Over the weekend I was able to indulge in the Read A Thon and the first book I finished was Erika Robuck’s wonderful read, Receive Me Falling. Today, Erika has graciously agreed to hang out with me and discuss her book and what the future holds. Please join us over a great cup of coffee.
Erika, thank you so much for hanging out with me today at One Person’s Journey Through A World of Books. Erika, I have to ask about how this incredible read came to be. What were the early thoughts about how this book would be written? What was the draw to write about slavery?
Erika: A black and white photo of an abandoned, fortress-like hotel in Nevis with island children playing in the foreground of its imposing facade inspired me to write my book. It got me thinking of slavery in the Caribbean, the contrast of the wealthy and the poor, the two classes interacting with one another on a daily basis, and the complexities slavery created in familial and generational relationships.
I’ve been drawn to books about slavery since I read Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of an American Slave. Both touched me deeply.
I love that! What a great image! Is there something that draws you to the time period you wrote about?
Erika: I wanted to write about slavery as it was ending in the British colonies for a couple of reasons. First, it allowed me to educate my readers about the process of abolishing slavery and what was going on in England and the Caribbean at the time. Second, I’ve always been drawn to the early nineteenth century because of the music, art, and literature representative of it.
I found this story line so interesting. I really have not read much about slavery in the past and you really opened up a new area for me. I found it very meaningful and I really was given a lot to think about by reading this book. This is your first book. That astounds me! Were you nervous about finding a publisher? Can you briefly explain the process you went through to find one?
Erika: After work shopping the novel for several years, I began the agent search. I kept getting very far in the process, but continued to get turned down based on the fact that I was a first time, unpublished writer whose book crossed genres. Publishers like books to fit neatly into categories, so a semi-historical novel with supernatural elements wasn’t well received from a novice. However, many readers who had read drafts of the novel encouraged me to publish it myself so they could take it to their book clubs, mothers’ groups, and art festivals. I was reading agent blogs where they advised first time writers to self-publish, build their platform, and if they were successful, use that in the query process.
My husband and I started a small press, published the book, released it for sale in March of 2009, and have sold about 1,000 copies. I’ve been profiled in local papers and publications, have visited 20 book clubs that have read the book, and have had many signings and author events. Several agents have the full manuscript, and I hope to have an offer of representation soon.
You started your own press! That is so great! I really had a vivid image of the scene of the dead slave girl (page 153). I found it to quite powerful. I am curious as to what caused you to write about this particular scene. What are you looking to show the reader? To show Catherine?
Erika: The contrast of the rich and the poor was stark, and I wanted to emphasize that as much as possible. I also needed my protagonist to see the horrors of slavery outside of her plantation. Her slaves had been raised with relatively less violence than neighboring plantations, so I wanted my character to witness, first hand, the brutality of most plantations so that she would be more open to the abolitionists when they approached her.
The rum drinks throughout the book were almost a light fun part of what really is a good but not lighthearted read. The drinks were actually a bit of “fun” I thought. I liked how the drink title matched Meghan’s mood or what was happening. Why did you put this in the book?
Erika: I wanted the reader to see Meghan’s personality prior to the incident with her parents and her fiancée to reveal that, before all of the tragedy, she was a girl who liked to have fun. (Sometimes, she liked to have too much fun!) Alcohol abuse was a prevalent theme in the novel both in the past and in the present. I wanted to make the reader aware of when Meg used alcohol to self-medicate. I had originally included the recipes in with the text, but an editor told me that didn’t match the serious tone of the book, so I just included the drink titles.
I read that you have another book in the works. Can you share a little about this and when we can be looking for this one to come out?
Erika: Right now I’m immersed in researching Depression-era Key West, the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, and Ernest Hemingway. Key West in 1935 is the historical setting of my latest work of fiction. My protagonist is a housekeeper at the Hemingway home, and is torn between the legendary writer and a soldier. I’m about a third of the way through a first draft of the novel, and hope to have a completed draft by the end of the year.
I would love it if you would share with us something that few people may know about you.
Erika: I used to be an elementary school teacher, and won a teacher of the year award my senior year in college. I think my background in teaching and my love for research is important to my work as an historical fiction writer.
And like my present day protagonist, I love karaoke.
A teacher! That is wonderful! Thank you so much Erika for your time! I adored your book and look forward to reading more of your work in the future!
Erika: Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed the book!
See more about Erika Robuck here at her website as well as what is coming up for her.
Erika also blogs! See her blog here