Prescott's historical debut nets 20 international deals

Prescott's historical debut nets 20 international deals

Debut author Lara Prescott’s novel has now been sold into 20 territories, weeks after securing a £1.5m advance for her Doctor Zhivago-inspired tale.

Earlier this month, The Bookseller revealed that the former political consultant had scooped a publishing deal understood to be worth $2m (£1.5m) with Knopf in the US, following a 14-way auction, with a six-figure deal with Hutchinson in the UK.

We Were Never Here, based on the writing and publishing of the novel Doctor Zhivago had sold to around 11 foreign territories altogether in early June. However over the last few weeks, the total number of international deals has risen to 20 through a slew of auctions and pre-empts, with a deal in China still pending.

Pre-emptive deals have been snapped up in Germany, Italy, World Spanish, Norway, Hebrew, Denmark and Poland. Meanwhile there have been successful auctions in France, Sweden, Holland and Greece as well as the UK and US. There have also been successful deals in Serbia, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Japan and Turkey.

The flurry of international deals follows the news earlier this month that Jordan Pavlin, v.p. and executive editor, bought North American rights negotiated by Jeff Kleinman and Jamie Chambliss of Folio Literary Management. Meanwile Penguin Random House publisher Selina Walker won UK and Commonwealth rights to the title excluding Canada in a high six-figure deal following a 12-publisher auction managed by Lorella Belli of the Lorella Belli Literary Agency. It will be published by Hutchinson in spring 2020.

Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago takes place between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the Second World War. It was banned from publication in Russia because of its alleged anti-Soviet sentiments, but was smuggled to Italy where it was released in 1957. The CIA then saw an opportunity to embarrass the Soviet government and set out to publish a Russian-language edition, arranging for it to be distributed at the 1958 Brussels world fair. Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature that year.

Prescott’s novel explores how Doctor Zhivago was written and published through the voices of those involved, including Pasternak’s mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, the women of the CIA typing pool, college graduates and former spies who were all involved in smuggling the book back in to Russia "in a clandestine mission to weaponise literature". 

Lucy Stille at APA holds film rights.