Author Erika Robuck Reveals The Reasons Behind Writing A Novel About Edna St. Vincent Millay

Fallen Beauty cover finalHere 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!

Amy xo 

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Author Kristina McMorris Talks About Dual Timelines, Backstory, And The Inspiration for THE PIECES WE KEEP

TPWK_CoverCongratulations to Kristina McMorris! Her third novel, THE PIECES WE KEEP, is available today! Just in time for Thanksgivingukkah presents, and in plenty of time for Christmas giving! Lucky us!

I love historical fiction and nothing makes me happier than when Kristina McMorris launches a new novel, especially when she’s here on WFW to share her insights on writing a dual timeline, why historical fiction is so appealing to readers, and how, as writers, we can work to avoid the dreaded (cue scary music) backstory dump. 

Don’t forget to watch the trailer for THE PIECES WE KEEP at the end of the interview. Not only does it offer insight into Kristina’s new novel, but it’s so fun to see and hear her speak (she’s so eloquent). 

Please welcome Kristina McMorris to Women’s Fiction Writers! 

Amy xo

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How Perspective Impacts Fiction Writing. And Golf. A Guest Post By Historical Women’s Fiction Author Kristina McMorris

In this special guest post, author Kristina McMorris reminds us be willing to change our perspective.  That things — and people — might be different than we expect.  Kristina’s insight encourages us to pay close attention as we take swings at writing and at life  — because we just never now where that next story, lesson, or blog post might be hiding. 

Please welcome Kristina McMorris to Women’s Fiction Writers!

~ Amy

A Change In Perspective

By Kristina McMorris

Looking back, it’s fascinating to me how lessons learned from an unexpected golf encounter in 1996 somehow found their way into my latest novel, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves. Which, by the way, has nothing to do with golf.

It was my usual routine while living in Burbank, California to visit the driving range several times a week. But my golf swing was off that day and I continued to hook the balls—for those unfamiliar with the term, this is not a good thing. I went through my mental checklist: feet shoulder-width apart, grip in place, arms relaxed. Still, the balls soared in a sharp curve.

It didn’t help that the stocky man seated a few yards behind me, slouched on a park bench, baseball cap pulled low, was barking criticisms periodically at his son in the next stall. “If you’re not gonna do it right, don’t do it all,” he snapped at the kid, who couldn’t have been older than twelve. Frustration clearly compounded on both sides and the boy’s practice session worsened.

Doing my best to shut out the man’s harsh remarks, I focused on my checklist, until…he addressed me personally.

“Want a suggestion?” His tone had turned notably gentler.

“Sure,” I answered, more afraid to refuse than eager for advice.

“You’re raising your elbow,” he pointed out simply.

And he was right. In my backswing, an old habit had managed to return. I set my stance, dropped my elbow, and took a swing. Whoosh! A perfect drive. I tried again, to the same result.

I voiced my appreciation and he nodded. Soon after, the kid’s bucket was empty and the two departed. That’s when the sweet, elderly manager of the range shuffled over to see me. “You don’t realize who that man was, do you?” he said excitedly.

My mind raced but came up empty, and I admitted I didn’t know.

“The guy giving you tips—that was Pete Rose!”

Although my baseball knowledge was relatively limited, I certainly recognized the name and couldn’t help but laugh. From this bit of information, a new perspective changed how I viewed the scene.

The same theory can be applied to fiction as the author unpeels layers of a character’s backstory, defenses, or outward traits in order to reveal the truth. In Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, for example, I presented many of my characters in this very manner. In fact, I built my entire novel upon the premise of a unique perspective: a Caucasian spouse who lives voluntarily in a Japanese American relocation camp. The day I stumbled across an actual account of this occurrence, I knew it was a story I had to tell. A story told from a viewpoint that could completely change—and hopefully enhance—the reader’s experience.

For writers, lessons in craft are indeed everywhere around us, even if we don’t realize it at the time.

Kristina McMorris is a graduate of Pepperdine University and the recipient of nearly twenty national literary awards. A host of weekly TV shows since age nine, including an Emmy® Award-winning program, she penned her debut novel, Letters from Home (Kensington Books, Avon/HarperCollins UK), based on inspiration from her grandparents’ wartime courtship. This critically praised book was declared a must-read by Woman’s Day magazine and achieved additional acclaim as a Reader’s Digest Select Editions feature, a Doubleday/Literary Guild selection, and a 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Historical Fiction. Her second novel, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves (March 2012), has already received glowing reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, among many others. Named one of Portland’s “40 Under 40” by The Business Journal, Kristina lives with her husband and two sons in the Pacific Northwest, where she refuses to own an umbrella.

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Guest Post: My Publishing Journey by Author Erika Robuck

We’ve discussed many times how women’s fiction is a broad umbrella.  For me, there’s a lot of historical fiction that fits nicely underneath — and that I love to read.  So, no, not all historical fiction fits the bill — but when it does — I love it (note to self: time to find more historical fiction authors for WFW). 

