HarperCollins will publish the “untold story of Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff” by Michael Stewart.
Clio Cornish, editor at the HarperCollins imprint HQ, acquired world all language rights for Ill Will from Jemima Forrester at David Higham Associates.
The title is described as a “superbly written piece of gothic fiction which authentically captures the bleak, earthy tone of Emily Bronte’s classic” and “dripping in atmosphere”.
A HarperCollins spokesperson said Bradford-based author, Stewart, had engaged with Bronte's legacy to write the book. They said: “Having worked closely with the Brontë Parsonage [the museum which contains the author's collections] for years, Stewart has immersed himself in the history of Wuthering Heights.”
The novel follows Heathcliff who has left left Wuthering Heights and is travelling across the moors to Liverpool in search of his past. Along the way, he saves Emily, a Highwayman's daughter, from a whipping and the pair travel together stopping in graveyards along the way. They survive through Emily’s apparent ability to commune with the dead as the pair lie, cheat and scheme their way across the North of England.
Stewart has written several stage plays and his debut novel, King Crow, which was published by independent, Hebden Bridge-based publisher, Bluemoose Books, in 2011 and won the Guardian’s Not-the-Booker Award. He is a senior lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Huddersfield and is also the publisher of Grist Books.
The author revealed his unresolved questions over Bronte’s 1847 classic encouraged him to write the novel. He said: “Wuthering Heights was the first novel that obsessed me. For many years, I wondered what had turned Heathcliff from an ‘uncouth stable boy’ into a ‘gentleman psychopath’. Then, one day, walking across the same moor that Emily traipsed, an idea came to me.”
Cornish praised the title’s atmospheric setting and said it offers the “missing piece” of the puzzle of Heathcliff. He said: “Packed to the brim with windswept moors, crow-laden scaffolds, dark obsessions and terrible deeds, Ill Will is a perfect and extraordinarily inventive piece of gothic fiction.”
Forrester said: “It’s a compelling story – beautifully written and positively dripping in atmosphere.”
The title will be published in hardback, eBook and audio on 22nd March 2018.
In 2015, HarperCollins imprint, The Borough Press paid six-figures on a pre-empt for Nelly Dean by Alison Case, a book which revisits the events of Wuthering Heights through the eyes of the loyal housekeeper.