Northern Highlight - Joan Haig



1. Why did you become a writer?

I've always kept a diary and penned letters. When I was 36, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. One side effect was an urgent desire to start a story for my children - and recovery time was time to write.


2. Tell us about where you live.

I live in a small cottage at the edge of the Scottish Borders - our garden backs onto fields, heathery hills and an old witch's cave.


3. Where do you work?

When I was at university, my Granny cashed in and divvied up some premium bonds. It was enough for me to buy a bicycle, a word processor and an antique writing bureau. The bike was eventually nicked and the word processor obsolete, but I still work at my beloved bureau in a little outhouse we call 'the studio'. The kitchen table, garden steps or an old armchair are also productive spots. Occasionally (particularly at the editing stage of something), I treat myself to a day in a city cafe, and I love getting the chance to work on a train.


4. What for you is the 'spirit of Scotland’?

Passion and place. Liberal, inclusive and future thinking is balanced with locatedness and the value of history and folklore. It's a spirit that strongly relates to land, sky and seascapes.


5. Has this spirit influenced your work?

Absolutely. I started Tiger Skin Rug at Moniack Mhor up in the Highlands, where there's a strong sense of that spirit. There, in a traditional roundhouse, woodfire blazing, stories from all around the world are told, discussed and reimagined. It’s inspiring. I haven't met many people in the book industry yet, but those I have met (including my publisher, Cranachan) seem to share this spirit - they are proud about being part of Scotland's book scene, but are also worldly and inclusive.

Published by Pokey Hat,
an imprint of Cranachan Publishing
Interior Illustrations by Marian Brown
Cover design by Anne Glennie

6. Who for you are the great Scottish writers?

On the children's bookshelf, I'd ditch most of the dead white men, but I'd definitely keep Robert Louis Stevenson. For me, the greats include Elizabeth Laird, Lari Don, Mairi Hedderwick, Joan Lennon, Jackie Kay and Carol Ann Duffy... Several new authors have a whiff of 'great' about them, too, which is exciting.


7. If you could be transported to anywhere in Scotland right now, where would it be?

To the seaside – a quiet bay on the Solway Firth or west coast of the Highlands, please.

8. What would you like to see from children’s publishing in Scotland?

Children’s publishing in Scotland needs to be able to compete more widely, but this has to start with strong in-country opportunities at festivals and events, and with financial boosts for smaller publishers to achieve equity in marketing and distribution.

I'd love to see stories featuring more diverse characters, and, of course, publishing authors from diverse backgrounds would help immensely.

9. What’s your favourite children’s book set in Scotland?

I'm hopeless at favourite questions. I'm going to be cheeky and say Stay at Home! Poems and Prose for Children Living in Lockdown. It's a cheeky choice for two reasons. One: I contributed to it! And two: it's a collection of work from FORTY writers living in Scotland, which gets me out of narrowing down my favourite to one!

Published by Cranachan Publishing

Stay at Home! is a gift to children everywhere (it's a free, downloadable ebook), packed with variety and diversity and joyfully illustrated by Darren Gate. Although it's rooted in Scotland and about lockdown, it's more widely about relationships, nature, kindness, and hope.

Tiger Skin Rug is a Winter Finalist in the People's Book Prize. You can vote for it here. 

Follow Joan on:
Twitter: @joanhaigbooks
Instagram: joanhaigbooks


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