Alumni Spotlight Arts & Humanities In the News Society & Culture

Rebecca Ross: Literary Dreams Realized

One of popular literature's most exciting young writers, Rebecca Ross is known for her meticulous world building, which draws readers into her best-selling romance and fantasy novels. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA.)

A line of excited readers gathers at the inaugural Love Y’all book festival in Decatur.

They weave out of a conference room, through a lobby, past a stall of booksellers, and line the walls of a hallway. More than 100 people hold stacks of books, ready to get them signed.

At the end of the line is New York Times best-selling author Rebecca Ross AB ’12, marker in hand.

It’s a scenario Ross couldn’t have predicted when her debut novel, The Queen’s Rising, published in 2018. But now, six years and eight books later, it’s an opportunity she relishes.

“If I could go back and tell 2018 Rebecca, ‘This is where you’re going to be in 2024,’ it would have been hard for me to believe,” she says. “It’s really neat to see how I’ve changed and grown throughout the seasons and all of the books I have written.”

I started writing [Divine Rivals] at the end of 2020, and I just wanted it to be unapologetically romantic. It was a book that found me at the right time, and it feels like it was a time when readers also needed it.” — Rebecca Ross on her 2023 novel, which topped The New York Times best-seller list for nearly 40 weeks.

Ross majored in English at Gainesville State College (now the University of North Georgia), but she got tired of always being asked about what kind of job that might lead to. So when she transferred to UGA, she changed her major to nutrition and dietetics—something with a more obvious career path.

“I had this moment where I sat back and said, ‘Rebecca, what are you doing sitting in this organic chemistry class? It’s not how your mind works,’” says Ross.

It was time to return to her passion: writing. And when she arrived, Park Hall welcomed her with open arms.

“I walked into the building not very confident about myself because I had just had this really hard year,” Ross says. “But in the breezeway—and I’m sure this has been painted over—there was a hobbit foot drawn on the wall that said ‘Frodo lives’ underneath it. As soon as I saw that, I knew I was with my people.”

Ross’ English coursework brought stories to life and helped her develop her voice as a writer. To this day, she still has her annotated books from courses on Jane Austen and narrative structures of classics like The Woman in White, Frankenstein, and Jane Eyre.

In some ways, those voices are reflected in her novels.

Ross’ work immerses readers in new worlds, blending romance and fantasy with a lyrical writing style.

While she’s had a strong reader base since her 2018 debut, her 2023 novel, Divine Rivals, was a breakout book. It has lived on The New York Times Best-Seller List for almost 40 weeks, and its highly anticipated sequel, Ruthless Vows, debuted at No. 1 in the young adult (YA) hardcover category.

“I started writing it at the end of 2020, and I just wanted it to be unapologetically romantic,” Ross says of the duology. “It was a book that found me at the right time, and it feels like it was a time when readers also needed it.”

With each book, Ross aims to learn.

Sometimes that means trying a new narrative structure or weaving together multiple points of view. Sometimes it means transitioning from YA books to an adult audience, like she did with A River Enchanted and A Fire Endless. In the end, it all boils down to reader experience.

“I want my readers to be swept away by the story if they’re looking for an escape. Sometimes it’s a new comfort read or a character that resonates with them,” she says. “I just want my readers to not feel alone.”

Rebecca Ross has published eight fantasy novels, including her New York Times best-selling Divine Rivals duology. She has written novels for young adult and adult audiences alike, and her storytelling skills sharpen with each project. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)