you interested in learning about a particular part of the book-publishing process? We’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions! Write to us at: mail@ringwoodpublishing.com.

Stay tuned for the last podcast episode of Season 3. Happy listening!

Upcoming 2024 events:

Remember to watch out for some amazing new Ringwood launches!
21st September — Remember the Rowan Launch event
     Location: The Mitchell Library, Glasgow. 2 p.m.

Dates coming soon:
Late September – early October — Kitten Heels Launch event
October — The Unmaking of Eddie Muir Launch event

Watch out for:
13th October — Glasgow’s Burning Fire and the City event
     Location: Hillhead Library
25th November — Ringwood will be hosting a Memoirs event
     Location: Hillhead Library

And keep an eye out for news on Ringwood’s ‘How to get Published’ event later this year!

Want to keep up to date with all things Ringwood? Follow our social media pages!
X/Twitter: @RingwoodPublish
Instagram: @ringwoodpublishing, and our podcast at @ringwoodpublishingpodcast
Facebook: Ringwood Publishing
TikTok: @ringwoodbooks

Wishing you a sunny July,

Felicity Deacon (Editor), Jiyuan Li, Frances Pearson, Philippa Thompson, and Bea Crawford (Assistant Editors).

Want to share this with your friends and family? The Ringwood Newsletter is also available from our website www.ringwoodpublishing.com.