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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Author Guest Post: Erika Robuck

Yesterday I reviewed Receive Me Falling, the first novel by Erika Robuck (my review is here). Today Erika joins us to talk about how her story came to be AND to give away one copy of the book to a lucky reader. Thanks for being here Erika!

Erika at the CityLit Festival, April 2009

A Writer's Perspective: Writing Receive Me Falling
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!


Amanda said...

Those are interesting questions! I received my B.A. in history and one class I took revolved around the slavery in Brazil which was fascinating.

I do think that future generations, for better or worse, are held accountable about things in the past. Whether we want to acknowledge them or not. I do think that there should be a formal apology...what about a monument? Do we even have something like that somewhere? We have monuments to those fallen in wars, why not to those who were victims of slavery?

I do think my family's history has shaped me to a degree. My mom's side are Germans from Russia who immigrated to the US at the turn of the 20th Century before the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Family reunions always bring up interesting stories about our past ancestors.

Neil Richard said...

"Name some of the ways your family history has shaped who you are, for better or worse."

It's not a question, but I hope my answer counts.

My father's side of the family came from central Nebraska. Farm country. My ancestors homesteaded there in the 1880s and have farmed since then. The farm passed from generation to generation.

When my father was a boy, he hated it. The work, the toil, the arguing parents. He wanted out. We went to college and got into computers (back when they filled a room and ran on punch cards). He grew into a man and started his own family, but never wanted to go back.

As I grew up, I never remembered my parents as being married. They were always divorced. Friendly, never fighting, but not married. So I learned that it was possible to get divorced but still be friends. But I didn't want to be like my dad. I wanted to stay married (going on 9 years this summer). And I wanted to go back to the farm. Still do. It's like a part of me isn't complete until I feel the wind on my face and smell the cow manure.

So for me, the marital problems will hopefully end in my generation. My parents, grandparents, and beyond have had issues. I'm hoping we continue our good record.

And the central plains of Nebraska run in my blood. It's something I'd love to fix, but I doubt I ever will. Mybe in my next life, I'll be reborn as a cowboy in the Old West.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, ladies. I'm just dropping in to thank Heather for the e-mail; I've posted about this guest blog (and give) at Win a Book.

Erika, if we can help you get your name out and about, don't hesitate to drop us a line! That's what we're here for.

Sage Ravenwood said...

How did my family history shape who I am?

Alot of the history was hidden from me or rather forbidden. I come from a long line of Cherokee descendents. The line goes all the way back and beyond the "Trial of Tears". In all honesty I'm ashamed of how my family reacts to our past.

We are what you would call the new-age native. For the most part they believe in marrying into the heritage. Yet they fearlessly fight against claiming who we are. I never truly understood it. It's such a rich, deep echanting heritage. As an adult some of it makes sense. Any time you claim to be Cherokee you get the response, "oh I'm part Cherokee my great, great grandmother was a native princess." For one there is no such thing as a princess in our lineage.

It's almost embarrassing to tell anyone exactly what lineage of Native American I am. Almost everyone you run across has so and so percent of...Cherokee. Smiles. I chose to embrace who I was despite my families desire to hide who we are. It's given me incredible depth and fortitude in dealing with my deafness as of 4 years ago.

Who I am is far richer being at one with nature - I'm a whole person as a halfbreed Native America German. Who would of thought?

Thanks for this opportunity! Indigo


Unknown said...

Name some of the ways your family history has shaped who you are, for better or worse.

I am very proud of how I was raised. My dad was in the military and stationed in San Diego, California while I was growing up. I was 3 years old when my sister was born and I asked my mom why her eye color was different from mine and why one of my friends had different colored hair. She answered with "because that's the way God made you." I grew up around people of all races and the statement my mom made has stayed with me for as long as I can remember. When I saw someone who was a different race, I didn't think "wow, they're different". I saw the beauty in God's creations.

darbyscloset said...

Oh boy I could write a response to each of those questions, yet I'll chose my family history question. Yes, my family history has shaped me, from my Great Grandmother with A- blood who lost eight children before their birth and then gave birth to my Grandmother, who many relatives state is my "real mother". My Grandmother is an extrovert and has never met a stranger, she use to act, dance, perform and w/o being raised close to her I also have yet to meet a stranger and love the stage. From my Great Grandmother I received A- blood and none of my Mom's six brother and sisters nor any of their kids have this rare blood type. So as a rememberance to my Great Grandmother and her rare blood type I am a regular blood donor.
So yes my heritage has shaped my current lifestyle for not only do I donate my blood, yet I donate my time, my treasures, my knowledge and my creativity.
Thank you for the opportunity, I'd love to receive a copy of this book!
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

Valorie said...

