Thursday, March 3, 2022

Erika Robuck Interview - Sisters of Night and Fog

Photo Credit: Nick Woodall

Erika Robuck is the national bestselling author of The Invisible Woman, Hemingway’s Girl, Call Me Zelda, Fallen Beauty, The House of Hawthorne, and Receive Me Falling. She is a contributor to the anthology Grand Central: Postwar Stories of Love and Reunion, and to the Writer’s Digest Essay Collection, Author in Progress.

Her forthcoming title, Sisters of Night and Fog, A Novel of WWII, releases March 1, 2022.

In 2014, Robuck was named Annapolis’ Author of the Year, and she resides there with her husband, three sons, and a spunky miniature schnauzer.

Greatest thing you learned in school.
The greatest thing I learned in school—from a long line of excellent, nurturing literature teachers and librarians—was how to tell stories.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
From Toni Morrison to Tracy Chevalier, writers of historical fiction have always captivated my attention. It’s one thing to read history in a textbook. It’s quite another to experience it through characters in a novel.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
All traditions, all faiths, all over the world have used stories to help us understand our place in the universe. Who doesn’t sit up when someone leans in and says, “I have to tell you what happened…”? I try to think of a storyteller in front of a campfire saying these words before I begin writing each day.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book?
My all-time favorite book is the Bible. I just finished listening to the Bible in a Year Podcast, (reading along with the Great Adventure Bible) which I found fascinating, illuminating, inspiring, challenging, and life changing.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I just completed two novels (THE INVISIBLE WOMAN and SISTERS OF NIGHT AND FOG) about three phenomenal women who were a part of Allied resistance efforts in WWII. Their stories would seem preposterous if they weren’t true. My current work in progress is about one of the most studied and debated artifacts in history, but I won’t yet reveal what that is.

In your newest book, SISTERS OF NIGHT AND FOG, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
SISTERS OF NIGHT AND FOG is the true story of two remarkable women in WWII—an American teacher who joins an Allied pilot escape network with her French husband, and a Franco-British widow and mother who becomes a secret agent to avenge her husband’s death—whose clandestine deeds with the Resistance come to a staggering halt when they are brought together at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, and the true depths of their courage and strength are revealed.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I want readers to be inspired by everyday people who, through grace, determination, and community, become who they are meant to be. I want readers to know that whether they command armies or are home tending families, all are necessary, important, and integral to the greater good of the world. Finally, I want to remind readers that heroes are also afraid, but they act in spite of fear. Have courage.

What part of Virginia and Violette did you enjoy writing the most?
This novel was, in part, a character study of how ordinary people grow to do extraordinary things. The transitional moments of these women moving from “ordinary” to “superhero” were incredibly gratifying and inspiring to write.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would introduce the no-nonsense, skeptical, Allied spy Virginia Hall (from THE INVISIBLE WOMAN) to writer-joined-infantry-at-the-last-minute Ernest Hemingway (from HEMINGWAY’S GIRL). Virginia Hall’s niece told me her aunt did meet Hemingway at the liberation of Paris, and she wasn’t impressed. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall of the bar at the Ritz when that occurred.

If you wrote a journal entry today, what would it say?
I’m grateful for my family, my work, my health, and my faith. There were challenges and blessings on all fronts today, and I’m thankful for all them.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Everyone should take a seaplane to visit the Dry Tortugas National Park, on the southwest corner of the Florida Keys reef system. It’s like a dream.

Best date you've ever had?
With my husband, at the Dry Tortugas National Park.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
The event in my life that would make a good movie is the most traumatic thing I’ve ever experienced. My oldest son’s throat was lacerated by a skate in an ice hockey game. Thankfully, he survived, but only by millimeters. The drama, his courage, the way our community, law enforcement, and healthcare providers worked together to save him, along with the positive outcome, would make for excellent sports movie viewing.

Most memorable summer job?
I did data entry for a Pest Control company. For various reasons, I don’t recommend it.

First Heartbreak?
None, of note. I married my high school sweetheart.

Where can readers find you?
Instagram (@erobuckauthor) and Facebook (@ErikaRobuck) are my go-to social sites. I love to connect with readers on both platforms.

