HarperCollins imprint 4th Estate has pre-empted a "21st-century response to Lolita”, My Dark Vanessa, for six figures, with HarperCollins US prevailing with a seven-figure pre-empt.
American teacher Kate Elizabeth Russell's first novel has been called a "a package of dynamite” by author Stephen King, the publisher said, with a flurry of offers coming from across the globe.
Anna Kelly, commissioning editor at 4th Estate acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to the book with a "significant" six-figure pre-empt from Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown on behalf of Hillary Jacobson at ICM Partners. HarperCollins US bought Russell's debut through a seven-figure pre-empt and translation rights have already sold in numerous territories with new deals are being struck every day, according to 4th Estate. My Dark Vanessa will be published by HarperCollins in January 2020 with a global publication date.
The novel is narrated by a woman who cannot forget her great love: the teacher she had an affair with when she was 15. 17 years later, in 2017, he is accused by another former student of abuse.
"My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel," Kelly said. "With more clarity and power than anything else I have read, it captures the fraught and complex emotions that surround some of the most crucial issues our age is grappling with: sexual power, consent, freedom and trauma. It is both horrifyingly disturbing and utterly riveting. I expect everyone to be talking about it in 2020."
Russell said: "I'm thrilled, humbled, overwhelmed. My Dark Vanessa is such a personal novel, one I've worked on for over half my life, years writing and rewriting fuelled by the belief that this story was important and worth telling. I always hoped Vanessa would resonate with others, but the response so far has been beyond anything I could've imagined. This is my lifelong dream come true."
The author recently completed a PhD in creative writing at the University of Kansas. Originally from east Maine, she has been teaching to support herself through her PhD.