Photograph by Bob Rozycki
Emily Liebert has always been one to move fast. No sooner did she and husband Lewis adopt their first son, Jaxsyn, then she became pregnant with their second, Hugo.
“They’re delicious,” says the proud mom. And as she scrolls through photos of two smiling, sandy-haired preschoolers hugging each other you can’t but concur.
The former WAG editor is just as quick and creative mentally. To wit: She wrote her debut novel, “You Knew Me When,” between January and July of 2012 and had a two-book deal a month later. “You Knew Me When” (New American Library/Penguin) is out Sept. 3, with the second book, “The Love That Lies Ahead,” due next September.
But Emily’s need for speed belies a much longer story – that of the archetypal fiction writer struggling for her place in the sun (and on the Kindle) and her ingenious solution to the particular challenge of marketing a novel in the age of the Internet. Emily, you see, isn’t just launching a book. She’s launching a line of nail polishes, charms and dresses tied to the three strong-willed women who dominate the novel, a story of friendship lost and restored.
Is this multiplatform approach – which has taken hold in other media and is seen somewhat in ebooks embedded with videos and music – an idea whose time has finally come in the publishing industry?
“I would like to be starting a trend,” Emily says over breakfast at the revamped City Limits Diner in White Plains. “I know how hard the publishing climate is. I know it’s easier to sell nonfiction.”
She has already done that successfully with “Facebook Fairytales” (Skyhorse, 2010) – 25 stories of lives connected and transformed through the social media phenomenon.
“You Knew Me When,” though, is a different animal. So Emily figures if the book doesn’t get her into InStyle magazine, fashion and cosmetics just might.
And they’re a natural for the novel since the main character, Katherine Hill, is a successful Manhattan cosmetics executive who goes home to Manchester, Vt., where she and estranged BFF Laney Marten have inherited the Victorian mansion of former neighbor Luella Hancock. Emily approached a dozen cosmetic companies with the idea of a “You Knew Me When” lipstick and nail polish. She went with her first choice, Zoya, which has created a trio of nail lacquers that reflect the heroines’ personalities. There’s a classic red for Katherine, a regal purple for Luella and an offbeat emerald green for Laney.
Then on a trip to the Bahamas, Emily met designer Alessandra Meskita, who has incorporated several designs based on the characters and the author herself into her fall collection. The Katherine Dress is a red strapless gown; the Luella Dress, a blue shirtwaist with more than a hint of the ’50s; and the Laney Dress, a sexy navy number. The Emily Dress is charcoal gray and white with hot-pink accents, while the Brooke Dress (after Emily’s middle name) is a form-fitting white racerback gown with colorful details on the bottom.
The last piece of the puzzle was a group of charms, created by DoDo, which specializes in animal charms and inspiring sentiments and is part of the Milan-based jewelry company Pomellato.
But it’s not all jewelry designs and color samples for the budding novelist. She’s part of Target’s Emerging Authors Program, which she says she pushed the newly merged Penguin Random House to get her into.
“It’s not an easy road,” she says of successful publishing. “You’re going to have a lot of doors slammed in your face. You have to want it and be passionate.”
Emily has wanted to write fiction from the time she was a girl growing up on the Upper East Side, the daughter of actress Kyle Rickel and Dr. Thomas Einhorn, now chief of orthopedic surgery at Boston Medical Center. After attending Horace Mann School in Riverdale and Smith College in Northampton, Mass., she went to work for ABC News’ “Peter Jennings Reporting,” where she learned a lot about being organized. Ultimately, however, she realized that TV was not the writing medium she sought. Moving to Westchester in 1999, Emily emailed various publications looking for work and got a response from Mary Ann Liebert, publisher of peer-reviewed journals in science, technology and medicine and founding publisher of WAG. Emily started at the magazine in 2000.
“It was great. I loved it,” she says. “I had never worked at a magazine and at 24, basically I was editor in chief. I loved working for Mary Ann. She has such an amazing spark. Even when she wasn’t my mother-in-law, she treated me like a daughter.”
At that time, Mary Ann’s son, Lewis, was chief operating officer of Mary Ann Liebert Inc. He and Emily became engaged in 2004 and when they married a year later decided to strike out on their own.
“I thought it was best for my mother-in-law not to be my boss.”
Today, Lewis has a luxury aviation company, Performance Flight, which operates out of Westchester County Airport. And Emily, after editing Kerry Kennedy’s book, “Being Catholic Now,” has settled into the life of a novelist and working mom who writes four hours a day, five days a week, around her children’s schedule. Her second novel is about a 9/11 widow seeking fulfillment with her son in the suburbs.
“It’s about people trying to find their happiness and isn’t that what we all want?”
For Emily, that lies not only in her writing but in her family. “You Knew Me When” is dedicated to her boys.
“I want to make sure they feel I’m there all the time. At the end of the day, they’re what’s important.”