Sally Rooney and Liz Nugent sign big book deals

Bookmarks: major Irish debut; US deal for ex-Fair City writer; Stalin the bookworm; Dromineer literary festival; women writers for Icon Walk; Haughey novel for TV

Conversations with Friends, the debut novel by 25-year-old Irish writer Sally Rooney, described as a “startling, intimate” story of high-risk relationships, youth and love. is to be published by Faber next June after it outbid six other publishers for the rights. It has also been sold to 11 international publishers.

Publisher Mitzi Angel said: “To say Conversations with Friends is a delight does no justice to just how brainy it is. And to say Conversations with Friends is cerebral is potentially to mislead – because the book is so much fun. Sally Rooney’s cracklingly brilliant first novel addresses serious matters – politics, feminism, sex, love – with a lightness of touch. Through the rhythms of today’s speech and through instant messaging and email and text messages, it captures what it’s like to be figuring how to to live and to love in the early 21st century. Sally Rooney is a remarkable talent and we’re thrilled to welcome her to Faber & Faber.”

Simon & Schuster signs Liz Nugent

Liz Nugent has signed a six-figure deal with US publisher Simon & Schuster. Her two novels, Unravelling Oliver, which won the Best Crime Novel award at the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards 2014, and her recent Irish No 1 bestseller Lying in Wait, were originally published by Penguin Ireland but will now be published for the first time in the US in early 2018. Nugent worked as a scriptwriter on RTÉ’s Fair City from 2003 to 2013 and a children’s animation series called The Resistors for TG4.

Patricia Deevy, editorial director at Penguin Ireland, has acquired Nugent's next two novels, which are scheduled for publication in 2017 and 2018. Deevy said: "We are thrilled to have acquired Liz’s next two novels. She is a wonderful writer with a unique voice and a deliciously dark sensibility. She has taken the crime writing world by storm and she is going from strength to strength."

Stalin the bookworm

We booklovers like to see ourselves, I suspect, as enlightened, empathetic, open-minded and intellectually curious. Only thing is, Stalin was a bit of a bookworm too.

“In the pantheon of dictators Joseph Stalin’s reputation for brutality is rivalled only by that of Hitler,” says Geoffrey Roberts, professor of history at University College Cork. “The conventional image portrays Stalin as nothing more than a bloody tyrant, a machine politician, a heartless bureaucrat and an ideological fanatic. Yet Stalin was also an intellectual who believed in the transformative power of ideas and a bookworm who amassed a significant personal library.”

Roberts will give a talk, entitled Stalin’s Personal Library, at the Dublin Festival of History on September 25th. His essay on the subject will be published on next Monday.

Dromineer literary festival

For a small village near Nenagh, in Co Tipperary, Dromineer has been attracting an impressive cast of writers to its literary festival since it began in 2004. This year’s event, which runs from October 6th to 9th, and has been curated by poet Eleanor Hooker, is no exception, with appearances by Anne Enright, Poetry magazine editor Don Share, Danielle McLaughlin, Marita Conlon-McKenna and Colette Bryce.

The Greatest Story Ever Strolled

The Irish Times two years ago ran a series on Irish women writers, a group notoriously neglected in representations of Ireland’s literary tradition, culminating in the publication of a poster featuring a dozen of our finest female authors.

Not to be outdone, the Icon Walk in Dublin’s Temple Bar has just opened a new section dedicated to Irish women writers, launched by writer Rosita Sweetman and featuring Lady Gregory, Countess Markievicz, Eva Gore-Booth, Kate O’Brien, Edna O’Brien, Teresa Deevy and Maria Edgeworth.

The Icon Walk – whose catchy slogan is The Greatest Story Ever Strolled – is a public art installation which showcases original artwork of Irish writers, sports stars, musicians, and actors. Inspired by the belief that art civilises, can be an educational tool and can instill a new civic regard for neglected public spaces, the artists’ co-operative behind the initiative set out to remind people of the riches of our cultural heritage.

Irish Writers Centre masterclasses

The Irish Writers Centre has launched its autumn programme of masterclasses for new and developing writers, with some fascinating-sounding courses including Transgressive Fiction With Rob Doyle and 36 Things I Know About Writing With John Boyne. Other stand-out names include William Ryan, MJ Hyland, Louise Phillips, Henry McDonald, Mia Gallagher, Sarah Crossan and Jessica Traynor.

Haughey novel for small screen

Peter Cunningham had a double celebration recently when he launched his new novel, The Trout, at Hodges Figgis and on the same day signed a deal for a TV mini-series on The Taoiseach, his bestselling novel based on the life of Charleie Haughey. Producer Cameron Maxwell Lewis, whose portfolio includes Cannonball Run, High Road to China, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Christiane F, has teamed up with screenwriter Graham Baker to make the series. Baker worked as a Hollywood director (Omen 3, Impulse, Alienation, Born to Ride) before developing his screenwriting career.

Maxwell Lewis said: “The Taoiseach is a powerful and compelling, often humorous and always gripping tale of power and money, and the bonds that bind us, set in Ireland but with a universal and timeless theme. It lends itself to being retold as a six-hour miniseries where both the characters and the plot can fully develop and unfold in a way that cannot happen in a feature length movie. Funnily enough it was in Ireland that I got my first taste of the film business as an extra on Where’s Jack (1968), directed by James Clavell, and shot at Ardmore Studios in Bray.”