By Erika Robuck
The idea for the novel started with a vacation—or, rather, planning a vacation. My husband and I were looking to get away for our anniversary, and a friend recommended the Caribbean island of Nevis. I had never heard of Nevis, so I started researching information about it. I discovered that the tiny island was once known as the “Queen of the Caribees” for its prolific sugar cane production, and that thousands of slaves passed through its port town of Charlestown. In my Internet research, I also came across a picture from one of the Plantation Inns on Nevis that had an island man in historic dress pulling two white people in an open carriage. They were all smiling. I found the picture to be in poor taste.
This started my mind turning. How was plantation life for the slaves and slave owners in the nineteenth century and earlier? What was the lifestyle? Were there any indigenous people in the Caribbean before European explorers and slaves entered the scene? What is the sugar industry like today? How are tourists viewed by islanders? In my search to answer these questions, I began to think of a story of a reluctant plantation owner’s daughter, abolitionists, and the complexity of familial relationships under the slave system.
Receive Me Falling started as “plain” historical fiction. After the research, my first draft took roughly six months to write. My husband read it and felt that something was missing. He said that it felt like the skeleton of a story, and that many readers didn’t like historical fiction, so I needed something else to draw them in.
That’s when Meghan Owen—the present day protagonist—was born. I used her as a vehicle to take the reader on a journey. As she discovered things, the reader discovered things, and weaving the narrative of the past through the present-day telling filled in the gaps that Meghan couldn’t have found in her own research.
It was important to me to have parallels, without being too obvious, between the past and the present. I wanted to show the importance of history to the present, and the connections forged with the pasts of our ancestors that we are—in part—responsible for righting. Also, there are many books written about slavery, but very few written about slavery in the Caribbean, which is where many slaves passed on their journeys.
Mostly, I wanted to inform readers about a little-known place in history and entertain them while doing it. I love to read historical fiction and I love to write historical fiction. This novel is the first of many, and I hope to continue to illuminate more of those little-known places and times, while telling stories that keep readers engaged.
* * * Contest * * *
Find a question that speaks to you and answer it. The most intriguing response will get a free copy of the novel. The winner will be announced on May 1.
*Do you think it is the responsibility of those in the present to right the wrongs of the past?
*Do you agree that states should formally apologize for slavery?
*Name some of the ways your family history has shaped who you are, for better or worse.
Due to shipping costs and customs fees, this contest is only for US and Canadian addresses ... sorry I can't include everyone this time. - Heather
Those are some very intriguing questions posed by Erika. I look forward to reading all your responses!