Polygon, an imprint of Scottish independent publisher Birlinn, has sold Jenny Lecoat's début novel on pre-empt to HarperCollins US in a six-figure deal.
"Two of the biggest publishing houses in the US pre-empted on début novel Hedy’s War within five days of being sent it," Polygon said. "Both were over six figures."
The deal has now been concluded with Brittany Lavery, associate editor at Graydon House, an imprint of Harlequin within HarperCollins, and was negotiated on behalf of Polygon by Fiona Brownlee of Brownlee Donald Associates. Polygon had originally bought word all language rights from agent John Beaton.
Polygon will publish in the UK in May 2020 and HarperCollins will publish in the US in spring 2021. Neville Moir and Alison Rae acquired rights for Polygon from agent John Beaton. Rights have already been sold to Allen & Unwin in Australia (which will publish it as The Viennese Girl), Porto in Portugal and El Ateneo in Argentina.
The synopsis reads: "In June 1940, the Channel Islands are occupied by Hitler’s forces. Hedy Bercu is a young Jewish woman who fled from Vienna to escape the Anschluss. She finds herself once more trapped by the Nazis, on the tiny island of Jersey. Concealing her racial status, Hedy finds work with the German authorities as a translator and embarks on acts of resistance.
"Despite herself, she falls in love with Kurt, a German officer – a relationship on which her life soon comes to depend. But as the secret police grow more suspicious and start to close in, a game of cat and mouse ensues as Hedy and her lover must take increasingly desperate measures and rely on the help of friends to evade capture and stay alive."
Lavery said: "I read the whole thing in a day and my heart was in my throat. My whole team is in love too, and it’s the kind of thing with which we can do so, so well – we have a track record of success with Second World War fiction and this is such an interesting and fresh angle on it. That it’s based on an incredible true story, and Jenny’s family has a connection to this history, makes it all the more fascinating."
Lecoat added: "I am still in shock, thoroughly overwhelmed, delighted, immensely grateful and a little bit terrified. All of which is probably appropriate. Absolutely delighted and looking forward to working with Brittany, everyone at Graydon House and the wider team at HarperCollins US and Canada."
Lecoat was born in Jersey where her parents were raised under German Occupation, with both families involved in resistance activity. Lecoat moved to England aged 18, where, following a drama degree, she spent a decade on the alternative comedy circuit as a feminist stand-up. She has since worked as a journalist, presenter and screenwriter as well as developing a film about her return to her island roots, “Another Mother’s Son” (2017), which starred Jenny Seagrove and John Hannah.