Hot Key Books has bought Carnegie Medal winning author Jennifer Donnelly’s “subversive retelling” of Cinderella for a YA readership.
A nine-publisher auction took place in the US won by Scholastic for a “high six-figure sum” with Bonnier Zaffre imprint Hot Key afterwards scooping UK and Commonwealth rights.
The new version will explore “what makes a mean girl mean” from the perspective of the fairy tale heroine’s ugly sisters.
Jane Harris, executive director for children’s fiction for Bonnier Zaffre, negotiated rights with Cecilia de la Campa and Steve Malk from Writers House. Hot Key Books plans to release in tandem with Scholastic US in autumn 2019.
Stepsister begins where Cinderella ends, but instead follows the story of Isabelle and Octavia, Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters.
The announcement comes hot on the heels of Scholastic’s acquisition of YA author’s Louise O’Neill’s “dazzling” feminist retelling of The Little Mermaid, announced in July.
A Hot Key spokesperson said: “Harking back to the Grimm version of the tale and Donnelly’s own love of villainy in popular culture, the novel explores, in harrowing and fantastical fashion, what makes a mean girl mean.”
Donnelly said: “I am so happy to be publishing Stepsister with the incredibly talented team at Hot Key, and am very touched at the way they have taken this story of loss, redemption, and the true meaning of beauty to heart.”
Harris revealed that the team “fell in love” with Donnelly’s writing on receiving only a partial submission. She said: “Her ability to subvert this classic fairy tale, weaving in multiple layers of thought-provoking and relevant comment with such crisp prose, will earn it a place on bookshelves for many years to come – it is a gem of a read for the 21st century.”
Cecilia de la Campa, executive director of global licensing at Writers House, said the agency, which closed its UK office in June, had experienced the “most incredible response” to the book ahead of Frankfurt as “publishers around the world are looking for new entry points to important topics”.
She added: “Jennifer has created a multi-layered and thematically rich portrayal of the stepsisters we all thought we knew, and we're thrilled to be working with Hot Key Books on this phenomenal project in the UK.”
Hot Key published Donnolley's historical thriller, These Shallow Graves, in October 2015.
Donnelly has written 11 novels, including A Gathering Light (Bloomsbury), which won the 2003 Carnegie Medal, as well as The Rose trilogy for adults and the Waterfire series for young adults.