Erika Robuck has a great online presence and that’s how I found her. I knew that Erika, and her upcoming book, Hemingway’s Girl, were perfect for Women’s Fiction Writers.  I’m also hoping Erika will come back once HG hits bookstores and libraries in 2012!

Please welcome Erika to Women’s Fiction Writers!

My Publishing Journey

by Erika Robuck

My love of writing began when I was seven. I composed a terrible play about a king who falsely accused a jester of stealing his crown. It was just one page but very poignant, I thought. Then I moved onto poetry and song writing. After two awful novels—one in middle school and one in high school—college brought a lot of angst-filled short fiction and essays.

About ten years ago when my first son was born, the novel again surfaced, demanding my attention. My son’s naptimes allowed me regular blocks of time to devote to writing, and I completed my first novel about a haunted, Caribbean sugar plantation, called RECEIVE ME FALLING. After several years of revisions and rewrites, I started to query agents. My query letter had almost no relevant biography. I had no publishing experience or web presence of any kind. I received some requests for partial and full reads of the manuscript, but I kept getting rejections that had to do more with me and my lack of platform and experience than the novel itself. I also heard from more than one agent that novels set in two time periods by first time writers were very difficult to sell, but to please consider submitting in the future if I wrote another manuscript.

In the meantime, some friends of mine in book clubs asked to read the book. My husband encouraged me to self-publish. At first I dismissed the suggestion. There was, at the time, a heavy stigma against writers who self-published and I didn’t want to make any mistakes in my writing career. My goal was always to get a traditional publisher. I started to think more seriously about it, however, when I read an article about a woman who self-published with great success, and went on to get a contract with a traditional publisher. My book club friends continued to ask for the book. Finally I decided that I’d self-publish, see how many sales and reviews I could get, and hopefully, find my way to a traditional publisher.

I’m very happy with my decision. RECEIVE ME FALLING sold well and I got many good reviews. I also started blogging, guest blogging, reviewing books, and attending more conferences. I wrote a new novel set entirely in 1935, HEMINGWAY’S GIRL, and worked with both a writing partner and critique group throughout the process. I received a scholarship to the Breakout Novel Intensive based on the first fifty pages of the book, and at the conference, received the feedback of a panel of editors that helped propel my manuscript to a new place.

My beloved book clubs started asking for the new novel, but I felt strongly that a traditional publisher would take it. I decided to try to pitch agents. If the response was strong I’d try the traditional route. If the response was lukewarm I’d consider rewriting it and self-publishing again. With HEMINGWAY’S GIRL, 95% of the agents I queried requested a partial within a week of receiving the letter. 50% of them asked for a full read. One of them asked for an excusive read, which I very politely refused. Ultimately, I chose Kevan Lyon for her quick response time, our rapport on the phone, her vision for the book, her love of historical fiction, and her enthusiasm.

We spent a couple of weeks putting the final polish on the manuscript and then Kevan started querying. I again received a very positive response from the publishers, with many requests for full reads. In the end, we accepted NAL’s offer for a two-book deal, and HEMINGWAY’S GIRL is due out in September of 2012.

There were many times along the journey when I wanted to quit, when my skin wasn’t thick enough, when it felt like I was spending too much time and money on a hobby that was making me frustrated and difficult to be around when it wasn’t going well. The odds often seemed impossible.

The support of my family and friends, tribe building through social media, and plain stubbornness finally helped me reach my goal. I am thankful every day for all of the support of the writers, bloggers, reviewers, book clubs, friends, and family who encouraged me.

And now, in the wise words of one of my Breakout Novel editors, the work begins.

* * *

HEMINGWAY’S GIRL is the story of a young woman in Key West who takes a job as a housekeeper for Ernest Hemingway to support her widowed mother and save for a charter boat business. She finds herself caught between an unexpected flirtation with the writer and a relationship with a WWI vet and boxer working on the overseas highway. Storms brewing in her relationships come to crisis as a hurricane threatens to destroy the Keys and all those she holds dear. From the bars and boxing rings of Key West to the Bahamian island of Bimini, Hemingway’s Girl explores the worth of the individual, the gulf between the classes, and the boundaries of human hunger.

Erika Robuck was born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland. Inspired by the cobblestones, old churches, Georgian homes, and mingling of past and present from the Eastern Shore, to the Annapolis City Dock, to the Baltimore Harbor, her passion for history is constantly nourished. Her first novel, RECEIVE ME FALLING, is a best books awards finalist in historical fiction from USA Book News, and her second novel, HEMINGWAY’S GIRL, will be published by NAL/Penguin in September of 2012.

Erika is a contributor to popular fiction blog, Writer Unboxed, has guest blogged on Jane Friedman’s There Are No Rules, and maintains her own blog called Muse. She is a member of the Maryland Writer’s Association, The Hemingway Society, and The Historical Novel Society. She spends her time on the East Coast with her husband and three sons.