Monstrous Regiment is one of the newest indie publishing houses to set up shop in Edinburgh – initially conceived whilst the two founders, Lauren Nickodemus and Ellen Desmond, were still students at Napier University. Named rather brilliantly after the famous John Knox slur on powerful women, it aims to produce titles that are “feminist, bold, intersectional, unapologetic and diverse”. The Wee Review looked over their first publication earlier this year – a collection of personal essays exploring bisexuality and bi-erasure, wittily titled The Bi-ble, and funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign. Now they’re launching a brand new quarterly magazine, set to feature short fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and visual arts.
We caught up with Lauren to find out more about this new project, chew over the success of The Bi-ble, and to consider the importance of a good pun in publishing.
How are you enjoying the reception that The Bi-ble has had?
It’s really gratifying, especially for a first project of ours. There’s been a strongly positive reception that demonstrates that there was a need. It’s been really exciting, just having that positive reception that shows us that, yes, the things that we’re doing matter to people – they can be meaningful, they can make a difference.
When did you first have the idea?
It was last year, heavily inspired by other anthologies coming out at that time. There was Nasty Women (404Ink) and there was No Filter (Unbound) and Pride, Not Prejudice (Unbound) – and I got thinking, what was a topic that would be meaningful, that I was really interested in and that there was a need for. I had read quite a bit of discourse online about the lack of bisexual representation, and that struck a chord with me. The idea of being in that in-between kind of space, where you’re not quite enough for either community – you don’t really fit into these two larger groups. So I tossed the idea around for a few months, and talked to Ellen, who thought it was a strong idea, and we talked to a few other people to get some advice – and then I had the idea for a pun title.
The title is genius, I love it so much.
I thought, if I have a good pun, then we just have to run with it!
I wanted to get first-hand personal experiences because I wanted individual voices to shine out, and also because I wanted to learn more for myself from others – so it’s been something of a journey of discovery, to share these stories with a wider audience.
There’s the slight invisibility of bisexuality, where depending on what sort of relationship you’re in, how you identify is not necessarily immediately obvious. Would you like to revisit the topic?
I would love to do an expanded edition of the book at some point, if the sales from the first run continue to do well. It was a very quick turn-around time – we probably had about six weeks of submissions, and then about a month of editing and getting everything finally set. So we did have to push right through, for the production timescale. I’m happy with the essays that we have but I would love to dig into some more intersectional topics that we weren’t able to cover. But we’ll see – we’re kind of tossing around the idea of doing an extended volume or edition.
It could be Vol. II of The Bi-ble.
Yeah! Yes, it could.
So you and Ellen met on the publishing course at Edinburgh Napier?
Yes, on the MSc there. We both gained production experience from doing that course – we went through the entire process of bringing a book to publication, using an out-of-copyright text, typesetting and editing etc. So that was really helpful, as we had done most of the steps involved in the production process. It was a good grounding for us, and made it a lot easier for us to produce The Bi-ble ourselves.
And did you have the idea for Monstrous Regiment while you were students?
Yeah, we actually started it during our dissertations.
That was brave.
Yeah! I just wanted to get a running start on it because there were so many anthologies coming out around then. It felt timely.
What future plans do you have for Monstrous Regiment?
At the moment, we’re focusing on starting up our literary magazine – so hopefully, that can be an ongoing, quarterly thing. We have a few different ideas for future books – largely topical anthologies as well. There was one idea, which Ellen was discussing on Twitter, for the stories of women who had escaped domestic violence. But right now, we’re mainly trying to get the magazine up and running.
How are you finding the submissions so far?
Pretty good! I’m excited by the colour theming [MR’s current theme is CRIMSON] because I think it’s an interesting way to latch onto ideas. It’s cool seeing what people take from this colour, and how they tie it in to whatever their story is. I think it is an unusual theming system, and I think it will be interesting when the first issue comes out, and readers can see what connections writers are making.
And crimson, more than plain red, elicits more emotions, more jump-off points?
Will future themes be other colours?
They will be for a while, yes – and the colour themes really help with the design and the cover art. After a couple of volumes, we might end up switching, but for the first couple of years, we’ll stick with colours. The magazine will only be coming out in print initially – we might do digital at some point, but not yet.
Are there any LGBTQA books that have spoken to you in the past – or any you haven’t liked?
Girls will be Girls by Emer O’Toole – I read it last spring, and it struck a chord with me, regarding the performative qualities of what it means to be a woman, which is something I’ve struggled with in the past. She challenges you to think about how much that we intrinsically link to gender is actually a performance on some level – I really liked it.