Scottish Successes: Emma Blair & Jessica Stirling
Both men have become Scottish Success Stories by writing commercial historical fiction, romantic novels often set in Scotland. Historically, many women wrote under a man's name in order to be taken more seriously – writers such as George Eliot and the Brontë sisters, for instance. And some authors have tried to hide their identity behind neutral initials, such as our own J.K. Rowling and A.L. Kennedy. 150 years ago the Paisley poet William Sharp adopted the name Fiona MacLeod for some of his work; a pretence he found increasingly difficult to sustain.
Interestingly, both Blair and Stirling are quite upfront about their gender on their web pages, although Iain Blair hid his true name for eleven years. Is this all really necessary? Do authors need to hide behind pseudonyms? If we're not going to judge a book by its cover, is it acceptable to judge by the sex of the author?
Or should we just sit back, enjoy the story, and not worry about the gender of the writer?
Iain Blair was raised in Glasgow but emigrated to America, aged 11, after his mother's death. Since then he as lived in Milwaukee, Glasgow and Sydney, and now lives in Devon. He has had careers as an insurance clerk, a journalist, a beach lifeguard and an actor.
During his twenty-year acting career he wrote a series of plays for theatre and television. When his publishers took on Where No Man Cries they insisted that it would sell better written as a woman, so Iain was changed to Emma.
Iain Blair died aged 69 in July 2011.
Jessica Stirling's story is rather different. Hugh C. Rae had been writing pulp crime novels for a number of years. His publisher was looking for a new writer for a list of women's historical fiction and approached Rae. He agreed, but felt he needed a writing partner and found long time friend Peggie Coghlan. Together they forged a writing partnership and created Jessica Stirling, with Coghlan providing many of the stories and the historical research, and Rae bringing his writing and editing skills.
After Peggie Coghlan fell ill and moved away from Glasgow, Rae took over writing "for" Jessica Stirling full time.
Blair's novels are set in Scotland, England, Australia and South Africa, often against the backdrop of conflicts such as WWII or the Spanish Civil War, and especially during the inter-war period. Most of Stirling's works are set in Glasgow and central Scotland, in both the 19th and 20th centuries.
Books by Emma Blair
- Finding Happiness - - Paperback
Sandy McLean is training to be a doctor to follow in his father's footsteps - indeed, to surpass his father who is just a general practitioner: Sandy is to become a top surgeon. Or so his father insists. But Sandy really wants to be an artist.
- Maggie Jordan - - Paperback
When most of Maggie Jordan's family are killed in a freak flood, she is forced to find work in a Glasgow carpet mill. She becomes engaged to Nevil Sanderson, who then suddenly decides to go and fight with the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War.
- Moonlit Eyes - - Paperback
When Pee Wee Poston and his wife Beulah are offered the chance to swap New York for London, they jump at the chance. But life for a black family in interwar London isn't easy. When the Nazi bombs arrive, life gets tougher still.
- Add to BasketA Most Determined Woman - - Paperback
For Sarah Hawke, daughter of an impoverished miner, life offered little beyond the grime of 1890s Glasgow and the eternal drudgery of back-breaking work. But then a mysterious stranger arrives, catapulting Sarah into a world of luxury and wealth.
- Princess Of Poor Street - - Paperback
'The Princess of Poor Street' is set in Glasgow during the depression. Vicky Devine is determined to pull through and make something of her life. With love fueling her strength and courage, her spirit and determination will never be broken.
- Street Song - - Paperback
Susan's parents had wanted a son - and they did little to hide their disappointment. If only they could have known! In the tradition-bound Scotland of the 1940s, there was no place for a woman like Susan. But she was determined to find one.
- Sweethearts - - Paperback
'Sweethearts' follows Lexa and Cordelia Stewart as they strive to find happiness in the tough Glasgow of the 1930s. The death of their father forces them to make changes - but how will they find their way in what is very much a man's world? It is precisely because of a man that both sisters are thrown into a turmoil.
- Three Bites Of The Cherry - - Paperback
Georgie Mair's first husband dies tragically from leukaemia. Three years later love comes once more into her life in the form of Charlie Gunn, who saves her life after an explosion at her work. But as their relationship blossoms into marriage, Georgie gets the feeling that her second chance at true love is too good to be true.
Set in Devon during both the 1920s and 1960s, 'Twilight Time' follows the lives and loves of sisters Crista and Maggs. In later life, Maggs is running a village pub with her husband, while Crista is a widow with three adult children. Then Crista meets Max. Can love win through in those greying years?
- Where No Man Cries - - Paperback
Glasgow between the wars is a town divided, taut with violence and steeped in hardship, a town with no time for dreams. Angus McBain knows that better than most: being poor has killed his father and aged his mother before her time. But he is determined to be his own man, to make his own place, and share it with the woman he loves.
- Wild Strawberries - - Paperback
Maizie is struggling to keep the Paris Hotel open whilst her husband is in the army during World War 2. A French soldier stays at the hotel after Dunkirk and she becomes pregnant. After he leaves for France she realises she can't follow him.
Books by Jessica Stirling
- The Asking Price - - Paperback
Imprisoned in a bad marriage, Kirsty maintains the situation for the sake of her son Bobby. Her husband Craig is now a policeman and seeks solace in the arms of a Glaswegian prostitute from the city's dark slums.
- Blessings In Disguise - - Paperback
Mid-Victorian Glasgow comes to vibrant life in Jessica Stirling's latest story of greed, ambition and true love triumphing against all odds.
World War I ended well for the Franklins, prosperous Clydeside shipbuilders. But trouble is brewing behind their respectable façade. As the slump of the 1920s begins to bite in Glasgow, troubles both financial and personal invade all their lives.
- The Dark Pasture - - Paperback
17 years have passed and the village of Blacklaw is facing poverty again. Mirrin is now happily married with children and enjoying her life on the Hazelrig Farm. But things soon go wrong and Mirrin must draw on all her courage to survive.
- The Gates Of Midnight - - Paperback
War has come to London once more and Holly Beckman, now a widow, is forced to find new depths of courage in the face of adversity. This is the final book in the Beckman trilogy, following The Deep Well at Noon and The Blue Evening Gone.
Servant girl Betsy McBride thinks she has as much right as any girl to set her cap at Tom Brodie, the most dashing young man in the district. When her master asks her to help out the Brodie family she jumps at the chance to get a bit closer to him.
- Prized Possessions - - Paperback
Set in Glasgow in the years of the great Depression, this is a story of an indomitable family of women. Jessica Stirling's previous novels include The Wind from the Hills, The Island Wife, The Workhouse Girl, The Penny Wedding and Hearts of Gold.
- Shamrock Green - - Paperback
The marriage of Sylvie and Gowry McCulloch was not made in heaven and has gone through difficult times. Settled now in Dublin, they have a daughter, Maeve, whom they both love dearly. Then Francis Hagarty explodes into their lives.