O'Neill to release 'dazzling' feminist retelling of The Little Mermaid

O'Neill to release 'dazzling' feminist retelling of The Little Mermaid

Scholastic has revealed it has signed the “dazzling” feminist retelling of The Little Mermaid by Asking for It author Louise O’Neill.

The publisher has described the new interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale seen “through a searing feminist lens” as the “stand-out YA release of spring 2018”.

Lauren Fortune, editorial director for Scholastic UK, made the deal for world rights for The Surfance Breaks with Rachel Conway at Georgina Capel Associates. David Levithan, v.p and publisher and editorial director of Scholastic Press in the US, will publish it for Scholastic US.

It will be published in the UK in hardback in May 2018 with the US publication date still to be confirmed.

Exclusive samplers including the first two chapters of the story will be available on the Scholastic stand at Young Adult Literary Convention 2017 (YALC) in London this weekend (28th to 30th July).

The book is set beneath the sea, off the Irish coast, featuring a young mermaid, Gaia, who dreams of being human but could face a heavy price for her aspirations.

A Scholastic spokesperson said: “Christian Andersen’s dark, original fairy tale is reimagined through a searing feminist lens, with the stunning, scalpel-sharp writing and world building that has won Louise her legions of devoted fans.”

O’Neill's previous two YA novels have been published by Quercus. However, she revealed she has wanted to be published by Scholastic since working in the US.

She said: “When I lived in New York, I had a part time job in a clothing shop on Mercer Street. On my lunch break, I used to visit the Scholastic Store a few doors down and fantasise about a time when I might have my own novel published. Six years later, it feels very serendipitous to be working with Scholastic to bring The Little Mermaid to a new generation of young people.”

The Only Ever Yours author said she was “honoured” to work on the story that is “ripe for a feminist retelling”. She said: “This is a story that has been dear to my heart since I was a child; a story that, in many ways, shaped me into the adult I am today. And I believe it is a story that is ripe for a feminist re-telling. I'm so honoured that Lauren Fortune and Scholastic have chosen me to be the one to do so.”

Fortune described O’Neill’s new version of the fairy tale, which was first published in 1837, as “storytelling at its most spellbinding”.

She said: “Fairy tales have a dubious record when it comes to representations of women and Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, who quite literally gives up her voice and drastically changes her body, all for the flighty prince, is spun under a welcome feminist spotlight by Louise – one of the UK’s brightest writing talents and the perfect author for this re-telling. We are so thrilled to be publishing The Surface Breaks – this is storytelling at its most spellbinding.”

Levithan said: “I've always been struck by how Louise O'Neill writes with such a striking, clear-eyed timeliness in her YA novels. Now I can't wait for her to turn that inquisitive, interrogating eye onto a timeless tale, to find the conflict churning underneath.”

O’ Neill is a freelance journalist who grew up in Clonakilty, a small town in West Cork, Ireland and her first novel, Only Ever Yours (Quercus, 2014), won the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year at the 2014 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards, the Children’s Books Ireland Eilís Dillon Award for a First Children’s Book and The Bookseller's inaugural YA Book Prize 2015.

Her second novel, Asking for It (Quercus, 2015), about sexual assault, won various prizes including the Specsavers Senior Children’s Book of the Year at the 2015 Irish Book Awards.

According to Nielsen BookScan, she’s sold 36,219 copies in the UK amounting to £257,255, with Asking for It her bestseller with 17,532 copies sold.

It was revealed last month that the book will be adapted into a "large-scale, technically ambitious" stage production. Anne Clarke, producer at Dublin-based Landmark Productions, acquired world stage rights from Rachel Conway at Georgina Capel Associates Ltd.

Landmark Productions and the Everyman theatre, Cork, will co-produce the world premiere of the stage version of O'Neill's novel in June 2018.  The production is co-commissioned by the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, which will present the production on its main stage in November 2018. The production is one of 11 projects supported by the Arts Council under its Open Call funding round.

The TV rights for Asking for It were bought by Bandit, Endemol Shine UK’s scripted production label, in 2015, to be developed as a three-part series.

O'Neill's next novel for adults will be published by Quercus in March 2018