Northern Ireland’s newest digital publisher Whittrick Press launches this week with their first publication by award-winning novelist and playwright Bernie McGill – and a responsive website and submission portal created by Bookswarm – www.whittrickpress.com.

Launching as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival 2013, Whittrick Press is releasing Sleepwalkers, a collection of short stories that has already been long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize.

Darkly moving and beautifully written, McGill’s debut collection of short stories explores the lives of women across the generations. From the storm-battered coastline of the north of Ireland to the sleeping villas of Andalusia, McGill’s characters grapple with the consequences of affairs, bereavement, alcoholism, illness and murder.

Founded by David Lewis and Hugh Odling-Smee, Whittrick Press sets out to bring new writing and new ideas to readers in innovative and interesting ways. It is also one of the latest recipients of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Creative Industries Innovation Funding (CIIF) that aims to stimulate innovation, research and development and creativity in the Northern Ireland economy.

David Lewis explains the background to the new company: ‘Both Hugh and I have talked about setting up a publishers for years. With the advent of digital technology, it’s now possible to produce e-book titles relatively cheaply and distribute them to readers around the world through platforms such as Amazon, iBooks and Kobo.

Whittrick Press brings the traditional values of literary publishing to the digital age, working with writers to package their work in the most appropriate formats, whether that’s an e-book, an app or a limited edition print copy.

With an eye-catching brand created by renowned artist and designer Rory Jeffers and submissions already pouring in, the team intend Whittrick Press to become synonymous with quality, interactivity, innovation and literary excellence.

Odling-Smee explains the meaning behind the distinctive name. ‘The name is from the Scots word for weasel, “whittrick”. We chose the name after being inspired by the title of a poem of the Scottish poet Edwin Morgan “Whittrick in 13 Dialogues”.

‘The poem is about the joy and colour that art brings to our humdrum lives. The rare glimpse of a beautiful creature such as a whittrick is the spirit we want to express in our publishing, creating a lasting bond with the reader.’

Whittrick Press intends to bring 20 e-books to the market by the end of 2014, with plans to develop a non-fiction imprint as well as developing new products to enhance the reading experience.

With backgrounds in digital communications, literature and event management, the Whittrick team are well-placed to bring about the company’s aims of ‘seeking out authentic voices and new writing talent, and producing high quality, thought-provoking and beautiful e-books’.