Ballantine Backs Gortner
In a North American rights acquisition, Ballantine’s Susanna Porter bought C.W. Gortner’s The Romanov Empress. Jennifer Weltz at Jean V. Naggar Literary brokered the sale for the author, whose work has been published in over 23 languages. (Ballantine published Gortner’s latest novel, The Vatican Princess, last month.) The Romanov Empress is about, Weltz said, “the Danish princess who became a beloved czarina, witnessing the opulence of Imperial Russia and catastrophic events that led to the 1917 revolution.”

Hepworth Re-ups at SMP
Australian novelist Sally Hepworth signed a three-book world English-rights deal with Jennifer Enderlin at St. Martin’s Press. Hepworth, who lives in Melbourne, published her last two books—The Secrets of Midwives (2015) and The Things We Keep (January)—with SMP in the States. In Australia, The Secrets of Midwives was, Enderlin said, the country’s #1 bestselling debut in 2015. The books in this deal are not yet titled, but Enderlin said they will be “psychological and family dramas about secrets and lies.” Hepworth was represented by Rob Weisbach at Rob Weisbach Creative Management.

SMP Buys U.K. Bestseller
Behind Closed Doors, released in the U.K. in November, was acquired in a two-book North American rights deal by Jennifer Weis at St. Martin’s Press. Author B.A. Paris was represented by Camilla Wray at the Darley Anderson Agency. According to SMP, the novel follows an attractive couple whose seemingly perfect life may hide a darker truth. As SMP put it: “Theirs is a fairy tale story of meeting, falling in love, getting married, and planning a family. They are always together. Is this because they are truly close, or is it because of something else?” The U.K. edition, published by Mira, has, SMP said, sold more than 200,000 copies to date. SMP is planning to release Behind Closed Doors on August 9.

McKinlay Takes ‘Dog’ to Berkley
In a three-book deal, Kate Seaver at Berkley preempted North American rights to About a Dog, the first book in a new series by Jenn McKinlay. The author, who also writes the Library Lover’s Mystery series for Berkley, was represented by Christina Hogrebe at the Jane Rotrosen Agency. About a Dog follows a reunited group of high school friends in Maine and is about, the publisher explained, “going home, shenanigans, stray puppy dogs, mischievous elderly aunts, big laughs, shared tears, hot sex, and falling unexpectedly in love.“ The book is set for a June 2017 release.

A Kennedy Talks ‘Growing Up’ with Harper
Jean Kennedy Smith, the daughter of Joseph and Rose Kennedy (and the sister of J.F.K.), sold a memoir called The Nine of Us to Gail Winston at Harper. Winston took world English rights to the book, which is subtitled Growing Up Kennedy. Smith, who is the eighth child of the aforementioned couple (and the only living one), was represented by Laurie Abkemeier at DeFiore and Company. Abkemeier said the book features “charming stories” about the Kennedy clan, as well as “the lessons [the Kennedy] parents worked so hard to teach [their kids] as they set off to help others and make a difference in the world.” The Nine of Us is slated for October.

Bird Shares the ‘Story’ With WD
Matt Bird sold world English rights to The Secrets of Story to Phil Sexton at Writers Digest. Bird, who has an M.F.A. in screenwriting from Columbia, runs the popular writing blog Cockeyed Caravan, which offers tips and instruction on narrative craft. Stephen Barbara at Inkwell Management represented Bird, and the book, which is subtitled Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers, is set for fall 2016. Barbara compared Secrets to such iconic screenwriting guides as Robert McKee’s Story and Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, calling it the “21st-century answer” to those titles.

Pegasus Celebrates Lovecraft with Jones
In a four-book world-rights deal, Claiborne Hancock at Pegasus Books bought a series of interconnected novels from editor Stephen Jones (creator of the Zombie Apocalypse! series) called the Lovecraft Squad. Inspired by the work of horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft (who died in 1937), the books will, Pegasus said, follow “the decades-spanning exploits of a super-secret worldwide organization dedicated to battling the eldritch monstrosities given form in [Lovecraft’s] fevered imagination.” The first book, set for 2017, is called All Hallows Horrow.

Author Maisey Yates inked a six-book world-rights deal with Harlequin’s HQN imprint to continue her Western-set Copper Ridge romance series. Margo Lipschultz brokered the agreement with agent Helen Breitwieser at Cornerstone Literary.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct title of Matt Bird's book. Additionally, due to publisher error, Rob Weishbach's agency was initially identified as Rob Weisbach Literary Management; the firm is called Rob Weisbach Creative Management.