GUEST-BLOG: Nicholas Royle

My guest today is the man responsible for publishing the Nightjar Press chapbooks that I’ve been enthusing over – and was also part of the inspiration behind my launching of Spectral Press next year (the other part of that inspiration is Tartarus Press). Nicholas is a writer as well as a publisher/editor, and he’s also fascinated by birds (the ones with feathers, before you say anything). Here, Nicholas describes how that fascination, combined with the publishing, fortuitously helped him come up with a name for his most recent enterprise.


It seems to me that my generous host managed to decide on a name for his small press in a remarkably short time. And a good name it is, too – Spectral Press. I took a lot longer musing over what I finally opted to call Nightjar Press. The first small press I ran, in the early 1990s, took no time at all to name. I earned my living with a very tedious office job at the time and, to make my days more bearable, I wrote short stories about the Office Idiot. I gave him the name Egerton, in homage to M John Harrison, who had used the name in one of his stories. I liked the name and somehow it was a good fit for the Office Idiot.

A young man called Michael Smith started working in the office. He wrote short stories, too! Would you credit it? He showed me some and they were very good. Even more unlikely, Mike started writing Egerton stories as well. So when Mike showed me a story that was so good I was inspired to set up a small press to publish it (in spite of its not including the Egerton character), the name of the press came quickly and easily – Egerton Press. With my Egerton hat on, I published two anthologies (Darklands and Darklands 2) and a collection of Joel Lane’s stories, The Earth Wire, then when nothing further happened I had to conclude that Egerton Press had had its moment.

So, fifteen years later, having realised I wanted to start publishing again and having won the kind approval of my lovely wife, I needed a name for a press that would specialise in short stories published as chapbooks. I had, in the previous few short years, become increasingly interested in birds. My favourite bird is the jay. Jay Press? No. Sounded too much like a nineteen-year-old first-time novelist in skinny jeans with an old-skool leather satchel and a pair of unglazed black plastic spectacles. Gannet Press? Better suited to a publisher of restaurant guides. Woodpecker Press? Something used in the manufacture of cider, surely. I was tempted by Goldfinch Press; who wouldn’t be? The goldfinch must be the prettiest British bird, cover star of many an ornithological field guide. Plus, it was associated with death in the Middle Ages.

Name me a bird that hasn’t been associated with death. Easy: wren, blue tit, sandpiper, Manx shearwater. OK, but cuckoo, bittern, magpie, nightjar, vulture, most owls and virtually all members of the crow family except the jay – all drenched in death. The nightjar emerged as favourite. I had never seen one, but I’d been out listening for them and had heard one. Its song – a churring – is a ghostly clicking not unlike the sound produced by a Geiger counter. Its alternative names – goatsucker, corpse fowl. That’s just asking for it. Sylvia Plath called it the ‘Devil-bird’. Generally, it seemed, the nightjar enjoyed an uncanny, supernatural reputation. Given the sort of fiction I intended to publish, it was, as they say, a no-brainer.


Many thanks to Nicholas for taking the time out of his busy schedule to write this. Also, thanks for publishing those Nightjar chapbooks. the very ones that gave me that “Eureka!” moment just when I was wondering which particular direction to head in. From small acorns do mighty oaks grow, and all that.  =D

The Nightjar Press website can be found here.

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