Phoenicia Rogerson is a London-based author whose debut novel, Herc, is out in the world today! Ready Chapter 1 is so excited to welcome her to our blog to tell us all about it!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your upcoming novel, Herc?
I’m a bookworm and a lifelong mythology obsessive, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that I wrote Herc, a book about mythology. It specifically centres around the life and times of Hercules and the impact he had on the people around him. When I’m not writing, I can usually be found knitting, swimming outdoors, and getting overly competitive at pub quizzes
Herc is a retelling of the labors of Hercules from the point of view of everyone except Hercules. Where did you get the idea for this unique retelling?
I actually made it around a third of the way through a first draft with a single point of view before I stopped and decided to start again with the alternating characters. Herc is so interesting because he’s kind of everything, all at once: hero and villain, saviour and monster. I couldn’t find a good way to encapsulate all of that nuance in a single character. When I moved to the changing points of view, it all came much more easily, especially by the time I got to Eurystheus, who had no intention of shutting up and letting anyone else do the talking!
What kinds of research did you have to do when drafting Herc?
Going into the first draft, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted the major beats to be and which people and events I thought were underrepresented. The real danger was whenever I went in to research something, I’d inevitably find more connected threads, more stories I just had to include. It became more of an exercise in taming the story so I wouldn’t end up with a million word manuscript! While I was writing, I was constantly double checking little bits and pieces, to the point of basically drowning in browser tabs.
What did your road to publishing look like?
I started writing long-form fiction when I was fifteen, and I finished the first draft of my first ever novel not long after I turned eighteen. That manuscript is, of course, very, very bad, and will forever stay in a drawer where it belongs, though that doesn’t stop me from being incredibly proud of it. Finishing that manuscript was my big I can do this moment.
For Herc, I’ve followed quite a classic route to publication. I queried about twenty UK agents – I’m based in London, so that made the most sense to me – in July 2021, just over two years before release date. I’d queried agents before, so I was theoretically used to the waiting, but I haven’t found it gets easier so far! I signed with my agent in late autumn that year, then, after a couple of rounds of edit with her, we went on submission to editors in April 2022. The offer from HQ, my UK publishers, came in almost exactly a month later.
I’ve read a lot of lovely stories about what people were doing when they heard they had a book deal… I was playing Fruit Ninja.
At the time of writing this, there’s 37 more days until release, and I couldn’t be more excited!
Do you have any advice on making your novel stand out while querying? Mythology retellings are popular these days, so uniqueness is a must!
The whims of the querying system are still a bit of a mystery to me! I remember really worrying that it would be a problem that Herc is a queer book, with a more modern tone, but those have turned out to be two of the big hooks for it. If I had to re-write my query now, I’d definitely lean into those aspects more than I did the first time round. So, I’d say don’t be afraid to highlight how and why your novel is different from the books it would sit next to on the shelf.
Do you have any other writing projects on the horizon you’re excited about? Can you tell us about them?
Yes to working on it, but the specifics are still a secret!
Can you provide links to any websites or social channels you’d like readers to follow?
My website is phoeniciarogerson.com, and I can be found on both Instagram and the app formerly known as Twitter @thatphoenicia