After the overwhelming success of its campy Jane Austen mashup, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, it was clear that Quirk Books needed to give readers more of what they wanted. With that in mind, the Philadelphia-based house has announced Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters as the next entry in its Quirk Classics series, to be published on September 15. The idea to blend aquatic baddies with Austen’s romance seemed, according to editor Jason Rekulak, an ideal way to refresh the mashup craze Quirk started. (In the Quirk update, the Dashwood sisters, evicted from their childhood home by their conniving stepmother, land on a mysterious island full of man-eating sea creatures, instead of a nearby, downgraded, English cottage.)
With other publishers crashing Jane Austen vampire novels, Rekulak explained that he didn’t want Quirk to publish “the one-millionth” entry in that trend. Using sea monsters allowed him and author Ben H. Winters, to “draw inspiration” from a wide range of cultural sources, both high and low. To that end, Rekulak said they looked to everything from Jules Verne novels to Lost to Jaws to Spongebob Squarepants.
The new book also features a re-jiggered ratio of new-text-to-classic-text. Unlike P&P&Z, which maintained more of Austen’s original wording and story—author Seth Grahame-Smith left 85% of her writing untouched—S&S&SM has a 60-40 ratio of Austen material to new material.
Winters, who worked with Rekulak in the past on some of Quirk’s Worst Case Scenario titles, landed the job with a winning, and innovative, pitch. Rekulak was inundated with ideas—most of which felt “derivative”—for P&P&Z-styled mashups after it became clear Quirk wanted to do another book in that vein, and that author Seth Grahame-Smith would not be involved. (Smith landed a significant, and much-publicized, book deal with Grand Central shortly after P&P&Z achieved its bestseller status.) Winters’s pitch, which Rekulak said featured less horror novel tropes, ultimately felt the most original.
While Quirk is going out with an announced first printing of 200,000 copies on Sense, Rekulak is keen to see how the novel is received. “It may be that the appeal had solely to do with the zombies but, if people are intrigued with the idea of desecrating or mashing up classics, then there’s a lot we can do.” There are currently over 600,000 copies of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in print.