HQ has pre-empted a debut novel inspired by a ghostly folktale for a “significant six-figure sum” in what agent Madeleine Milburn called the "fastest response I've ever seen" to a manuscript.
In editorial director Manpreet Grewal’s first acquisition for the HarperCollins imprint, UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada were bought to Bath Spa graduate Melanie Golding’s Little Darlings and one other book from Milburn within 48 hours of submission. Little Darlings will be published in hardback, e-book and audio book in spring 2019.
Loosely inspired by the ghostly folktale 'The Brewery of Eggshells', where a mother becomes convinced her twins are not her own, Little Darlings “offers a fresh perspective on modern motherhood and postnatal depression”.
Set in present-day Sheffield and spanning the first five weeks following a traumatic childbirth, the blurb reads: “Lauren’s hopes and dreams of being a new mum are shattered when she encounters a mother’s worst nightmare – someone is threatening to take her twins if she leaves them alone.” The novel ranges from the stark loneliness of returning home after birth to the confines of a psychiatric unit, as the reader is forced to question if Lauren “is mad or does she know something we don’t?”
Golding recently graduated from the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University with distinction. This year she won the short story prize at the Mid Somerset Festival, as well as the Evelyn Sanford trophy for highest mark in the prose class. Her short stories have been featured at the Leicester-based festival Story City, the Stroud Short Stories as well as the Cheltenham Literature Festival.
Grewal, who joined HQ in October following an eight-year stint with Little, Brown, said: “I wanted my first acquisition for HQ to be big and brave and bold, and Little Darlings is all of this, and so much more besides. The storytelling is sharp, the writing is slick and classy, but I’ll admit that I couldn’t read it in one sitting because it creeped me out so much that I had to wait until daylight to finish it.
“It’s taut, tense and utterly compelling and is exactly the kind of reading group fiction we want to publish at HQ.”
She added: “Mel is the real deal and I know that this is just the start for her. I can’t wait to share this journey with her.”
Milburn, founder and director and Madeleine Milburn Ltd, said: “I am truly delighted to share Manpreet’s first acquisition for HQ as I’ve admired her work for years. It was the fastest response I’ve seen, testament to HQ’s belief and passion to break Melanie out as a major name in book club fiction. I think this is a book that speaks to every new mother, and I’m proud to represent something that explores what can be a challenging time.”
Golding revealed she is interested in how “stories and lives intersect” and hopes to take the reader to some “strangely familiar places”. She said: “I am completely delighted to be working with Manpreet and the team at HQ, and really bowled over by their enthusiasm for my work. I've always been fascinated by the spaces where stories and lives intersect, where the imagination tips over into reality.”
Golding added: “I hope that together with the talented people at HQ I'll be able to explore these further, perhaps taking the reader to some unexpected, yet strangely familiar places.”