Orion Publishing has acquired Candice Carty-Williams' debut novel, Queenie, in a six-figure deal. UK and Commonwealth (excluding Canada) and audio rights in the book were acquired from Jo Unwin at JULA Ltd by Katie Espiner, managing director of Orion, in a fiercely contested auction between four publishers.
The “painful and comic story” of a 25 year-old black woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither, Queenie already comes with a praise from Jojo Moyes after Carty-Williams was selected from more than 600 applicants for Moyes’ writers’ cottage scheme. "Even in 500 words I knew she could write, and that there was something special about her," said Moyes.
The novel was "pre-empted fast" in the US by Alison Callahan at Scout Press, according to Unwin, who also has reported "massive" film and tv interest from both sides of the Atlantic.
Queenie will be published under the Trapeze imprint as a "super-lead" title in spring 2019. Its eponymous protagonist works at a national newspaper where she's constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. As the novel opens, we find her in middle of a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, and seeking comfort in all the wrong places.
Carty-Williams was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016, having started her career in publishing with 4th Estate where she created the Guardian and 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize. She now is a senior marketing executive at Vintage Books.
She said: "It was very important to me that I create a character and a world that are as real as they are relatable, and from the unbelievable responses I've had here and in the US, I seem to have done it. Writing Queenie’s story was gratifying, it was funny, and at points it was very hard. I am beyond delighted that Katie, an editor I've long admired, was so enthusiastic about Queenie from the off, and I've been blown away by the excitement shown by all at Orion who read it."
Espiner said: "I fell so hard for Queenie. We all knew immediately that we had to publish this extraordinary, singular novel. Candice is a hugely gifted writer and it’s an absolute delight to welcome her to Orion."