  • 1. Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell
  • 2. Our Darkest Night, by Jennifer Robson
  • 3. The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel
  • 4. The Yellow Wife, by Sadeqa Johnson
  • 5. The Personal Librarian, by Victoria Christopher Murray and Marie Benedict
  • 6. Becoming Mrs. Lewis, by Patti Callahan
  • 7. The Paris Secret, by Natasha Lester
  • 8. Universe of Two, by Stephen P. Kiernan
  • 9. The Giraffe has a Long Neck, by Jacques Poirier
  • 10. The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel
Your journey to publication
The seeds of my wish to become a writer were planted and cultivated when I was very young, alongside learning to read. For me, reading has always been inhaling and writing is exhaling.

I studied education and literature in college, always writing along the way, but it wasn’t until my first son was born, almost twenty years ago, that I wrote a novel. Every day while he took naps, I took myself to an imaginary haunted house on a Caribbean island. It took several years, but I eventually had a novel I sent to one hundred agents. From those one hundred agents I received one hundred rejections, many delivered in envelopes with my own handwriting. (Those were the days of the dreaded self-addressed, stamped envelope.) A few agents took the time to scribble kind words and advice on their rejections, and much of it added up to: you need more. More books, more of an online presence, more experience... I took that advice, hired an editor and a cover designer, set up a blog and website, and self-published my first novel. From the experience I learned a lot about publishing and promoting, garnered reviews, and connected with dozens of wonderful booksellers and book clubs willing to take a chance on an indie author.

My second novel’s life started differently. After an inspiring visit to the Hemingway House in Key West, and a dream where Hemingway told me to write a book about him because he was becoming irrelevant, I wrote HEMINGWAY’S GIRL. I won a scholarship to a critique workshop, based on an excerpt, from the wonderful group Free Expressions. When the novel was ready, I queried only twenty agents who represented books in my genre, and three of them ended up offering to represent me. I ended up with the brilliant Kevan Lyon, whose vision for that book and my career revealed what a great business partner she would be and has continued to be.

Kevan was able to get me a contract with Penguin’s New American Library imprint, and I was with them for four novels featuring American authors. Unfortunately, when Random House bought Penguin, NAL was dissolved, and I was unmoored. In the following years, I wrote two full novels and two partials, and had all four rejected. Someone was finally kind enough to tell me that the market was hungry for stories about women who were strong in their own rights, not because they were wives or muses of famous authors. Around that time, real-life superhero Virginia Hall, one of the first female Allied spies of WWII, who happened to have a prosthetic leg, entered my radar. I wrote a novel (THE INVISIBLE WOMAN) featuring Virginia Hall. From that, I was able to return to Penguin Random House under the Berkley imprint, with a contract to write two books about real life, female superheroes of WWII. The second of which, SISTERS OF NIGHT AND FOG, releases on March 1.

I’m back to the drawing board on a new manuscript, following my dreams and serendipity on a unique journey through history. In addition, one of my goals in the coming years is to have a book adapted for film, either by me or a screenwriter. I’m both nervous and excited about what the future holds, but one thing is certain: I likely can’t anticipate the road ahead, which is part of the excitement of the journey. I’m grateful for my publishing team, my family, and God for allowing me to work in a job I absolutely love. I encourage all writers to keep trying, keep writing, and keep working to find the stories that you are meant to tell.

1940. In a world newly burning with war, and in spite of her American family’s wishes, Virginia decides to stay in occupied France with her French husband. She’s sure that if they keep their heads down they’ll make it through. But as the call to resist the enemy grows around her, Virginia must decide if she's willing to risk everything to help those in need.

Nineteen-year-old Violette is a crack shot with an unquenchable spirit of adventure, and she's desperate to fight the Nazis however she can. When her mother sends her to find an exiled soldier, Violette meets the man who will change her life. Then tragedy strikes, and Britain’s clandestine war organization—the Special Operations Executive—learns of Violette’s dual citizenship and adept firearm handling and starts to recruit her. But Violette is no stranger to loss and must decide whether the cost of defiance is too great a price to pay.

Set across the European theater of WWII, Sisters of Night and Fog tells the story of two women whose clandestine deeds come to a staggering halt when they are brought together at Ravensbrück concentration camp.

You can purchase Sisters of Night and Fog at the following Retailers:

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.