Sandra Ireland

Winner 2014 with 'The Desperation Game'

Chief judge of the Edinburgh International Flash Fiction Award

Book signing 'Beneath the Skin'

Book signing 'Beneath the Skin'


Sandra Ireland was born in England, but lived for many years in the Irish Republic before settling in her grandmother’s house on Scotland’s east coast. She is the critically acclaimed author of The Unmaking of Ellie Rook which was long-listed for the Guardian’s ‘Not the Booker Award’ and Beneath the Skin, a psychological thriller published by Polygon, which has just been shortlisted for a Saltire Society First Novel Award. Her second novel, Bone Deep, is a modern Gothic tale with a mythical twist. Her poetry, often inspired by the seascapes where she lives, has been widely published in anthologies, including Seagate III (Dundee), and Furies (For Book’s Sake). She is the 2017 winner of the Dorothy Dunbar Trophy for Poetry, awarded by the Scottish Association of Writers.  Sandra is Secretary of Angus Writers’ Circle and part of the Chasing Time Team, which runs writing retreats in a gloriously gothic setting in Angus.

Do you see men hanging around, waiting for better days? No you do not. Men move on very quickly and so must you.’ Her eyes narrowed as she glared at me. I got a sense of the steeliness behind her head-girl likeability. ‘I have had a remarkable success rate with my system and there is no reason to think that it shouldn’t work for you. Some may think it’s a little…unorthodox, but…’ She shrugged. ‘It depends how desperate you are.’ She fixed me with her eyes again and I knew it was a question. I nodded sadly…"  The Desperation Game

The idea for The Desperation Game came after one of those (probably wine-fuelled) conversations with friends. One of us commented that single men seem to be non-existent, and someone else said, ‘You have to move really fast to snap one up!’ It just made me laugh so much, and the idea for this rather macabre short story was born. I never expected to win the Scottish Arts Club competition, and it was a huge thrill when I did. It gave me the confidence to press on with the novel I was writing at the time, and just a few months afterwards, I signed up with my agent, Jenny Brown. I do love the short story form and have had others subsequently published in Take a Break, The People’s Friend and Women’s Weekly, but mainly I work on my novels.


Beneath the Skin (Polygon, 2016). ‘The scars of the past are more than skin deep.

A taxidermist with a secret. A soldier with nothing left to fight for. A young mother determined to protect her young son. Together, can they fight a past that doesn’t want to let them go?

Beneath the Skin is a psychological thriller with a twist! It’s set in Edinburgh, and has been described by the Scotsman has ‘Stockbridge Gothic’, a description I rather like! When ex-soldier Walt rocks up in the city with no clear plan for the future, he realises that the past has a much firmer grip than he’d anticipated.

Bone Deep (Polygon, 2018). ‘Two sisters, a broken bond and secrets as old as time.’

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What happens when you fall in love with the wrong person? The consequences threaten to be far-reaching and potentially deadly. Bone Deep is a contemporary novel of sibling rivalry, love, betrayal and murder. It is a dual narrative, told in alternative chapters by Mac, a woman bent on keeping the secrets of the past from her only son, and the enigmatic Lucie, whose past is something of a closed book. Their story is underpinned by the creaking presence of an abandoned water mill, and haunted by the local legend of two long-dead sisters, themselves rivals in love, and ready to point an accusing finger from the pages of history.

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Like most writers I dread putting words on paper and procrastinate all the time. I’m not sure why that is, when it’s our passion, but I’ve discovered it’s a very common trait! I have a great app on my phone called Writeometer, which nags me to do my 500 words a day. It calculates how long it will take me to finish my next novel, which I find quite comforting. The Writeometer believes in me! 

I do have a writing desk which I never use. Instead I get curled up on the sofa with my laptop- cosy throws, cushions and mugs of tea and I can stay there much longer than I’d stay at a desk!

My inspirational place is the beach near my home. I love to go for a walk and clear the cobwebs. Walking is a great way of letting the words untangle in your head.

Workshops and websites

The writer’s greatest enemy is time. The things we could do if we had the time! So, last year I came together with two friends; Dawn Geddes, a journalist and novelist, and Elizabeth Frattaroli, who writes for children and teens, to launch Chasing Time Writing Retreats. We have exclusive use of a gorgeous 19th century country house hotel in Angus, and offer tutored weekends for writers who are seeking some writing me-time!

If you’d like to keep up with all my news, my website is:

inspirational places

My writing nook

My writing nook