Erika Robuck: On Writing Historical Women

Bestselling author Erika Robuck explains what it takes to write historical fiction and how she feels a connection with the character in her latest novel, The Invisible Woman.
Author:
Publish date:

Erika Robuck is the national bestselling author of Receive Me Falling, Hemingway’s Girl, Call Me Zelda, Fallen Beauty, and The House of Hawthorne. She is a contributor to the anthology Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion and to the Writer’s Digest essay collection, Author in Progress. In 2014, Robuck was named Annapolis’ Author of the Year, and she resides there with her husband and three sons.

Erika Robuck

Erika Robuck

In this post, Robuck explains what it takes to write historical fiction, how she feels a connection with the character in her latest novel, The Invisible Woman, and more!

****

how to catch an agent first pages

This course is designed for writers who are ready to roll up their sleeves and take their opening pages to the next level. Weekly exercises will strengthen skills such as writing strong first lines and experimenting with voice, while weekly lectures will cover topics such as successful market examples and case studies, effective dialogue, and common ‘do’s and don’ts’ of first pages.

Click to continue.
****

Name: Erika Robuck
Literary agent: Kevan Lyon
Title: The Invisible Woman
Publisher: Berkley/Penguin Random House
Release date: February 9, 2021
Genre: Historical Fiction
Elevator pitch for the book: The Invisible Woman is the true story of WWII Secret Agent Virginia Hall, an American woman with a prosthetic leg, whose clandestine work with the French Resistance undermines the Nazi regime, creates escape lines out of Occupied France, and helps hundreds of Free French guerrilla fighters liberate a secluded mountain region whose courageous inhabitants harbor secret residents at their peril.
Previous titles:

  • Receive Me Falling (Elysian Fields Press/Self-Published, 2009)
  • Hemingway’s Girl (New American Library/Penguin, 2012)
  • Call Me Zelda (New American Library/Penguin, 2013)
  • Falling Beauty (New American Library/Penguin, 2014)
  • Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion, Short Story, “I’ll Be Around” (Berkley/Penguin, 2014)
  • The House of Hawthorne (New American Library/Penguin, 2015)
  • Author in Progress: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What it Really Takes to Get Published, Essay, “Put a Ring on It” (Writers Digest Books, 2016)
  • #HOCKEYSTRONG (Elysian Fields Press/Self-Published, 2017)
The Invisible Woman

IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon
[WD uses affiliate links.]

What prompted you to write this book?

On the creative side, I'm always looking for extraordinary people from the past who come from places familiar to me or to whom I feel a personal connection. On the business side, when I was working on another “wife-of-famous-male-writer” book, an editor said, “Why not write about a woman who is special in her own right?” That stopped me in my tracks.

Around that time, Virginia Hall entered my radar in a way I can’t pinpoint, and she’s been haunting me ever since. Virginia is not only a remarkable woman from history who grew up in my home state of Maryland, but she is so extraordinary—in her own right—she could launch a subgenre of “husband-of-famous-woman” books.

(5 Considerations for Writing About Historical Figures in Fiction)

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? 

It took two and a half years from Virginia's appearance on my radar, and four iterations of the novel, to reach its completion. I started writing it as a dual period novel including a female Iraq War veteran. That wasn't working, so I started a new version as a dual protagonist novel with another SOE agent, but Virginia insisted this was all about her. I started the novel again, set during Hall's first WWII mission to France, but it became clear that was all backstory. Finally, I wrote the novel as it is, set during Hall's second WWII mission to France.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title? 

I learned that, even in death, the movement of covert operatives is very difficult to trace.

(Stretching the Facts in Historical Fiction)

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book? 

Throughout the writing of the book, I found that—in spite of not have a prosthesis—I felt a deep connection to and understanding of how Virginia's injury shaped her life. In talking with two women who had prosthetics from amputations, I realized that the ongoing pain and issues related to their injuries were similar to those my late mother experienced as a result of her severe scoliosis. I had felt my mother very close to me in the research and drafting of this book, and I didn't understand why until I spoke to the women who were amputees.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

The world is always in need of stories of hope, inspiration, and redemption, and that is true now more than ever. I pray readers find such inspiration through Virginia Hall's extraordinary life.

Erika Robuck: On Writing Historical Women

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Nothing beats the old "butt in chair" advice. Four out of five writing days for me are a slog, but on the fifth, I lose all track of time and come out of my office blinking, disoriented, and with ten pages of work that barely needs editing. The four days before the fifth are necessary to reach the mountaintop. 

Rajani LaRocca: On Letting Your Synopsis Guide Your Writing

Rajani LaRocca: On Letting Your Synopsis Guide Your Writing

In this article, middle-grade author Rajani LaRocca discusses how the synopsis for her newest release, Much Ado About Baseball, guided her writing process.

From Script

Adding Your Personal Connection to Your Stories and Building Your Brand As a Writer (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by ScriptMag.com, Script’s Editor Sadie Dean interviews Dickinson creator/showrunner/EP Alena Smith, learn how to divide and conquer as screenwriter in the business and creating fruitful relationships. Plus, a brand new Script Talk video interview with writer/director/actress Djaka Souaré about her journey as a mentor and mentee in the WOCUnite and #StartWith8Hollywood mentorship programs.

Poetic Forms

Englyn Penfyr: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the englyn penfyr, a Welsh tercet form.

Editorial Road-Mapping: Start Your Self-Editing Process Here

Editorial Road-Mapping: Start Your Self-Editing Process Here

Editorial road-mapping begins with a challenge of willpower and ends with a battle-plan for transforming your manuscript into the book you dreamed it could be. Let editor Kris Spisak give you that map!

6 Tips for Writing a Summer Romance Novel

6 Tips for Writing a Summer Romance Novel

Summer. Three whole months of bright sunsets and glittering water and endless possibility. Here are 6 tips from romance writer Rachael Lippincott for capturing a tiny bit of that magic in the pages of your next summer romance novel.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Running Empty

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Running Empty

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, consider what happens when resources begin to run low or out.

5 Tips for Creating a Fully Realized Historical Setting

5 Tips for Creating a Fully Realized Historical Setting

Research is more than just reading books and articles. Here, author Nekesa Afia gives her top 5 tips for writing a historical setting that will engage and wow your readers.

Don Bentley: On Being Picked to Write a Book in a Famous Series

Don Bentley: On Being Picked to Write a Book in a Famous Series

Thriller author Don Bentley discusses how he was selected to write Target Acquired, the latest Tom Clancy novel.

How to Write a Biography of a World Leader

How to Write a Biography of a World Leader

When writing a biography, you want to make sure that the story you tell is more than just a list of facts about the person's life. Biographer Supriya Vani shares her top tips for writing a successful biography.