A new author from Singapore has recently scored six-figure (local currency) deals for her debut novel.
London-based Rachel Heng, who only started writing novels three years ago, told Straits Times that her first one has major publishers from the United States and Britain participating in an auction to bid for the publication rights to her book.
Through the auction, her science fiction novel, tentatively titled “Suicide Club”, was acquired by Sceptre, an imprint of British publishing house Hodder & Stoughton in the U.K., and by Henry Holt & Co in the U.S.
Heng previously thought that it would take her a decade before she’d get published. But she became ecstatic when she learned that different publishers were trying to get their hands on her book.
“It was one of the most surreal days of my life,” Heng said.
It was not revealed how much exactly she would get for her work, but she confirmed that if converted to Singaporean currency, both deals total to six figures.
Set in a dystopian future where the human life expectancy has been upgraded to 300 years via technological advancements, Heng’s book shines a light on a society obsessed with genetic perfection.
“Suicide Club” follows Lea, an organ trader, who has a perfect genetic code, and Anja, a mysterious character who draws Lea into the Suicide Club, an outlawed activist group fighting for people’s right to live and die as they choose.
In describing Heng’s book, Sceptre editorial director Melissa Cox called it an “electrifying, hell-for-leather kind of book” which also “asks big questions”.
According to Heng, while the novel is set in New York, many of the story’s themes were inspired by her experiences in Singapore.
In the book, she tackled “what it’s like to be in a high-pressure society with a paternalistic government, where what is successful is narrowly defined.”
Heng, who earned a major in comparative literature and economics at Columbia University in New York, was born in Singapore and currently resides in London.
She recently got married to her Swiss boyfriend who she revealed to be the one who pushed her to pursue creative writing.
Heng revealed that she began writing “Suicide Club” while attending a six-month night course with the writing school Faber Academy.
By the course’s end, she was given an opportunity to read an excerpt from her writing to an audience of literary agents, eleven of whom expressed interest.
For the next six months, she would wake up at 6 a.m. to write before heading out to her day job in the finance industry. A former investment manager, the 29-year-old said she recently quit her job so she can focus more on her writing.
The new author revealed that her journey before getting published has been a struggle.
“I am used to massive rejection,” Heng revealed. “I submitted 200 short stories to publications and got six acceptances.”
Her hard work eventually paid off and now her publishing deal has placed her among the ranks of other internationally renowned Singaporean authors, like Balli Kaur Jaswal, Kevin Kwan and Ovidia Yu.
Featured Image via Rachel Heng/Twitter