While nonfiction, especially memoirs, have been dominating much of the buzz in Frankfurt, a debut novel by a recent Iowa Writers Workshop grad has been drumming up intense interest in Germany. Regina Porter’s The Travelers, which PW heard sold for half a million dollars in the U.S., is now racking up foreign sales, with six-figure deals having just closed in the U.K. and Germany.
Ellen Levine at Trident Media Group, who represents Porter (along with her co-agent Alexa Stark), sold North American rights to the book to Alexis Washam at Hogarth. In the U.K., where a deal closed late last week, Jonathan Cape preempted the novel. German rights have also been preempted by S. Fischer Verlag. On Wednesday, Claire Roberts at Trident, who is handling foreign rights for the novel in Frankfurt, said she will be closing the auction for French rights at the fair and that "offers are coming in from the other markets."
Describing The Travelers as a “novel-in-stories,” Levine said in her pitch letter that the book, which follows two American families, one white and one black, is “equal parts heartbreaking and humorous.” With its story spread over decades and locales—including the Hamptons, Vietnam, Germany and Brittany—the novel focuses on a group of characters ranging from “a Vietnam vet who can’t stand still” to “an African-American lesbian who finds something like freedom in 1970s and 1980s Berlin.”
Beginning in the 1950s and extending through the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency, the novel, Levine continued, portrays these two American families as they grapple with their country’s “painful history of racism and sexism.” Speaking to the book's structure, Levine noted that “each story builds on the previous one,” adding layers to “the tumultuous history that binds these two extended families together.”
Porter was an Iowa Arts Fellow at the Iowa MFA program. While she has published fiction in the Harvard Review, Porter’s background is as a playwright. To that end, she has worked with numerous theaters including Playwrights Horizon, the Joseph Papp Theater and the Woolly Mammoth Theater.