Sharp keen on first slate

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Sharp Independent at HarperCollins has formed its first development slate, a diverse list that includes an adaptation of a series from "The Princess Diaries" author Meg Cabot, a nonfiction tale about the private lives of astronauts and a small-town story described as a next-generation "Nashville."

The new banner of indie producer Jeff Sharp ("Boys Don't Cry"), which is housed at and draws material from the News Corp. publisher, has optioned Cabot's "Queen of Babble" series. The series centers on a fashion-obsessed twentysomething American girl on a journey to London; the third volume, "Queen Babble Gets Hitched," is set to bow in the summer.

The project, which had been pursued by a number of studios, skews a little older than "Diaries," Sharp said, adding that it could be a vehicle for a young female star along the lines of Hilary Duff.

Sharp also has optioned "Live From Cape Canaveral," a memoir about the Florida community of astronauts from Jay Barbree, the NBC News correspondent who has covered every manned space flight the U.S. has launched. Sharp described it as mixing "The Right Stuff" with "Almost Famous," with the project examining the significant and at times wild lives of the icons from the point of view of a civilian insider.

Sharp tipped the projects at Sundance, where he and HarperCollins execs like Michael Morrison will be meeting filmmakers and spearheading a panel on book-to-film projects.

All Sharp Independent at HarperCollins projects will come from the publisher's divisions and imprints, including the flagship imprint as well as William Morrow and HarperPerennial. Under the deal, Sharp is optioning and will develop the material as he would at any indie shingle, but he is doing so with inside access to Harper's vast trove of upcoming and catalog material.

Among the slate's optioned books that are yet to be published are Willy Vlautin's "Northline," described as a "Nashville"-like take on poignant and eccentric characters in a small city, with Reno, Nev., standing in for the Tennessee city.

Also as part of the slate, Sharp has picked up "The Cure for Everything Is Salt Water," a romantic comedy based on the memoir of Mary South, who decides to leave her staid life behind to take up sailing and finds an unlikely romance along the way.

Rounding out the deals is an option for "The Space Between Us," Thrity Umrigar's novel set in India about two women from different backgrounds; the backlist title is regarded as a favorite among HarperCollins editors.
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