Seth Grahame-Smith’s master plan may have just hit a roadblock. The Pride and Prejudice and Zombies author has been sued by his publisher Hachette for breach of contract, according to court documents posted online by Publishers Marketplace.
Included in the lawsuit, filed last Friday by Hachette, is a 2010 book deal between the publishing group and Grahame-Smith’s company Baby Gorilla Inc, in which the author promised to deliver two books by June 2013, with a $500,000 advance for each. The first was supposed to be a sequel or spinoff of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, while the second book was left a little vaguer but still mandated to be “comparable in style, quality, and broad appeal to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” according to the contract. The former became The Last American Vampire, which Grahame-Smith spoke about to EW last year. The second never materialized.
According to Hachette’s lawsuit, Grahame-Smith asked for two extensions on the second manuscript, collectively pushing its due date back to April 1, 2016. When he still didn’t deliver, the publisher sent him a letter on April 20 to notify they intended to terminate the agreement. This gave Grahame-Smith and Baby Gorilla a 60-day grace period to deliver the manuscript, or else pay back the advance. Grahame-Smith finally delivered a manuscript on June 6, but it did not satisfy Hachette.
According to Hachette, the manuscript Grahame-Smith finally delivered was “not original to Smith, but instead is in large part an appropriation of a 120- year-old public-domain work; materially varies from the 80,000-100,000 word limit fixed in the Agreement; is on a subject that was never approved by Hachette in writing, as required by Paragraph 1(b) of the Agreement; and is not comparable in style and quality to Smith’s wholly original bestseller Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” Hence this lawsuit, in which Hachette is suing Grahame-Smith and Baby Gorilla for at least their $500,000 advance (plus legal fees), with a full amount of damages to be determined at trial.
Although the lawsuit does not specify which “120-year-old public domain work” Grahame-Smith allegedly appropriated, if the date is correct to the letter, it could potentially refer to H.G. Wells’ 1896 novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, which would fit Grahame-Smith’s demonstrated love of both monsters and mash-ups. (For more on the projects he’s working on, see EW’s full breakdown and 2015 interview with him here.)