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Sphere acquires world rights in festive cat novella, A Midwinter’s Tail by Lili Hayward, for 2023

Sphere has acquired the rights to a breathtakingly beautiful and heart-warming cat-themed festive novella set on the Scilly Isles, from author Lili Hayward, also known as historical fiction writer Laura Madeleine. World rights were acquired by Rebecca Roy, Commissioning Editor at Sphere, from Meg Davis at the KI Agency, and Sphere will publish in the UK in hardback, ebook and audiobook in October 2023. Italian rights have already sold to Newton Compton.

The synopsis reads: ‘It’s nearly Christmas and Londoner, Mina Kestle, is close to signing a deal that will make her career. Then she receives a mysterious letter in the post along with an ancient key, sent by her long-estranged godfather. Davy Penhallow is an artist who lives on the tiny Cornish island of Morgelyn with only his pet cat, Murr, for company. Mina hasn’t seen or heard from him in decades, but now it seems he needs her to look after his cottage – and his cat – while he recovers in hospital. Mina doesn’t know why Davy has written after all these years, but she intends to do what’s right: sort out the cottage and the cat and then get back to London in time for her career-saving meeting, before everything she’s built comes crashing down around her. But the more time Mina spends on the island, the harder it becomes for her to tear herself away. As Christmas draws ever closer and echoes of the past – her own and the island’s – wash up in her memory, Mina begins to unravel a generation of secrets… and discover what it is she has truly always wanted.’

Commissioning Editor Rebecca Roy said: ‘I fell in love with A Midwinter’s Tail the moment I started reading it. I was blown away by Lili’s incredibly compelling writing and the way she so beautifully weaves Cornish folklore throughout the narrative, as well the stunningly atmospheric setting and the warmth of the festive season she has so effortlessly created. I knew immediately that this was something I had to publish at Sphere, and I’m so very excited to be bringing the story of Mina, Davy and Murr to readers during winter 2023.’

Author Lili Hayward said: ‘I’ve always loved the Icelandic custom of the Jolabokaflod –the Yule book flood – where people give the gift of a book on Christmas Eve, and settle down somewhere cosy to read long into the night. I wanted to write a book that could be devoured in one sitting; that combined the age-old practice of telling stories around a fireplace with the magic of winter, my love for Cornwall’s rich and fantastical folklore, and of course, cats. I’m over the moon to have found the perfect home for Murr and her friends with the wonderful team at Sphere, and can’t wait to see A Midwinter’s Tail in bookshops, just in time for the festive season.”’   

Agent Meg Davis said: ‘’This is the perfect book to curl up with in a quiet corner over the holidays.  We’re thrilled with the package Rebecca and her team are planning for it, and Lili’s book will warm and delight every reader.’

For Rights enquiries, please contact: Helena Doree on helena.doree@hachette.co.uk

About Little, Brown Book Group

Four-time winner of the Publisher of the Year Award, Little, Brown Book Group is one of the most diverse and successful trade publishers in the UK. Its imprints are Abacus, Atom, Blackfriars, Constable, Corsair, Fleet, Orbit, Piatkus, Robinson, Sphere, The Bridge Street Press, Virago and Hachette Audio. It is an Hachette UK company.