Windmill has pre-empted in 24 hours a "show-stopping" historical debut, called Age of Monsters, by Lianne Dillsworth, for a "significant" six-figure sum.
Arrow publishing director Emily Griffin pre-empted UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, to the book plus a second title from Juliet Mushens at Mushens Entertainment within 24 hours of submission. Meanwhile North American rights were won by Millicent Bennet at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt following a six-figure auction, from Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency on behalf of Juliet Mushens.
Age of Monsters is billed as an "enthralling" historical reading-group novel set in Victorian London, which tells the story of a mixed-race heroine, Zillah, who finds herself playing the role of a freak on the stage. "But Zillah’s headline act as ‘The Great Amazonia’ is fake, and if her real identity is discovered her precarious existence will be shattered," reads the book's synopsis. "When a new act is introduced – a black woman with vitiligo exhibited as a ‘Leopard Lady’ – Zillah finds herself forced to confront the dark side of her profession. And when the woman goes missing, Zillah risks everything to save her and, in doing so, herself too."
Griffin said: "Age of Monsters is a reading experience unlike any other – immersive and hypnotic – a moving story of self-discovery and redemption which brings to life a deeply under-represented part of British history. Lianne’s powerful narrative voice transported me to a world so vivid I felt I could step into it. Against the captivating backdrop of Victorian London, Age of Monsters is at once a page-turning story and a timeless exploration of identity and belonging. I cannot wait for readers to fall in love with Zillah as I have, and to join her on her journey. We are buzzing with excitement at the prospect of launching Lianne as a major new literary talent on the Windmill list."
Dillsworth said: "I’m beyond excited to think of Age of Monsters out in the world. I’ve been overwhelmed by the passion and enthusiasm that Emily and Millicent have shown for the novel and know that with them, Zillah has found the perfect home. So grateful to Juliet, too, for believing in me and my writing and to all those who have helped and supported me along the way."
Mushens said: "Zillah is a brilliant heroine – funny, clever, and deeply empathetic. Age of Monsters manages at once to be a page-turning historical novel, but also hugely thought-provoking around issues of identity, race and class. Lianne is a major new talent and I’m delighted to share this novel with Emily."