Independent publisher Agora Books has signed début novelists Rebecca Kelly and Agatha Zaza as part of a new focus on frontlist titles.
Associate publisher Sam Brace acquired world rights for both Monstrous Souls by Kelly and The Pretenders by Zaza directly from the authors. The books will be published in e-book and paperback, respectively in June 2020 and August 2020.
Monstrous Souls is the story of Heidi and her journey to remember the fateful day 10 years ago when she was discovered at the scene of a gruesome crime that left her best friend dead and her sister missing, as she picks up her own cold case.
Kelly said: "Becoming an author has been a life-long dream, so I am thrilled to be publishing with Agora. I love the whole creative process of writing, and it’s been brilliant to be able to work with Sam, who has helped to develop the story to its full potential."
The Pretenders meanwhile takes place over the course of one day and follows three couples whose relationships, beliefs and desires are tested after buried secrets come to light.
Zaza added: "I was so excited about being signed up with Agora Books that I couldn’t tell my husband for nearly two weeks in case it was a mistake. Agora’s passion for this project gives me faith that readers will enjoy my books too."
Both novels are part of a new drive from Agora Books to develop and publish début authors every year. Up until 2018, the publisher focused on its backlist of classic crime and historical fiction. However, in June 2018 it published début author Laura Pearson and in 2019 it launched "Lost the Plot", a writing programme that aims "to nurture the contemporary writing community and tap into its talent".
Brace said: "Monstrous Souls had me from its very first page. It’s a haunting thriller about memory, guilt, and the dangers lurking on our own doorsteps. Rebecca’s lyrical words and poignant storytelling juxtaposed with the dark subject matter make her novel all the more breath-taking. Agatha’s claustrophobic début, The Pretenders, made time stand still for me. Three couples forced to confront the flaws of their relationships on one Saturday is a modern domestic tragedy in the making. Her beautifully woven narrative will make you think about the lies we tell to keep people close. We’re so excited to welcome both new authors to our small-but-mighty frontlist and can’t wait to get them into readers’ hands."