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What's Up Magazine

A Chat with Area Author Erika Robuck

Nov 05, 2013 03:44PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Mary Lou Baker

I first met Severna Park resident Erika Robuck five years ago as a fellow student in a St. Johns writing class conducted by Laura Schwartz. She was in the midst of writing her first novel and at the completion of the eight-week seminar, she invited us all to attend her book signing at a book festival at the Peabody Library in Baltimore. Robuck was busy autographing copies of Receive Me Falling, which I subsequently read in one setting, enjoying the many references to the Annapolis area and her compelling style of writing. We recently reconnected on the occasion of the publication of her third book, Call Me Zelda, published by New American Library/ Penguin.

M.L: Many of your books have a local flavor. How long have you lived in the Annapolis area?

Erika: I was born and raised in an around Annapolis, and remain in the area because of my love of history and the water. My family is also local, so we remain here to spend time with them. Our ideal Saturday includes fishing in the Bay in the morning, boating to Annapolis in the evening, and enjoying walks and meals downtown.

M.L: Tell us about your latest book, Call Me Zelda, which is set in Baltimore.

Erika: I once read a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald about his love of Baltimore, learning later how difficult his time was while living in Maryland, due to Zelda’s hospitalization for mental illness and his own alcoholism. While researching my previous novel, Hemingway’s Girl, I learned about Hemingway’s friendship with the Fitzgeralds, and found Zelda particularly fascinating. I wanted to set my next novel in my home state so I could walk the same streets the Fitzgeralds walked. My need for a reliable narrator sent me to fiction—and my protagonist, a psychiatric nurse, was born.

M.L: Does “place” play a part when you are choosing a topic?

Erika: Place is my first inspiration—visiting sites and archives of my subjects generates ideas. Then, those writers lead to other writers. Research for Hemingway’s Girl began with a trip to Hemingway’s Key West house. Research on Hemingway led me to the Fitzgeralds. F.Scott’s Princeton friends Edmund Wilson and John Bishop led me to the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay for my coming novel Fallen Beauty. I follow the breadcrumbs of dead writers through a vast and troubled forest, and it is endlessly fascinating.

M.L: What drives your interest in literature?

Erika: My Irish grandmother was a great lover of stories, and gave me books well beyond my maturity level from a young age. I became fascinated by the transportive nature of story—the way it made me a more empathetic person, and the connections between places and times.

M.L. Do you have any advice for fellow writers, any “secrets” to success?

Erika: There is no secret; there is only hard work: writing every day, dogged stubbornness and persistence in the face of rejection, and reading loads of great books to feed the mind, study the craft, and inspire.

Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck will be published by NAL/Penguin in March 2014. In addition to her novels, Robuck writes and reviews historical fiction at her blog, Muse, and is a contributor to the fiction blog, Writer Unboxed. She also is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Hemingway Society, and the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society.