Children’s fiction: Cardiff writer’s debut book nets him six-figure deal

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Egmont Books/Isabelle Follath

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Jack Meggitt-Phillips has publishing deals in 22 countries outside the UK for his novel

A previously unpublished writer has described the “extraordinary” moment a publisher offered him a six-figure advance on a three-book deal.

Egmont Books snapped up Jack Meggitt-Phillips’ children’s novel The Beast and the Bethany before it could go to auction.

Film rights are being chased by a firm headed by a Harry Potter producer.

“I did have to check a few times that it wasn’t spam,” said Mr Meggitt-Phillips, originally from Cardiff.

“I felt very sorry for the neighbours at the time because I jumped up and down and squealed not unlike a pig.”

Liz Bankes, fiction editorial director of Egmont Books, said she could see the work becoming an “iconic series” and a “modern classic” in children’s literature.

“The sign when something really special has come in was on our team WhatsApp group, we were already sharing favourite lines or moments from it,” she said.

The novel, written for children aged eight-12, is about a 511-year-old man called Ebenezer Tweezer who has a hungry creature in his attic.

Ebenezer feeds him different things and in return the beast vomits out an ever-lasting youth potion, keeping him alive.

But things become complicated when the Beast announces that it wants to eat something new – a child.

He thinks he’s found a simple solution when he comes across the rebellious, naughty prankster, Bethany, but it is not as straightforward as he thought.

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Egmont Books/Isabelle Follath

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The book features illustrations of the main characters

And the book has now attracted international attention, with publishing deals in 22 countries outside the UK.

“It’s been really interesting seeing how the different countries have a different take on the book,” said Mr Meggitt-Phillips, a 27-year-old former PR worker.

“In Iceland, the Beast is going to be changed into a woman because apparently the word sounds prettier if it’s given a female noun.”

Meanwhile Heyday Films, headed by producer David Heyman who has worked on the Harry Potter series, the Fantastic Beasts trilogy and the Paddington films, has sought the film rights.

“My agent got a call which I was absolutely convinced was a hoax even though she affirmed it wasn’t,” Mr Meggitt-Phillips said.

“I couldn’t think of a better partnership to help bring The Beast and Bethany to the screen.”

However, the pandemic has meant the book release and publicity campaign has had to take a different turn this year.

“The sad thing for me is that it would have been great to do school visits and meet and talk with hopefully the readers of the book,” said Mr Meggitt-Phillips.

“It’s been such a surreal year.”

The author said he had wanted to become a writer since the age of 10, despite an unsuccessful entry in a creative writing competition at school.

“The judges disagreed and ever since then I’ve been trying to disprove them and have kept writing,” he said.

He continued to pursue writing throughout his A-levels at Llanishen High School, his English undergraduate degree at Warwick University and in his work at a PR agency in London.