Fourth Estate has snapped up a "devastatingly funny and sharply bittersweet" debut novel from comedian and "Schitt's Creek" screenwriter Monica Heisey in a 48-hour pre-empt.
Editorial director Kishani Widyaratna acquired British Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, in physical, e-book and audio in a two-book deal from Claire Conrad at Janklow & Nesbit UK, on behalf of Marya Spence at Janklow & Nesbit US, for a "significant" sum. North American rights were pre-empted by Jessica Williams at William Morrow and further foreign rights have been sold in eight other territories so far. Really Good, Actually will be a super lead debut for Fourth Estate, backed by a major campaign.
The novel chronicles a year in the life of a young divorcée, and has been described as "perfect for fans of Sheila Heti, Jenny Offill and Ottessa Moshfegh". Heisey has already garnered praise from writers including Dolly Alderton and Lauren Oyler.
Its synopsis explains: "Maggie was fine and then one day her life as she knew it crumbled. Now, she has only two things to call her own: a failed marriage that lasted 750 days and a PhD thesis on something obscure that is going nowhere. Alone for the first time in her life, unable to afford her rent and numbing her sadness by swiping right, she starts to wonder how she could have gone from having everything together to seeing it all fall apart at the age of 29? Surely, she too deserves to be happy? Really Good, Actually follows the first year of Maggie’s attempt to navigate the shame, chaos and cultural baggage of carving out a life as a Surprisingly Young Divorcée™. As Maggie faces the painful repercussions of her youthful choices, she finds herself forced to reassess her ideas of what we know as joy, meaning and purpose."
Widyaratna said: "I read Really Good, Actually in one sitting and then immediately went back to the beginning to try to figure out just how Monica Heisey had managed to write a debut novel that is this mordantly funny, achingly sad and painfully true. She is a stunning writer, not only uniquely able to chart the treacherous terrain of modern relationships but one with an unflinching eye for our flawed humanity and the sometimes flimsy stories we tell ourselves just to make it through the day. The response across the whole Fourth Estate team was heartfelt and unanimous: we had to publish Monica and her irresistible debut."
Heisey is an author and television writer from Toronto, now based in London. Her writing has been published in the New Yorker, the New York Times, The Cut, Vogue, the Guardian, Vice, and elsewhere. She was previously an editor at large at Broadly. Her first book, a collection of essays called I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better, was published in Canada by indie Red Deer Press. She has written on shows including "Schitt’s Creek", "Workin’ Moms", "Baroness von Sketch Show" and "Gary and his Demons".
The writer said: "They say you’re supposed to try to be the person you needed when you were a teenager... this is the book I needed when I was 28 and having what might charitably be called A Bit Of A Weird One. During my own divorce at a young age, I was desperate to read or watch something that spoke to the strangeness of my unexpected circumstances. When I couldn’t find anything, I started writing this book. I’m so excited that it resonated with Fourth Estate and the brilliant team there. I feel so fortunate that my book’s release in the UK is in such capable hands, and especially to be working with an editor as incisive, conscientious and passionate as Kishani Widyaratna. I would normally say something funny here to break up all this sincerity, but it's honestly just a dream come true."