Virago has acquired a millennial vampire tale—Claire Kohda's debut novel Woman, Eating—in a six-way publisher auction.
Ailah Ahmed, publishing director, secured UK and Comonwealth rights in the book from Sam Copeland at Rogers, Coleridge & White, and will publish the book in April 2022.
Tara Parsons at HarperCollins pre-empted North American rights in a six-figure deal, and there is an ongoing auction for TV and film rights.
Woman, Eating centres on Lydia, an underpaid intern who has "always been an outsider", and also happens to be a vampire.
The book's synopsis reads: "Lydia knows that humans are her natural prey, yet she can’t bring herself to feed on them, and sourcing pigs’ blood is proving harder than she’d anticipated. While she spends hours watching YouTube videos by Japanese food influencers, Lydia’s hunger is becoming harder to control. When she meets Ben, manager of the artists’ studios in which she lives, she struggles to decide exactly what he is to her – friend, lover or meal.
"The only person who knows the truth about Lydia is her mother. But she is in a care home, losing her memory to Alzheimer’s, and Lydia is fighting to keep their secret, and their insatiable hunger, under control."
Kohda reviews books for publications including the TLS, Guardian, Observer, Financial Times and the Spectator, specialising in fiction and non-fiction from and about East Asia. As a violinist, she has played with the English Chamber Orchestra, London Contemporary Orchestra and Heritage Orchestra, with musicians including Jessie Ware, Ella Eyre, RY X, Pete Tong, Deep Purple, and on various film soundtracks. She also plays the koto, a traditional Japanese zither.
An early quote from Ruth Ozeki, Booker-shortlisted author of A Tale for the Time Being, describes the book as "tragic, funny, eccentric, and so perfectly suited to this particularly weird time we seem to be living through".
Ahmed pitched the book as "Sally Rooney meets Stephenie Meyer, Ottessa Moshfegh meets Charlaine Harris", and noted it also touches on a wide range of issues. "Claire Kohda’s delicious Millennial vampire novel covers race, disability, social isolation, unrequited love and the struggle to manage ageing parents," she said. "It reinvents the vampire novel and is a wicked, warm and sharp lens through which we can examine our own ways of living."
Kohda commented: "I wrote Woman, Eating because it was what I wanted to read: something that was fun (and about a vampire) but that also dealt with serious themes, themes that this year have felt more pertinent than ever – racism against Asians, caring for parents and older relatives, death, mental health and the experience of being mixed race in Britain. Lydia ended up taking on a life of her own as I wrote; she became her own woman and her own vampire, and I’m really excited for this next phase of her life to begin with Virago. I’m very happy to join Virago’s incredible roster of authors, also, and to work with Ailah Ahmed, who feels like the perfect creative partner and publisher for the book."
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