WomensHistoryReads interview: Erika Robuck

Today I'm thrilled to welcome to the blog Erika Robuck, author of rich, enthralling historical fiction (FALLEN BEAUTY is my favorite) and all-around good person to know. As I've mentioned on previous interviews, one of the best things about getting to know other authors is watching their careers and readerships grow over the years, and I've been cheering Erika on, as she's been cheering me on, ever since the early days of HEMINGWAY'S GIRL. Welcome, Erika! 

Erika Robuck

Erika Robuck

Greer: What’s the last book that blew you away?

Erika: There are so many books that stay with me, but the most recent that will not leave me is THE CHILD FINDER, by Rene Denfeld. It gripped me from the first page and would not give up its hold—even now. The story is about a private investigator hired to find a missing girl. The detective’s own past becomes entangled with the cases she works, and it builds to a terrifying, emotionally-charged climax. What makes THE CHILD FINDER stand above a typical mystery/suspense novel is the gorgeous writing and the deeply layered characters. Even the antagonists are complex, and it takes a writer of enormous empathy and understanding to be able humanize the inhuman and the fictional so completely. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Greer: If you could pick one woman from history to put in every high school history textbook, who would it be?

Erika: I’d make sure every history textbook had a section on Mother Theresa of Calcutta—a woman who left every material comfort in her life to minister to the unwanted in society—the poor, the sick, and the dying. She faced opposition from without and within her own society and faith, but continued on in service to others, helping those who “lived like animals to die like angels.” What is most inspiring about Mother (now Saint) Theresa was that she experienced a “dark night of the soul” as soon as she entered into her deep vocation to the poor, which did not lift for the rest of her life. She was lonely, opposed, and full of self doubt, but in the name of her devotion to faith in God and in love, never stopped on the path she felt was laid for her. 

Greer: Who are some of your favorite authors working today?  

Erika: I find favorite author/book questions delightful and terrifying. There are so many—how to list them all? I’ll have to name the first who come to mind, whose books I buy without needing description because I know I will love them. A. S. Byatt, Kate Morton, Priya Parmar, Jojo Moyes, Toni Morrison, Tatiana de Rosnay, and Paula McLain. 

Erika: My question for you:  It might have been F. Scott Fitzgerald who said all writers have one story to tell. In spite of different time periods and places, what is the recurring story you find yourself confronting with each book, and why is it so important that you tell it? 

Greer: I think all of my books so far have followed a woman who discovers her inner strength when she's tested by extraordinary circumstances. Some of them start out fierce, like Kate Warne, and some only find their fierceness once they're in the thick of the action, like the protagonist of WOMAN NINETY-NINE, who most readers won't meet until next year. But I think it's an important theme. Most of us are stronger than we know. And these are historical women, faced with the constraints of the times they lived in. If the women of the past could accomplish so much in those times, what could we, women of the present, accomplish today?