Erika Robuck, long-time contributor to Writer Unboxed, recently released her fourth novel Fallen Beauty. Erika also writes about and reviews historical fiction at her blog, Muse. We’re very pleased to have her here today to tell us more about her newest novel!
Q: What’s the premise of your new book?
ER: In Fallen Beauty a poor, small town seamstress, ostracized for her past, is commissioned to create a reading tour wardrobe for the scandalous poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay. Doing so would require a betrayal of her family because of a secret, and risking the reputation she struggles to rebuild, but not doing so could mean that she loses everything.
Q: What would you like people to know about the story itself?
ER: Fallen Beauty is a novel of contrasts: dark and light, winter and summer, the “duende” and the Muse. It is about what it means to be a perfect woman, if there is such a thing, and how we break each other with our judgments, which are often the very things we hate about ourselves.
Q: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenges do you set before them?
ER: My characters think they have to overcome the judgments of a small town on their lifestyle choices, but are confronted with the painful realization that their own self-loathing is the greatest burden to bear.
Q: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any?
ER: For the first time in writing about writers, I decided to take on the voice of my subject, Edna St. Vincent Millay, as a point of view character. I did not think I could rise to the challenge of this intensely dark, often savage, and deeply poetic woman, and nearly abandoned the idea midway through writing the novel, in favor of telling the entire story through my protagonist.
One night, after a particularly awful winter day, when I was in a terrible, brooding mood, and I could not sit down to write until eleven at night, I took one last stab at writing from Millay’s point of view.
That is where I found her voice.
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?
ER: Writing from the point of view of an unconventional, passionate woman, in an open marriage, with hundreds of male and female lovers, was a unique challenge, and I wanted to be sure that I portrayed Millay’s true nature, while not offending readers who trust me to write novels they can pass along to their friends, and who hope for redemption.
What has been rewarding is reading reviews by loyal readers and bloggers who admit they were initially turned off by some of the behaviors in the book, but who were glad they continued reading to the end. Reader trust is very important to me, and I am grateful that my audience trusts me to take them on a journey of redemption, no matter where the dark trails may lead.