Are you a fan of Greek mythology? If your answer was yes, then we’ve got a treat for you! We’re here with special guest Phoenicia Rogerson, author of the highly acclaimed Herc; a queer retelling of the classic Greek hero’s famous adventures. This interview is full of interesting tidbits about her writing process and experience delving into this timeless legend. ✨✨✨
What was your inspiration for this book? Was it a lightbulb moment or a slow build?
I’ve wanted to read this book since I was about six. Hercules is referenced everywhere in Greek mythology, and I wanted to put that all together in one place, without leaving out the good bits. (Since I was six, that basically meant I wanted all the violence left in, thank you.) The most lightbulby moment for me was reading Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles. That’s what made me realise I wasn’t the only person who wanted to read mythology in novel form.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing this book?
It was… temporally complicated. Because Herc appears in so many stories, most of the times he’s referenced, the source isn’t too worried about how that fits into a timeline. Putting those all together got quite tangled at points. I also started writing Herc in late 2019 and, like a lot of the world, wasn’t in the best place throughout 2020. Trying to edit and focus when it felt like everything was on fire was a huge challenge.
How do you approach research for your books?
I’ve been a big Greek mythology nerd for about as long as I can remember – I think it was inevitable, with my name – so I usually know a lot of the basic framework going in. That said, I do need to continuously double check that what I think I know is right – I’ve gone down some deep rabbit holes in the past because I’ve gotten two names mixed up – and then try to fill in the gaps between those major events. For that, I find it easiest to start with the specific characters who are involved, check them in one of my encyclopedias and then, with that in hand, start researching online.
Can you tell us about your writing process? Do you follow a specific routine or schedule?
I tend to write at either extreme of the day, right after I wake up or right before I go to sleep, but it honestly varies a lot. I work full-time, so it will often depend on what I can fit around that. For the process itself, I write quite fast and then circle through a lot of drafts. For me, that ensures a constant feeling of progress and helps stop me overthinking things that don’t need to be overthunk.
What themes do you tend to explore in your writing?
No matter where I start, I always seem to end up talking about complicated family dynamics, which is a very fancy way of saying I like writing about families bickering.
Do you have any writing habits or quirks that are unique to you?
I’m a bit of a competitive monster, so when I’m stuck on a scene or procrastinating I’ll sometimes set a ten minute timer and then race to see how many words I can get down before it runs out. It makes for… interesting edits.
Can you describe your favorite writing spot or environment?
My parents live a six-hour train ride away from me, and the track follows a really beautiful route around the coast on the way down. If I manage a good seat on a quiet train, that’s probably my favourite place in the world to write.
What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I hope they have fun with it! Greek mythology has always brought me a lot of joy, so I’d love to share some of that with the world.
HERC by Phoenicia Rogerson
A queer revisionist retelling of the story of Hercules, for fans of The Song of Achilles, A Thousand Ships and Ariadne.
This should be the story of Hercules: his twelve labours, his endless adventures… everyone’s favorite hero, right?
Well, it’s not.
This is the story of everyone else:
- Alcmene: Herc’s mother (She has knives everywhere)
- Hylas: Herc’s first friend (They were more than friends)
- Megara: Herc’s wife (She’ll tell you about their marriage)
- Eurystheus: Oversaw Herc’s labours (He never asked for the job)
- His friends, his enemies, his wives, his children, his lovers, his rivals, his gods, his victims
It’s time to hear their stories.
Told with humour and heart, Herc gives voice to the silenced characters, in this feminist, queer (and sometimes shocking) retelling of classic Hercules myth.