Dialogue Books has signed Irenosen Okojie, a "fearless" writer publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove said had partly inspired the new inclusive imprint.
Okojie is an award-winning writer and new Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She was a recipient of the 2016 Betty Trask Award for her debut novel Butterfly Fish (Jacaranda Books) while her debut short story collection Speak Gigantular (Jacaranda Books) was shortlisted for the 2016 Jhalak Prize and 2017 Edge Hill Short Story Prize.
The deal for two new books from Okojie was struck by Lovegrove, who bought UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) for Nudibranch, a short story collection to be published in November 2019, and a novel Curandera, which will follow in spring 2020, from Elise Dillsworth at Elise Dillsworth Agency.
Nudibranch is Irenosen Okojie’s second collection of short stories, which focuses on "offbeat characters caught up in extraordinary situations". Such characters include a mysterious woman of the sea in search of love, who arrives on an island inhabited by eunuchs; dimensional-hopping monks, who, navigating a season of silence face a bloody reckoning in the ruins of an abbey; and an aspiring journalist returning from a failed excursion in Sydney who becomes what she eats. A darker, Orwellian future is also imagined where oddly detached children arrive in cycles and prove to be dangerous in unfamiliar surroundings.
The novel, Curandera, is described as a cross between Perfume and The Secret History, and explores the darker elements of shamanism, desire and friendship.
Set in the mountainous town of Gethsemane, a mysterious woman's arrival sparks a series of strange events that will leave the town's inhabitants changed - men sporadically blind in the afternoons, children disappearing and reappearing without warning, and infertile women pregnant with the memories of past births.
Okojie said she was delighted to have found a home with Little Brown's Dialogue imprint and was excited by Lovegrove's "audacious vision". She added: "As an experimental black British voice writing across genre, producing unorthodox narratives about the ways we live, it was important to find a fearless publisher for Curandera and Nudibranch. A publisher who not only celebrates its ideas, its strangeness, its accessibility but also recognises that championing bold voices gives lifeblood to our literary landscape."
Lovegrove said: "I have been in awe of Irenosen’s work for some time; her writing gives me goose bumps and I totally lose myself in the worlds she creates, such is the power of her storytelling. Irenosen was part of my inspiration for Dialogue Books: A Black British writer that is fearless with style and deft in craft. I wanted to create a place that unheard voices could flourish and where the experimental and the avantgarde could thrive and I am thrilled Irenosen joins my roster of exceptional writers."
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