Teacher secures £1.3m advance for her debut novel

There has been no lack of literary success from North Yorkshire's first-time novelists over the past few years. Graham Taylor, a clergyman from the village of Cloughton, became a celebrity overnight with the Shadowmancer novel which has earned him a £3.5m deal, and The Olive Readers, by Christine Aziz, from Ricmond, has been propelled to mass market sales by winning a contest run by the extraordinarily influential Richard and Judy show.

Yet these accomplishments pale by comparison with a new novelist. After a marathon, 10-day auction, Diane Setterfield, a French teacher from Harrogate, has been paid £800,000 by UK publishers and a further $1m from a US publishing house for her debut novel The Thirteenth Tale.

Setterfield's deal with Orion is one of the biggest fiction debuts of the year and it dwarfs the modest beginnings of Yorkshire's most famous French teacher turned novelist Joanne Harris. The novel tells the story of a reclusive novelist who recounts the events of her strange life to the young woman she has selected to be her biographer.

It is written in a mysterious, gothic style with resonances of works by the Brontës, Daphne du Maurier and Wilkie Collins, as well as contemporary novels such as Sarah Waters' Fingersmith and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

The book marks "a return to that rich mine of storytelling that our parents loved and we loved as children", said Jane Wood, Orion's editor-in-chief, who has already sold rights to Germany, Holland, Italy, France, Norway and Brazil. "It also satisfies the appetite for narrative-driven fiction that has beginnings, middles and endings, like the great novels of the 19th century. She creates a wonderful fictional world."

The writer, who is in her forties, was spotted by the novelist Jim Crace on a writing course she took up to move from academia, where she specialised in the works of André Gide and other 19th and 20th century French writers.

Setterfield had the idea for the novel five years ago. "I scribbled notes which were then put in a drawer and stayed there for a very long time," she said. "When I took them out I wrote my first draft. Later, I made major changes and I was very happy with it. At the writing course I took notes on everything about how to get an agent and send work to publishers. After that things moved quickly."

Having read French literature almost exclusively for more than a decade, she wanted to return to British classics after academia. "It was nostalgic for me to write in that style," she said.

First time lucky: other writers who struck rich

* ELIZABETH KOSTOVA

The US writer earned a $2m advance for her first novel The Historian, drawing on childhood Dracula tales. Publisher Little, Brown and Co anticipates it capturing readers' imagination in the manner of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.

* CECILIA AHERN

The daughter of the Irish premier, Bertie Ahern, won a $1m advance from US publishers for her debut novel PS I Love You, two years ago. It was followed by $100,000 from the producer of Forrest Gump for film rights. It is the story of Holly who loses her lover, Gerry, to a terminal illness only to find he has left her a series of letters with monthly tasks to complete.

* G P TAYLOR

Initially decided to self-publish Shadowmancer but he subsequently secured a $500,000 deal for the novel from a US publisher. It garnered a £3.5m publishing deal for the next six novels and has been translated into 20 languages.

* J K ROWLING

Advanced just £2,500 by Bloomsbury Publishing for her first Harry Potter book. She has since earned at least £35m from the series of books and films, which have become a world-wide phenomenon.

Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea

film

In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops

film

Arts and Entertainment
Full circle: Wu-Tang’s Method Man Getty

Music review

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game