ON the heels of her story The Sweet Sop winning the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and the 2018 BBC National Short Story Award, Trinidad-born writer Ingrid Persaud has sold her new novel to not one but two major international publishers.
The new work is Love After Love, “a story of love in its messiest forms and its most gut-wrenching consequences.”
Set in Trinidad, it is “written in vibrant prose and centres around Betty, an unsettled domestic violence survivor; Solo, her angry and confused teen; and their lodger Mr Chetan – who form an unconventional family, loving each other deeply, until one fateful night when a secret is uncovered with heart-breaking consequences.”
That’s how it’s described in a press release from One World, the imprint of Random House which has acquired the manuscript for publication in North America. Another publisher, Faber plans to publish the manuscript in the UK and Commonwealth; it’s also going to be published in Norway, Denmark and Italy by other presses.
The manuscript was sold in a seven-way auction. It’s a writer’s dream.
“I feel that I’ve won the literary lottery,” Persaud said via e-mail in response to questions about the sale. She was in the UK, where she lives when she’s not in Barbados.
The Sweet Sop earned her universal acclaim and cash prizes – and an agent.
“After the BBC National Short Story Award word quickly got around that I didn’t have an agent.
"Overnight I went from no agent to having some choice. The woman who represents me, Zoe Waldie at RCW, is highly respected and experienced. Having her in my corner has made all the difference. When she hands a publisher a manuscript, they take notice,” Persaud told Newsday.
“We met with several publishers who pitched their vision for the novel. Bidding is organised by the agent. And it is not a straight case of the book going to the highest bidder. I went with both Faber and Random House because the editor and her entire team were the kind of people I could trust to help me deliver my best work.”
Persaud’s Love After Love is considered a debut novel, though in fact she self-published her first novel years ago.
“I am lucky to have a supportive partner, but at long last I am earning a decent living from my writing,” she said. “The book will be out in spring 2020 – maybe I can launch it at Bocas (LitFest) next year!”
She continues to write short fiction, too.
“I’m writing both. I’ve just finished writing a short story which was commissioned by BBC Radio 4. We recorded it this week, and it was a lot harder reading one’s work for radio than I thought it would be. You’ll hear it in September.
“Before I start work on the next novel this summer I’ll probably write a couple more short stories. It’s a great discipline in precision of words. Novels naturally allow for in-depth development of ideas.”
Caribbean writing has recently been enjoying a resurgence in international prominence. TT writer Sharon Millar won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2013, Persaud won in 2017 and TT’s Kevin Jared Hosein won in 2018. Jamaican writer Marlon James’ novel Black Leopard, Red Wolf was one of the most anticipated books of 2019, after he won a titan among writing prizes, the Booker Prize for Fiction, in 2015 for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings.
Jamaicans Kei Miller and Claudia Rankine and Trinidadian Vahni Capildeo won the UK’s prestigious Forward Prize in 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively. In Canada Trinidad-born Dionne Brand, a former poet laureate of Toronto, is up for this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize for her latest work; if she takes it, it would be her second Griffin, as she won the lucrative prize in 2011.
“Caribbean writers are winning and being shortlisted for all the international prizes, so in that sense we are enjoying huge visibility. I hope this is giving a boost to the next generation of writers,” Persaud said.
“But writing fiction and poetry has always been part of our rich storytelling tradition. Our tiny region has two (editor's note: in fact three) Nobel laureates for literature. How inspiring is that? That we have the confidence to insist and persist with writing in our voice, telling our stories has made the publishing world sit up and take notice."