Orion has pre-empted a new novel from Hollywood director, screenwriter and author Stephen Chbosky, Imaginary Friend, in under 24 hours for a "significant" six-figure sum.
The novel will publish in autumn 2019 in hardback, trade paperback, e-book and audio formats. Emad Akhtar, publishing director at Orion Fiction, pre-empted UK and Commonwealth Rights from Laura Bonner at WME at the start of a global wave of rights deals for the second novel by the author of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower.
Rights have also been sold to Hachette companies in the USA, where Grand Central won at auction, and in France, also at auction, to Calmann-Lévy. Further deals have been struck at auction in Germany, Brazil, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Romania and Sweden; pre-empted in the Netherlands, with offers and auctions ongoing in Greece, Israel, Bulgaria, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Imaginary Friend is described as "a wildly ambitious, sweeping work of literary horror". It focuses on Kate Reese, a single mother fleeing an abusive relationship by starting over in a new town, with her young son Christopher. Her world begins to unravel after Christopher vanishes into the Mission Street Woods – where 50 years earlier an eerily similar disappearance occurred. When her son emerges six days later, unharmed but not unchanged, he brings with him a secret: a voice only he can hear and a warning of tragedy to come.
The book took two decades to write, according to Orion. Chbosky said of its origins: “Do you remember when you were a little kid and you would look up into the clouds? Remember how the clouds would look like the shape of a dog or a tree or a face? Well, what if you were a little 7-year-old kid now? With a single mom. And no money. And what if you couldn’t help but notice that for the last two weeks, you looked up into the clouds, and it was always THE SAME FACE staring back at you? That is the origin of my story.”
Akhtar said the book was set to become "an instant classic". "Imaginary Friend is up there with Stephen King at his best," Akhtar said. "Just like It and The Stand, it haunted my dreams for days after reading it. Suspenseful, thrilling, incredibly emotional – intimate, humane storytelling unfolding on a canvas which is slowly revealed as bigger and deeper than you could imagine. It’s an instant classic – an unforgettable storytelling experience which deserves to be shared as far and wide as possible.”