For years, Amy Grace Loyd worked on The Affairs of Others on weekends and on the subway to and from work—which might be why New York City feels like a flesh-and-blood character in her story. But the real star of this poetic page-turner is Celia Cassill, the owner of a small building in Brooklyn who is living a quiet life among peaceful memories of her late husband until she gets pulled into the passions of her neighbors.

“I wrote the novel partly out of rebellion,” says Loyd, executive editor at Byliner Inc. “When I was conceiving it, I was the fiction and literary editor at Playboy and was very busy—chasing writers, pieces, constantly online, e-mail, Twitter. Celia, by contrast, is at a remove from all that and is glad to be. We’re told to let go of the past—Celia refuses. She keeps her love for her husband as alive and real as she can, which led me to ask how much can a lost loved one anchor you.”

This question resonated with Picador senior editor Anna de Vries, who preempted this modern take on Rear Window (minus the murder and Jimmy Stewart) after receiving it from Warren Frazier at John Hawkins & Associates. De Vries says, “I wound up loving Celia fiercely—to the point that I miss her voice even now. I want her to check in and let me know how her life is going and if she’s found the peace she deserves. That, to me, is powerful fiction.”

Rights to The Affairs of Others have been sold in the U.K., France, and Italy, and the announced first printing is 50,000 copies.