Emily Roberson is about to publish her debut YA novel, Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters, a dream she’s cherished for years.
“I’ve been chasing this particular dream since maybe the first grade,” she said, “and I am 45. So it feels like...I want to enjoy every bit of it that I can while also not getting upset when there are parts of it that are so different from what [I] thought they would be.”
This is Roberson’s first traditionally-published novel, though she did self-publish a “chick lit” novel, called Life, Motherhood, and the Pursuit of the Perfect Handbag, several years ago.
She said when she self-published that book, she set her goals “really low.” In fact, she only had three main goals: earn back her financial investment in the book (about $500); have someone unrelated to her buy it; and get a review by someone she didn’t know. Her timeline for accomplishing her goals was one year.
The results? Within six months she had checked off all three of these goals.
Despite that, Roberson decided that to continue in her dream of publication, she wanted to be traditionally published.
“At the end of it I was like ‘I don’t wanna do this by myself,’” she said. “You have to do a book a year and I don’t write that fast. I don’t have a fast brain. I don’t mean that as a criticism of myself.”
Roberson doesn’t believe in criticizing oneself. “You cannot consistently put yourself down without doing damage to yourself,” she said.
Back to the book: Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters is her fourth completed manuscript; she began querying her first book in the early 2000s, and when she was working on this one and unsure if she’d get an agent for it, she contemplated giving up (on publishing, not writing) if this book didn’t land her an agent.
“The consistent rejection of it is so hard,” she said.
Luckily, this book did get her an agent. So let’s talk about what this book is about, shall we?
According to Roberson’s website:
How do you keep a secret when every minute of your life is packaged up and sold to the world?
Sixteen-year-old Ariadne’s whole life is curated and shared with the world. Her royal family’s entertainment empire is beloved by the tabloids, all over social media, and the hottest thing on television. The biggest moneymaker? The Labyrinth Contest, a TV extravaganza in which Ariadne leads fourteen teens into a maze to kill a monster. To win means endless glory; to lose means death. In ten seasons, no one has ever won.
When the gorgeous, mysterious Theseus arrives at the competition and asks Ariadne to help him to victory, she doesn’t expect to fall for him. He might be acting interested in her just to boost ratings. Their chemistry is undeniable, though, and she can help him survive. If he wins, the contest would end for good. But if she helps him, she doesn’t just endanger her family’s empire—the monster would have to die. And for Ariadne, his life might be the only one worth saving.
Ariadne’s every move is watched by the public and predestined by the gods, so how can she find a way to forge her own destiny and save the people she loves?
Young Adult writer Emily Roberson has created an inventive and original retelling of a classic story from Greek mythology.
It sounds amazing, right? I knew I was desperate for it from the second I first read it!
The inspiration for this modern-day reality TV spin on a Greek myth? In addition to her interest in things like fashion magazines, gossip culture, and Greek mythology, Roberson gives homage to one modern-day family as partial inspiration.
“I was thinking about the Kardashians, as one does,” she said, laughing. “They’re not famous for anything,” she added, pointing out that while they may be incredibly talented at building a brand (as they’ve done), they’re not singers, actors, dancers...they’re just famous.
In looking for something comparable, for another set of people famous merely for the family they were born into, Roberson looked to the heroes of mythology, whose “demigod status is back-engineered.”
As for her protagonist, that was easy. Roberson said she had always been fascinated by Ariadne, and had questions about her motivations and what would inspire her to make the choices she made. “She had to have reasons of her own,” she said.
Even though she has, by many people’s standards, already “made it” (she’s having her book traditionally published, after all) Roberson knows there are no guarantees in publishing.
“This might be it; I hope it’s not. I’m still adventuring,” she said. “The whole thing has been embracing the parts that are fun. I don’t think that I would be having nearly as much fun now if I didn’t know that I could do it on my own.”
Publishing can be stressful and difficult, hence her need to enjoy the fun parts. One thing Roberson mentioned was the added layer of stress that comes with social media, as people now expect authors to be part of the product they’re selling. One aspect that can be hard? Posting pictures of herself.
“I had a belief until more recently than I would like to think that there was a Beautiful with a capital “b” and Beautiful is this thing which by its nature I’m not,” she shared. But on social media, “The people that people connect with the most are putting up pictures of themselves.”
Rather than letting this stop her, Roberson concocted a clever plan as a way of drumming up excitement for her book and its launch, through photos posted to her Instagram (I won’t spill what it was, but go check out her page and see if you can discover the plan).
Ultimately, as much as publishing can be nightmarish, as hard as marketing can be, Roberson says: “The fun parts so vastly outweigh the bad parts that I am so excited about writing another book.”