TAKE 5: Erika Robuck and CALL ME ZELDA

Erika Robuck’s novel HEMINGWAY’S GIRL (NAL/Penguin) was selected as a Target Emerging Author pick, a Vero Beach Bestseller, and has been sold in two foreign markets to date. Her new novel, CALL ME ZELDA (NAL/Penguin), published on May 7, 2013, and looks to be another successful blend of history, mystery and compelling prose.  The book begins in the years “after the party” for Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Erika writes about and reviews historical fiction at her blog, Muse. She is also a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Hemingway Society.

Best of all, CALL ME ZELDA is receving fabulous advanced praise:

“You thought you knew everything about the Fitzgeralds, their drama, delight, dazzle and despair? This gem of a novel spins a different, touching story, drawing you right into their intimacy and fragility through the eyes of Zelda’s caring nurse, Anna. You will love it, as I absolutely did.” –Tatiana de Rosnay, New York Times Bestselling Author of Sarah’s Key and The House I Loved

Erika says, “I have great affection for Zelda Fitzgerald, and I have a strong desire to set her story straight in the eyes of readers everywhere, to bring attention to the pain of mental illness, and to give hope through fiction.” Check out the trailer HERE.  And follow Erika on Twitter and Facebook.

Enjoy this Take 5 with Erika Robuck.

Q: What’s the premise of your new book? 

Held captive by her own tragic past, psychiatric nurse Anna Howard is drawn to her new patient, Zelda Fitzgerald—wife of the famous writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, and a woman whose raw pain mirrors that which Anna has long buried. As Zelda responds to Anna’s care, Anna becomes privy to Zelda’s most intimate confessions, written in a secret memoir meant only for her. Anna begins to wonder which Fitzgerald is the true genius, and longs to help Zelda find balance in her creativity and familial relationships. But in taking ever greater emotional risks to save Zelda, Anna may end up paying a far higher price than she intended…

Q: What would you like people to know about the story itself? 

I want readers to know that Anna is a fictional character based on the mention of “a nurse” who helped care for Zelda Fitzgerald during her stay at the Phipps Psychiatric Clinic in Baltimore. While Anna’s story and search for healing from her past are fiction, Zelda’s story is true.

Q: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenge do you set before them? 

My characters are both victims of pasts that they can’t reclaim, but which continue to burden them. Zelda also has to face her diagnosis of and treatment for schizophrenia, while searching a place in the world that is separate from her husband. Zelda believes that repossessing the diaries Scott took from her to use in his fiction will help her restore her sense of self. She gives Anna the charge of finding the diaries.

Q: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any?

The great challenge in writing this novel was uniting Anna’s and Zelda’s stories so the women were able to believably provide comfort and healing to one another within the true historical context of Zelda Fitzgerald’s life.

It was also a great challenge to mine Zelda’s tragedy for hope and redemption, which I believe is important in fiction. Without giving away too much to those who do not know how Zelda’s life ends, it is clear that she suffered greatly. The muse is kind, however, and just when I’d become overwhelmed with sadness for Zelda, I found many compelling and hopeful anecdotes, letters, art, and stories that convinced me of Zelda’s relative peace in her later years and near the time of her death.

Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?

When you spend a lot of time writing about historic figures, they begin to haunt you. Zelda is everywhere now, and I feel very glad to be a part of the great resurgence of interest in her. I’m delighted that she is finally getting the kind of attention she deserves, and I believe that Zelda would be very pleased by all of it.



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  1. says

    I think Zelda fascinating, I remember her vague history was whispered wistfully by an elderly professor in my college. While she was mentioned as a footnote, it was clear that there was a mystery. It was such a sad and fascinating time for women.

    We had someone in my family who had be institutionalized in the 1930s although no one is really sure whether she had a breakdown, the result of her husband leaving her for another woman or she was mentally ill.The treatments and drugs she received left her so damaged. I remember her from my childhood as an exotic, eccentric character who enthralled us as children. She was long gone by the time I was a teenager but we certainly romanticized her memory.

    I just ordered the book, can’t wait to read it!

    • says

      Cris–Schizophrenia was a sort of blanket diagnosis for all women suffering “nervous conditions” at the time. It was likely that Zelda was more bipolar/manic depressive. Present day doctors continue to examine her case and symptoms.

      While a lifestyle of excess, a tumultuous marriage, an alcoholic husband, and the classic female struggle for identity and balance impacted her, she also heard voices, saw only certain colors for periods of time, and seemed to hallucinate. She had a family history of depression, and her brother committed suicide. Zelda’s is a sad story, especially in light of the limited modes of treatment available to her at the time.

      Thank you for your comments, and for ordering the book! I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

  2. CG Blake says

    What a premise. Congratulations to you, Erika, and best wishes for success with your new book.