An unagented former primary school teacher-turned academic Jane O’Connor has signed a world rights deal with Ebury Press for her “quirky, charming” up-lit novel.
Inspired by the Japanese word for hedgehog, Needlemouse is a story about unrequited love, loneliness and the redemptive qualities of hedgehogs.
Described as “the perfect mix between Graeme Simsion and Ruth Hogan with a dash of Gail Honeyman” it follows a spiky older woman who volunteers in her local hedgehog sanctuary and learns how to be kinder to others and to herself.
Ebury Fiction publishing director Gillian Green has bought world rights (including TV and film) to the novel directly though O’Connor, with publication slated for autumn 2019.
Green said: “Jane’s debut is utterly enchanting. I know a lot of readers will relate to Sylvia. She is a wonderfully original, acerbic older heroine who holds people at a distance and has ostensibly been sleep-walking through her life. It’s ultimately though a book about the power of kindness – and hedgehogs. The whole Ebury Fiction team have fallen for its spiky charms.”
O’Connor, a former primary school teacher turned academic and writer, added she hoped Sylvia’s triumphant return from the brink of despair, “rescued not by a man but by the gentle kindness and nurture of friendships and animals, touches many hearts.”
O’Connor’s PhD thesis was about child stars and much of her subsequent work has focused on 'exceptional' groups of children and representations of children in the media. She was a senior lecturer in Childhood Studies at the University of Wolverhampton for six years and before that she worked as a visiting lecturer in the education department at London Metropolitan University. She joined Birmingham City University in 2013 as a Senior Researcher and became a Reader in 2015. She is married with two sons and lives in Sutton Coldfield.