5 female Scottish writers you should be reading

writers in scotland

We’re always on the lookout for new books and new voices, and we’re especially attuned to writing that veers from the straight-white-English-and-American-male demographic. So, assuming you’ve got similar interests, here’s a small selection of writers we’re digging that don’t quite fit that canonic mould – a handful of women who happen to be the some of the greatest Scottish writers of the moment.


If you haven’t yet heard of Kirsty Logan, then, well, it was only ever a matter of time: her first book of short stories, The Rental Heart and Other Stories, came out with UK indie, Salt Publishing in 2014 and her début novel, The Gracekeepers, is being released by Harvill Secker in 2015 (Hogarth in the US), and she’s generally agreed to be a superstar in the making. Her work’s been described as ‘addictively enjoyable’ and her collection was shortlisted for the Saltire First Book Prize, amongst others. Plus, she’s not only a great writer but a mentor for other female writers through the super-innovative WoMentoring scheme. If you like your fiction fabulist, queer, sultry and quirky, Logan’s the woman for you.

Great Scottish writers

Laura Hird’s a more established name in short-story circles, but she’s undeservingly obscure in the wider world of literature: she’s the author of two story collections (Nail and Other Stories, Hope and Other Urban Tales) a novel (Born Free) and a co-written book of letters (Dear Laura) that combines her mother’s letters to her with scenes from Hird’s own life. Hird’s work, unlike Logan’s, is very much realist, rooted in Edinburgh’s seedy underbelly; if you like Irvine Welsh, or, indeed, James Kelman, you’ll get on well with Laura Hird and her portraits of social deprivation, but her work is also suffused with a strong sense of female empowerment and sexual fulfillment. Excellent stuff!

best Scottish writers

Jenni Fagan is another new kid on this very exciting block: her 2012 début, The Panopticon, similar to Hird’s work, is unrelenting in its presentation of the grim realities of contemporary UK society: its narrator, fifteen-year-old Anais, is stuck in the very uncaring social care system, in a novel that the New York Times described as a ‘pugnacious, snub-nosed paean to the highs and lows of juvenile delinquency’. In 2013, Granta named Fagan one of this decade’s Best Young British Novelists. Not a bad endorsement!

Alice Thompson crop (1)

Heard of the novelist Alice Thompson? You have now: she won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize with Justine in 1996; her 2010 book The Existential Detective drew comparisons with Paul Auster and David Lynch; and her sixth novel, 2013’s Burnt Island, was described by John Self in the Guardian as risky, clever, satisfying and ‘connected by literary electricity to other tales of isolation’ like The Shining and The Sea, The Sea. Ali Smith called Thompson the ‘intellectual future of British writing’, which really should be endorsement enough for any of us.

Best Scottish writers

And then there’s Eleanor Thom, who, though she was born in London, has studied and worked in Scotland, and lives now in Ayr, and whose mother came from a family of Scottish travellers – a history that informed Thom’s first novel, The Tin-Kin (2009) which won the Saltire First Book award that same year. She’s had work broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the Independent described her fiction as displaying both grit and candour. Roll on, novel two, we say!

It’s always hard to limit our choices – which new writers are you guys excited about?

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Image credits: Header photo © Arran Moffat; Jenni Fagan photo © Urszula Soltys; Alice Thompson photo © Pascal Saez/Sipa USA; Eleanor Thom photo © www.dooks.org)

1 reply

  1. Got The Rental Heart for my birthday, reminds me a bit of early Angela Carter. Lot of weird stuff going on and some stories were definitely better than others. But will probably read The Gracekeepers when it comes out.

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