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
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

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.

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin