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A short story published in the New Yorker last December has netted its author well in excess of $1m dollars in book deals around the globe ‘Cat Person’, which describes an awkward sexual encounter between 21-year-old Margot who works in a cinema, and an older man, Robert, is the work of 36-year-old aspiring writer Kristen Roupenian, who is a Zell fellow in the Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan.
After publication in the New Yorker the story went viral and quickly became one of the most-read pieces of fiction on the magazine’s website in 2017. Within days Jonathan Cape in the UK acquired Roupenian’s short story collection You Know You Want This, which includes ‘Cat Person’, for a high five figure sum. This was followed by Simon & Schuster US imprint Scout Press acquiring the short story collection and an untitled novel for an estimated $1.2m.
As of the beginning of March, the author’s short story collection has been bought by 11 territories: Japan, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Lithuania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Russia. In addition, Czech and Catalonian rights have also been sold.
Deals for the short story collection and a novel have been concluded in the following territories: Germany, Israel, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Italy, France, Turkey and Korea. Roupenian’s agent Jenni Ferrari-Adler at Union Literary in New York said: “We are thrilled Kristen’s stories are resonating internationally”
The New Yorker timed the release of the story to capitalise on the publicity surrounding the allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and the widespread discussion of sexual harassment in the media.
Roupenian has revealed that the story is based on a “small but nasty encounter I had with a person I met online”. In an interview with the New Yorker she said: “I was shocked by the way this person treated me, and then immediately surprised by my own shock. How had I decided that this was someone I could trust?”
Deborah Treisman, the magazine’s fiction editor, said the story provided “a kind of commentary on how people get to know each other, or don’t, through electronic communication”.
Roupenian has not previously published a book but won the Grand Prize winning story for the Eleventh Annual Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Award in 2016. It has certainly been a whirlwind few weeks for the writer. “I don’t really know how to do justice to the conversation that is happening around my story,” she says. “But I am grateful for it.”