Here we go again, folks! Today we have my friend, Erika Robuck, author of historical fiction featuring strong female protagonists and real historical figures. She’s written about Ernest Hemingway, Zelda Fitzgerald, and now, Edna St. Vincent Millay. What’s fascinating is that Erika’s books don’t feature the “famous person” as the primary main character, but the main characters are strong women in the inner circle. The fictional inner circle! And if the interview isn’t enough to pique your interest in all Erika’s books, below is a book trailer for FALLEN BEAUTY, her latest novel that launched just two days ago (on my son’s birthday, no less)!
Erika is a magnificent writer and eloquent speaker. Please welcome back Erika Robuck to WFW!
Author Erika Robuck Reveals The Reasons Behind Writing A Novel About Edna St. Vincent Millay
Amy: Welcome back to WFW, Erika! First things first. That cover is to do die for! There’s a lot in the bookish media about book covers. So tell us, what do you think of your Fallen Beauty cover and how did it come to be?
Erika: Thank you, Amy. I recently told my editor at Penguin that I need to take the art department out for dinner since they have created such gorgeous covers for me.
Early in the process, I was asked what I envisioned for the cover, and I sent my publisher vintage photos of Ziegfeld Follies girls. FALLEN BEAUTY begins at the Follies when my protagonist Laura Kelley sneaks away from her father’s house to see the scandalous show. Laura is a seamstress and becomes inspired by the elaborate costumes, which influence her work later in the novel for the poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay.
The art department found this particularly striking and sensuous Follies girl, colored her hair blonde to match my protagonist, and added the rich gold and purple accents to the black and white photograph. I rewrote my opening scene so that Laura is wearing a gold dress with a matching feathered headpiece, to unite the work and the art.
I am in awe of the final copy of the book, because the cover has a velvety feel, and the French flaps and deckled edges give it even more texture. Finally, the publisher added interior art to reflect the fabrics Laura might have used in her designs for the poet, making a gorgeous package. I could not be more pleased.
Amy: Where do you go looking for the historical figures you fictionalize for your novels, or do they come knocking on your door?
Erika: I am very much haunted (or hunted?) by my characters. I visit their cities, homes, and graves, and it seems to open up some kind of doorway between us. Once I commit to a writer as a character, she doesn’t leave me alone, which is almost always a good thing.
I was led to Millay while researching my last novel, CALL ME ZELDA. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Princeton friends, who were her lovers, were so beguiled by Millay that I wanted to know more about her. I had always loved Millay’s poetry, and I was even more pleased to see she led such a fascinating life—a life worthy of a novel.
Amy: Without any spoilers, what was your favorite scene to write in Fallen Beauty–and was it a difficult scene to write or did it come easily?
Erika: Because I am certainly not a hunter, I was surprised to find that my favorite scene to write was a hunting sequence. Millay was a hunter—in more ways than one—and the scene is based on one of my favorite poems of hers, “Buck in the Snow.” Millay hunts and kills a buck in a winter landscape, and leaves the doe of the pair to go free. The hot blood melts the cold snow, and Millay imagines it fertilizing the ground for the coming spring. Then she takes her husband to bed in a savage fashion until she has exhausted him, and thinks of the seeds she plants for her poetry.
When Millay is cold, alone, and sleepless after her exertions, she goes to the window where the doe has emerged from the forest to haunt her. It is an extended metaphor for the consequences of Millay’s choices in life, love, and work.
Amy: What’s your best advice for an aspiring or published author who wants to dip into writing historical fiction featuring a strong woman at the core of the story — as all your stories do?
Erika: Make sure you are obsessed with your subject, because she will consume you.
Make sure you are unafraid to open yourself up to being haunted. Sometimes your subject’s biography flies off the shelf when you write late at night, or her favorite song comes on the radio when you pull up to her gravesite.
Do not be afraid.
Erika Robuck self-published her first novel, RECEIVE ME FALLING. Her novel, HEMINGWAY’S GIRL (NAL/Penguin), was a Target Emerging Author Pick, a Vero Beach Bestseller, and has sold in two foreign markets to date. CALL ME ZELDA (NAL/Penguin) made the Southern Independent Booksellers Bestseller list, and is a Target Recommended Read. Her forthcoming novel, FALLEN BEAUTY, will be published on March 4, 2014, and she is a contributor to GRAND CENTRAL (June 2014, Berkley/Penguin), a short story anthology set at Grand Central Terminal in New York, following World War II.
Erika writes about and reviews historical fiction at her blog, Muse, and is a contributor to fiction blog, Writer Unboxed. She is also a member of the Historical Novel Society, Hemingway Society, and the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society.
Twitter: @ErikaRobuck ~ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ErikaRobuck