Windmill’s new publishing director Charlotte Cray has pre-empted a “searing” début novel by Elizabeth Lee, set in the shadows of the Pendle Witch Trials, for a six-figure sum.
World English language rights for Cunning Women were acquired from Lucy Morris at Curtis Brown. Publishing in spring 2021 as a hardback, with a paperback out the following year, it is Cray’s first acquisition since joining Windmill three weeks ago from HarperCollins.
Set in a 1620 Lancashire fishing community, the story follows Sarah Haworth. Like her mother, Sarah has a birthmark that reveals she is a witch. The synopsis explains: “When Sarah meets lonely farmer’s son Daniel, she begins to dream of a better future. Daniel is in thrall to the wild girl with storms in her eyes, but their bond is tested when a zealous new magistrate vows to root out sins and sinners. In a frenzy of fear and fury, the community begins to turn on one another, and it’s not long before they direct their gaze towards the old plague village... and does Daniel trust that the power Sarah wields over him is truly love, or could it be mere sorcery?”
Lee studied on Curtis Brown Creative’s six-month online course, having been awarded the Marian Keyes scholarship. Her work has been selected for the Womentoring Project and Penguin’s WriteNow Live.
She said: “I couldn’t be more thrilled that my début novel, Cunning Women, has found a home at Windmill Books. As a huge admirer of many of Windmill’s authors, I am absolutely delighted that Cunning Women will be Charlotte Cray’s first acquisition for this press. I’m very grateful to those who have seen potential in the book, and so excited to be working with this enthusiastic team.”
Cray added: “I was overwhelmed by Elizabeth Lee's Cunning Women, a début that offers a heroine for now: unrelentingly brave, nuanced and unforgettable. I know Cunning Women will leave a mark on readers as it left an indelible mark on me–and the whole Cornerstone team–and I know too that it will inspire us to reflect on the wildness we all possess. Elizabeth is a rare talent, and it is a considerable pleasure to welcome her to the brand new hardback list for Windmill Books.”