Erika Robuck’s New Novel Shines Light on Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (And a Giveaway)

Congratulations Rhonda! You won the copy of Fallen Beauty! 

Some of you may recall me welcoming Erika Robuck to the blog last year when I had the pleasure to read Call Me Zelda. She’s back today to talk about her new novel, Fallen Beauty, about 1930s poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay. I think it’s safe to say that her writing just gets better and better with every book because Fallen Beauty is amazing!

I was excited to read Fallen Beauty and learn more about Millay because I remember reading her poem about burning the candle at both ends in my 11th grade American Literature class. I don’t remember a lot of poems, but that one has been memorable to me for all these years.

In this new story, Erika presents vivid new characters while portraying a beautifully eccentric Edna St. Vincent Millay, around whom an electrifying tale unfolds, where the fast pace of the jazz age collides with life in a small, judgmental town.

Erika has answered a few questions about Fallen Beauty, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and what she’s working on next.

What inspired you to make Edna St. Vincent Millay the subject of your third literary-themed novel?
My studies of the Fitzgeralds for my novel Call Me Zelda led me to Millay. Two of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Princeton friends, Edmund “Bunny” Wilson and John Peale Bishop, worshipped Millay, and their adoration of her reminded me of my interest in her poetry, which I first read in college. Wilson’s moving obituary for Millay in his essay collection, Shores of Light, inspired me to learn more about the poet who had such an “intoxicating effect on people.” It didn’t take long for Millay to cast her spell on me.

Through the character of Laura Kelley, Fallen Beauty explores what it meant to be a “fallen woman” in the 1930s, but in some ways Edna St. Vincent Millay might also be considered a fallen woman. What did you you hope to convey in this regard?
I wanted to show how making judgments about people injects poison into communities, how frequently all is not what it seems, and how those who outspokenly oppose something that they see as corrosive are often battling aspects of the very behavior they denounce.

Through the women in particular in Fallen Beauty I wanted to explore how we seek fulfillment, what it means to be an “ideal” woman (if there is such a thing), how our desires can either help to build us up or destroy us, and how we can remake our lives after we fall.

All three of your novels explore the idea of redemption in one way or another. Is that a deliberate choice, or a theme that cropped up without your being aware of it?
I believe it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said that writers have only one story to tell, so I suppose redemption is my story. My mission with Ernest Hemingway, Zelda Fitzgerald and now Edna St. Vincent Millay is to show their humanity through their fascinating lives in order to honor them and remind readers of their work. I like to read novels that offer redemption in spite of hardship, so it’s only natural that I employ similar themes in my own fiction.

Tell us about the subject of your next novel.
The subject of my next novel is a very private gentleman from a long time ago, who often felt isolated in spite of being surrounded by his loving family and accomplished contemporaries. I will not yet reveal his name, but I will say that through him, I will explore loneliness and, most certainly, redemption.

GIVEAWAY: I have one copy of Fallen Beauty to give to one lucky reader. To be entered to win, leave a comment telling me what was the best book you read in 2013. The giveaway closes Friday, February 21 at 5 pm Pacific time. 

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of  Fallen Beauty to review for this blog post.  All opinions are my own and I only endorse books that I am proud to recommend to others.

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