Erika Robuck is quickly becoming one of the most prolific writers in the publishing business today. She published her first novel, HEMINGWAY’S GIRL, to much acclaim in 2012, and followed it up shortly thereafter with CALL ME ZELDA in 2013. Her third novel, FALLEN BEAUTY, hit bookstores last week and Erika joins us today to share a bit of the novel’s inspiration. Also, thanks to the generous team at NAL, we have all three of her novels up for grabs today. See the entry form below for details.
There is a blackening bronze bust of a woman in the corner shadows of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s parlor at her estate, Steepletop. I was struck by it when the docent allowed me to peek into the room while doing research for my novel, Fallen Beauty. I tried to take in the duel pianos, the custom desk, the formal draperies and ornate seating, but my eyes were continuously drawn back to the sculpture. Her presence felt heavy, looming, and dominant, and her black eyes were hypnotic. I interrupted the tour guide’s speech to ask, “Who is she?”
He explained that Sappho was the ancient love poet, teacher, and muse known for her intense female friendships, including lesbian relationships, with her students. Some say she died by throwing herself into the sea when a young sailor rejected her. I knew Millay wrote of Sappho in several poems, and believed herself to be a goddess of sorts, her vocation poetry. Spellbound as I was by the bust, I could imagine the woman herself, and united her to Millay in my subconscious.
Weeks after my visit to Steepletop, I passed a statue of the Virgin Mary outside of a church, and was struck in a different way. The statue showed Mary crushing a serpent under her foot, her face a mask of calm, though her tremendous power was evident in her dominance. This light image contrasted with the dark bust of Sappho in my mind, and grew to become the extended metaphor for the women in my novel.
What I wanted to embody through each of my characters—especially the women—was the power they derived from art, including sculpture, poetry, and sewing. In my novel there are many dark and light women, mothers, sisters, daughters, and lovers. The moon and the night are prevalent, and the sacred feminine is dominant in all its forms. I also explore the particular cruelty of women as judges and betrayers of one another, and the idea that our criticisms of others are often what we hate and fear most in ourselves.
Fallen Beauty is my darkest and most exploratory novel, but I do hope the reader connects to its powerful female characters. Dark or light, bronze or marble, poet or seamstress, I want the reader to gather a sense of triumph and redemption for all types of women.
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Upstate New York, 1928. Laura Kelley and the man she loves sneak away from their judgmental town to attend a performance of the scandalous Ziegfeld Follies. But the dark consequences of their night of daring and delight reach far into the future.…
That same evening, Bohemian poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and her indulgent husband hold a wild party in their remote mountain estate, hoping to inspire her muse. Millay declares her wish for a new lover who will take her to unparalleled heights of passion and poetry, but for the first time, the man who responds will not bend completely to her will.…
Two years later, Laura, an unwed seamstress struggling to support her daughter, and Millay, a woman fighting the passage of time, work together secretly to create costumes for Millay’s next grand tour. As their complex, often uneasy friendship develops amid growing local condemnation, each woman is forced to confront what it means to be a fallen woman…and to decide for herself what price she is willing to pay to live a full life.