IN CONVERSATION WITH: Jane Spencer, Founder and Managing Director of Eyrie Press.
First and foremost, what’s Eyrie Press all about?
Eyrie Press is a social enterprise with two main aims. The first is to publish books featuring underrepresented groups and communities. We do not define ‘underrepresented’ – we are happy to be educated by the writers! We also work to support writers in our region, the east of England. It has many areas of geographical isolation so accessing literary events and activities usually involves significant travel and the associated costs. We’re trying to bring activities and opportunities into the area, either run by ourselves or in partnership with other organisations. We’ve run workshops and festivals, and our annual short story competition is exclusively for writers in the area we cover.
How has the online nature of the past year affected your process?
We suffered some setbacks, certainly. One of our authors was organising a tour which couldn’t go ahead, and our plans to run more workshops had to be put on hold. Like many other businesses, we’ve been forced to look at our activities in a different way. We were very lucky to receive funding from the Arts Council to develop an online course, ‘Writing Short Stories’, and in doing so we realised that because of the geographical isolation around our region, more online activities might well be appropriate even after lockdowns have ended. It’s been very much a case of remaining flexible and trying new initiatives.
What’s it been like working on the Frank Penny trilogy?
Wonderful! It’s been so interesting to see Jeremy build the world of his imagination and watch the characters develop in the face of their adventures. The tension is ramping up now; the story is certainly becoming darker as it goes along and seems to ask as many questions as it answers, which I love! It will be a five-book series in all, with number four out in November this year, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing it to its conclusion.
Which projects are you most proud of?
Genuinely, I am usually very proud of the one I am working on at the time. The freshness of each project is a joy. But overall I am most proud of starting Eyrie Press to begin with and building it to what it is now. As all small press owners will know, it can be extremely difficult, and there have been challenges which have required some really creative thinking. But thanks to our supporters and everyone involved with the press, we have managed to keep moving forward and although we are still very much a micro-press, we are in quite a strong position and looking forward to the future.
What are some upcoming plans for Eyrie Press?
I can’t give much away as there’s a lot which is still in the planning stage, but we have a wonderfully varied selection of books in the pipeline this year. Some fiction, including a sci-fi novel and book 4 of the Frank Penny series, and some non-fiction with a very local flavour. We’re also looking at what we can learn from this past year and how we can come up with some imaginative ways to reach all the talented writers in the east of England. We’re working on some ideas at the moment which could be exciting!