Harper pre-empts The Book of Keys by Holly Dawson

Claire Coughlan
Rights - Fiction Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Novel was inspired by an article Dawson wrote for the BBC website, following a viral tweet


Martha Ashby, editorial director at HarperFiction, has pre-empted world English rights for The Book of Keys by freelance writer and editor Holly Dawson. The deal was done by Jenny Hewson at Rogers, Coleridge & White.

The Book of Keys is inspired by an article that Dawson wrote for the BBC website, after her tweet about an anonymous benefactor who had left houses to families in need went viral. The article trended on the home page for a week, racking up nearly two million page views. The novel follows a single mother down on her luck and struggling to make ends meet when she receives a mysterious envelope in the post, containing a heavy brass key and a letter - her long-estranged mother is going into respite care, and the house that she grew up in is there if she needs it. She travels back to Cornwall, "back to the past and a secret that has bound a family, and a community, together for half a century".

Dawson said: "I've been writing for over 10 years, working towards this dreamt-of moment of a deal with a plan that involved all the usual steps. This giddy chain of events - a tweet becoming an article becoming a book deal - may have turned that plan upside-down, but it feels right that a book about the unexpected consequences of unexpected connections should have begun life in exactly that way. I am so grateful to HarperCollins and Martha, my 'fairy book-mother', for this remarkable opportunity."

Hewson said: "I am so thrilled that Martha and the team at HarperCollins will be publishing Holly's wonderful debut novel. The Book of Keys is very much the kind of story we need right now: an uplifting tale of love and community, about the willingness to welcome the outsider and what it means to find a real home."

Ashby said: "When I read Holly's article back in November, I was utterly moved by the story of a person who wanted to do as much good as he could, but couldn't bear to have it known. It inspired so many questions, but most importantly: why had he kept this secret for so long? When I met Holly and we began to discuss the book, it was clear that she had been thinking the same thing and the story began to take shape before our eyes. Holly is a gifted writer and her warmth and charm sing through on the page - The Book of Keys is going to be a very special novel."

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