Ireland's reputation for producing sought-after authors of fantasy fiction has been further bolstered by the announcement that Irish Times Arts Editor Shane Hegarty has secured a "substantial six-figure" sum for a four-book series of comic adventure novels.
Hegarty (38) from Skerries, north Dublin, was the subject of a bidding war at last week’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair, with HarperCollins winning out for his signature for the English-language rights.
He follows in the footsteps of other successful Irish authors of fantasy fiction, including Eoin Colfer and Derek Landy, whose respective franchises Artemis Fowl and Skulduggery Pleasant have been likened to Hegarty's planned Darkmouth series.
"I would compare it to Harry Potter too," says Hegarty's agent, Marianne Gunn O'Connor. "Authors like Shane are very, very rare. You see a talent like this once every five or 10 years."
Nick Lake, fiction publishing director at HarperCollins UK, described Hegarty as a “hilarious and distinctive new writer”.
Hegarty, who has previously published in non-fiction with The Irish (and Other Foreigners) , and co-authoring with Fintan O'Toole The Irish Times Book of the 1916 Rising , began working on the "comic adventure" concept a year ago.
The first draft was completed only a few weeks ago.
Hegarty, a father of four, says: “A lot of it was written going in and out of work on the train, at night time in between feeds, and on days off.”
The story, geared towards eight- to 12-year-olds, centres on a child called Finn who is “the last in a line of legend hunters” living in an Irish town.
The first book is due early next year.