2015-04-16 08:00:00

Julian Gough signs major book deal with Picador

Irish author Julian Gough has become one of the big talking points at this year’s London Book Fair after Picador announced this morning that its star publisher Ravi Mirchandani had acquired world rights to Infinite, his new novel, which it will publish in the autumn of 2016.

Mirchandani, whose previous commissions include Man Booker Prize-winning The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, the Man Booker-shortlisted Snowdrops by AD Miller, and Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, said: “Some of the most excitingly original serious writing at present is being done at the edges of genre, from Kazuo Ishiguro to Picador’s own Emily St John Mandel. Julian Gough’s novel is a glorious and thrillingly intelligent example of this, a serious novel that combines the plot arc of a thriller with a stream of stimulating ideas drawn from today’s science, politics and technology. Whether he is writing about the challenges of a single mother raising an autistic child or the issues raised by a world of constant surveillance, Gough’s novel is brilliant, insightful and remarkable. I’m delighted we will be publishing it at Picador.”

Gough accidentally broke the embargo in an Irish Times podcast he recorded last week with Róisín Ingle. It was removed from the website when he realised his mistake but it is available to listen to again now.

The author told Ingle that Infinite is “a science fiction thriller” and a tale of “the difficulties of a single mother looking after a kid and protecting them from the world”. “It’s about a family. Every Irish novel is about a family. That’s just the default setting for Irish novels,” said Gough on this week’s Róisín Meets podcast. “But it’s set in Nevada. I had to kind of freshen it up for myself.”

The Juno & Juliet and Jude in London author and former member of cult band Toasted Heretic said of his publishing deal: “For three years I’ve been working, not knowing if I’m going to get paid and in the last week or two my agent sold it to Ravi Merchandani at Picador who is the dream editor for the book, so it’s turned out really beautifully”.

“New socks and underwear” will be the only extravagances resulting from the new deal, he said. “It means I have a couple of years to write the next book and not have to worry. By Irish ruling class standards it’s probably not a lot of money at all, but it’s a lot by my standards.”

Gough, who now lives in Berlin, refused to drawn on the exact amount he is to be paid. “I can’t say, I’m under orders. It’s not a mega-deal, though it’s very respectable by current industry standards, and very good by my modest standards – a lot more than I got for my last couple. But it’s a worldwide deal for all languages, with a rock star editor, Ravi Mirchandani, who bought The White Tiger, which went on to win the Booker Prize, The Reader, which was mega-huge, and later filmed with Kate Winslet, Snowdrops, that rarest of birds, a thriller shortlisted for the Booker, The Slap, etc. And it’s with Picador, who are the hottest house in UK publishing right now.”

As for talk of Hollywood rights, Gough discreetly declined to comment.

Gough’s agent Charlie Campbell said: “Julian Gough is a genius – as the millions of people who’ve read his End Poem in Minecraft can attest. Infinite is a mind-blowing, wonderful novel and I’m thrilled that Ravi and Picador will publish it.”

The author, who has just completed three-month writing residency at Trinity College, also explained his past criticism of Irish fiction for being too backward-looking .”Part of the job of the writer is to engage with the modern world, and I don’t think it’s healthy for literary culture to be solving the problems of 40 or 50 years ago,” he said.

Gough’s new novel is set firmly in modern times. “All the way through it was called Infinite Ammo, which is a computer game term,” he said, “but that’s such a guy name, by the time the book was finished it was much more human and much more about love and love in a technological era, so I think it’s too guy. So at the moment it’s just called Infinite.

“The father is in the military and is running an organisation that technically doesn’t exist out in the desert. There’s a very large amount of Nevada you’re not allowed into. In the real world, this is true. Which I’m a bit obsessed with. I’ve circled it!” he said.

Gough won the BBC National Short Story Award in 2007, while two of his novels were shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, in 2008 and 2012. In 2011 he wrote the ending to Minecraft, Time magazine’s computer game of the year.

Gough was born in London but grew up in Tipperary, where he was a fellow pupil at Nenagh CBS of The Spinning Heart author Donal Ryan, who by coincidence was announced as a winner of an EU Prize for Literature at the opening of the London Book Fair on Tuesday. “We were hit by the same teachers. Obviously an inspiration,” said Gough.

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