Two Roads has acquired two novels by actress and ex-"Blue Peter" presenter Janet Ellis in a deal done just before the London Book Fair.
Meanwhile Chatto & Windus, Hodder & Stoughton, Serpent's Tail and Penguin Press are among the other publishers announcing pre-LBF deals.
Lisa Highton, publisher at John Murray imprint Two Roads, bought UK rights to Janet Ellis’ first novels from Gordon Wise at Curtis Brown. The books, the first of which is A Little Learning; Or, The Butcher’s Hook, were both submitted under a pseudonym.
A Little Learning is set in late 18th century London, where Anne Jaccob is coming of age. When she is taken advantage of by her tutor – her father’s great friend – her powerlessness in the world is brought home to her, and it joins several other formative experiences in her short life so far that will serve to dictate her future actions. Her saviour appears in the form of Fub, the butcher’s boy.
Publication of A Little Learning is scheduled for spring 2016. Ellis is a recent graduate of the Curtis Brown Creative Writing School.
Highton said: “We were hooked by the power of this incredibly vivid story from the outset. It’s by turns slyly witty and quite shocking, with an unforgettable heroine. I was surprised and delighted to find out the identity of the author, and we’re all excited to help launch the start of a great career.”
Meanwhile Beckie Hardie, deputy publishing director at Chatto & Windus, has pre-empted world rights, all languages, to a “surprising and endearing story of two women living in Cape Town”. Hardie acquired The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso from Elise Dillsworth at the Elise Dillsworth Agency.
The Woman Next Door is about sworn enemies and neighbours Hortensia James and Marion Agostino. Marion, troubled by her inertia in the face of apartheid, nevertheless resents the intrusion of a black woman into her white neighbourhood. Hortensia, weary of the hypocrisies of South Africa and blind to her own, has no capacity for social graces or friendship. But one day an unforeseen event forces the women together, leading the two women slowly into a form of friendship.
Hardie said: “Hortensia and Marion are the most cantankerous, argumentative, funny and loveable old women you are ever likely to meet. They are great company, but they also show us exactly how individual lives contribute to the bigger picture – in this case the changing face of South Africa.”
Omotoso was born in Barbados, grew up in Nigeria, and moved to South Africa in 1992, where she currently still lives.
Rowena Webb at Hodder & Stoughton has acquired Gizelle’s Bucket List: A Love Story Between a Girl and Her Dog by Lauren Watt in a pre-empt. Webb acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Caspian Dennis at Abner Stein, acting on behalf of David Doerrer, at Abrams Artists Agency.
Watts’ six-month bucket-list adventure with her dying English mastiff Gizelle went viral on Yahoo and was viewed 1.1m times on Buzzfeed. The book is the “poignant yet also funny, multi-layered story of Lauren’s difficult journey to adulthood and the dog that taught her everything she’s learnt about compassion and the boundless capacity of love”.
Webb said: “I immediately fell for Lauren’s story and loved her writing. It reminded me of everything that was appealing about Marley and Me and A Street Cat Named Bob, but with the added adventure of Wild.”
Gizelle’s Bucket List will be published in autumn 2016.
Serpent’s Tail has bought Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis, the story of a pack of dogs who are granted the power of human thought. UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, werebought from Coach House Books in Canada.
Fifteen Dogs starts with the gods Hermes and Apollo arguing argue about what would happen if animals had human intelligence. They make a bet that leads them to grant consciousness and language to a group of dogs staying overnight at a veterinary clinic.
Serpent’s Tail will publish in November 2015 as a £7.99 paperback original and e-book.
Rebecca Gray, Serpent’s Tail commissioning editor, said: “Fifteen Dogs is truly an unexpected book. It has three of my favourite qualities, being short, ambitious, and able to make me look at the world anew. It’s both a fun idea and deadly serious. I can already see that we’re going to have a ball publishing it.”
Penguin Press’ Tome Penn and Joy de Menil at Viking US have bought Conquistadors by Fernanco Cervantes, a historian at Bristol University and a descendent of a conquistador. Described as a “sweeping history”, the book was sold on a proposal.
Laure Eve, the writer behind the Fearsome Dreamer series (Hot Key Books), has signed a two-book deal with Faber Children's.
Commissioning editor Alice Swan bought world rights to The Graces, a YA novel described as a "thrilling combination of "The Craft", "Cruel Intentions" and the The Secret History", and its sequel. In the book, the Graces are a group of rich and glamorous girls who might also be witches.
Swan said: "This is the novel that my 14-year-old self would've been dying to read. Laure has created a glamorous, enticing, evocative world full of the kind of magic that is half real, half group hysteria. It's an intense read full of delicious twists and tumultuous relationships that will entrance teenagers."
Faber acquired the rights at auction from Sam Copeland at Rogers, Coleridge and White and publication is set for autumn 2016.
Romantic novelist Nicola Doherty is turning her hand to YA fiction with Love, and Other Man-made Disasters, which will be published by Orion’s YA imprint Indigo next year. Editor Felicity Johnston, who acquired the world rights to two books from Rowan Lawton at Furniss Lawton, said: “We are delighted to welcome Nicola to Indigo and can’t wait to introduce the teen market to her wonderful writing. Love and Other Man-Made Disasters is warm, witty, insightful and utterly feel-good. We couldn’t resist it, and feel certain that young adults (and not-so-young adults), will find themselves falling head over heels too.”
The book is set during a skiing holiday. In the story, 16-year-old Juno meets an instructor called Boy. Even though he is on the surface everything she doesn’t like, Juno has to learn to face her fears and potentially find love.
Publication is set for August 2016 in paperback and e-book, both priced at £6.99.