Sophie Jai's debut novel Wild Fires was selected out of 200 entries to win The Borough Press and The Good Literary Agency open submission.
Jai is the recipient of a £10,000 publishing contract with the HarperCollins imprint, also winning representation from The Good Literary Agency and mentoring from Nikesh Shukla.
The judging panel – comprised of marketing, sales, publicity and editorial staff from HarperCollins, along with agents from The Good Literary Agency – unanimously selected Jai's novel as the winner.
Borough called for un-agented submissions of novels from authors from BAME backgrounds last December, in partnership with The Good Literary Agency, and received more than 200 entries. Wild Fires will be published in spring 2021.
Wild Fires is a story told by Cassandra Mishra, a young Trinidadian woman who returns home to Toronto from England for the funeral of her troubled brother, Chevy. "A house in mourning, a terrible rumour manifests, and Cassandra finds herself not only navigating her dysfunctional family, but protecting them from each other," the synopsis reads.
Ore Agbaje-Williams, assistant editor who led the open submission for Borough Press, said: “The different backgrounds and heritages of our society are under-represented in various areas across the media, including publishing, and The Borough Press is hugely committed to enabling more of these voices to be heard. Sophie’s beautifully vivid and emotive writing is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’m extremely proud to launch her writing career and give her stunning debut novel a home at The Borough Press.”
Jai, who is based in London, said: “I knew, watching from the sidelines, that Ore, Abi, and Nikesh were people redefining publishing. It is any debut writer’s dream to have them as a team. I am delighted – and forever thankful – for this opportunity from Borough Press and The Good Literary Agency that will mould the first very steps of my publishing career.”
Abi Fellows, who represents Jai, added: “We at The Good Literary Agency are thrilled to be working with Sophie Jai, a writer with an incredible talent for storytelling and who we believe has huge potential.”
Jai was born and raised in Trinidad, and grew up in Canada. She studied at the Humber School for Writers in Toronto. She was selected as an Emerging Writer to read at Canada’s Festival of Literary Diversity in 2017. From this October to October 2020, she will be the Artist in Residence at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. She is completing the novel at Curtis Brown Creative and reviews fiction books for Words of Colour.