Viking has pre-empted a debut novel by Sara Collins, The Confessions of Frannie Langton, the evening before a nine-way auction was due to take place and less than a week after the manuscript was submitted.
Katy Loftus acquired UK and Commonwealth rights excluding Canada from Nelle Andrew at Peters Fraser and Dunlop (PFD). At the end of the same week, HarperCollins US successfully pre-empted North American rights in a "significant" house bid, and the novel will be published by Emily Griffin at Harper. International rights are being sold by PFD with "avid interest" reported in other countries.
The book is set in early 19th-century London with the plot following Collins’ heroine, Frannie, a slave-turned-servant who travels with her owner from a Jamaican plantation to 1800s London, where she finds herself accused of the brutal murder of her master and mistress. Loftus called Frannie "a remarkable character" and her story "truly unlike any other I have read" as "both a jaw-dropping account of one woman’s quest for freedom and love, in a world where those rights are routinely denied because of her colour and gender; and a twisted murder mystery that gripped me to the very last page".
Collins, who is of Jamaican descent, was a lawyer for 17 years before deciding to fulfil her dream of becoming a writer. She completed a Master’s in Creative Writing with distinction at Cambridge University, where she was the recipient of the Michael Holroyd Prize in 2015, and has since been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize for Flash and the Bath Short Story Award, for which she won third prize in 2016. The Confessions of Frannie Langton is her first novel, and was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Prize in 2016.
Collins said: "Emerging from the long tunnel of writing the novel to the sheer thrill of working with both Katy Loftus at Viking and Emily Griffin at Harper to publish Frannie is a dream. I am very grateful to them, and to my agent, Nelle Andrew, for believing in this story."
This will be a lead title for both Harper and Viking and will be published in the UK in spring 2019.