Do you think it is the responsibility of those in the present to right the wrongs of the past?Yes and no. I feel that on one hand, we have a responsibility to the past.

On the other hand, you can't hold people today accountable for something that they had no part in. You can't hold someone at fault for simply being born in a place. The only people who are responsibly are the ones who perpetrated slavery and cruelty.

Of course, we can't go back in time and change the way people thought and behaved. Our responsibility is not to right the wrongs of the past directly since that is all but impossible, but to make sure that we have learned from them and never let such inhuman treatment and disregard for other human beings happen again. We can see clearly into the past with a different world view. Most of us realize what happened was quite wrong. We see the 'ignorance' of the past.

We can 'right' the wrongs by helping to ensure something like that never happens again. We can make greater strides towards equality and fairness, not only in our country, but around the world.


Erika Robuck said...

Wow, you all are making this hard. Keep the comments coming...

Sara said...

Hello Erika, I'll take a shot at #2 since no one has yet to tackle it.

Do I think the states should formally apologize for slavery?

Absolutely. I think modern Americans can agree that slavery has a crime against humanity. We are all embarrassed about it, and a fact we can't escape.

Those who were directly affected by slavery are gone, but slavery still persists throughout the world. A public apology is a good way to reaffirm our beliefs that all men are created equal--the basis of freedom. It's important to denounce cruelty and evil wherever it's found, even if it's in our past. Any attempt to right a wrong is commendable and a legacy to our children.

Thanks for the contest, your book sounds excellent. Sararush (at) hotmail (dot) com

Dreamybee said...

I think questions #1 and #2 go hand in hand, and Valorie and Sara both did a good job of addressing them.

As Valorie pointed out, those in the present cannot be held accountable for the actions of those in the past. What's done is done, and it can't be undone no matter how much we would all like to see that happen. However, I do think that a state apologizing for slavery is a step in the right direction.

Not only does it send a message to the rest of the world, as Sara pointed out, but recognition is a big part of healing. An apology today cannot right any of the original wrongs, but pretending that they never happened or refusing to take responsibility for the harm that was done just adds salt to the wound. I think a lot of people are still carrying around the anger of their ancestors who never received an apology, were never told, "You didn't deserve to be treated that way," never knew that their trials and tribulations were not in vain.

Kat Bryan said...

Do you think it is the responsibility of those in the present to right the wrongs of the past?

I don't think we can right the wrongs of the past. We can't be held responsible for things our ancestors did. The only thing we can do is try and not repeat the same mistakes. We can't plead ignorance when it comes to our own lives.

sharon54220 said...

Family History??

I was adopted when I was 3 wks old. I also grew up as an only child. I have Native American in my history. My great-grandfather was with the Wild Bill Show.

When my adopted mother passed on in 1990, I found out that I had a half-sister. (The half is BS to me, she's my sister). In 1992 when my adopted father passed on, my sister informed me that she had found our biological mother, and that I was also the oldest of 11 kids. I'm not alone anymore. There is Native American in my biological family also.

In 2003, I found my biological father and found out that I had 5 more brother & sisters. So now, I'm the oldest of 17 kids (2 families)

I have lived a life that you only see on TV. It has been absolutely rewarding.

I have to add, that in 1985 I had a daughter which I gave up for adoption. I am proud to say that 2yrs ago we were reunited and it's absolutely wonderful.

Regina said...

*Do you think it is the responsibility of those in the present to right the wrongs of the past?*

I have actually been pondering this question for a few months. My book club read “Blood Done Sign My Name” by Timothy B. Tyson in December, and our discussion centered heavily on this topic.

This is my humble conclusion:

I don’t think it’s fair to hold a present generation liable for the mistakes of past generation. Allow me to use a movie to illustrate. In Kingdom of Heaven, Balian is left to defend the population of Jerusalem from the Muslim army. He says, “None of us took this city from Muslims. No Muslim of the great army now coming against us was born when this city was lost. We fight over an offence we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended. What is Jerusalem?... We defend this city, not to protect these stones, but the people living within these walls.” After defending the city from attack, he parlays with Saladin. Saladin agrees to let the people evacuate the city. Balian reminds him that years ago the Christian army had slaughtered the Muslims. Saladin replies, “We are not those Muslims”. In this movie, Saladin is not holding the present generation liable for the wrong actions of their predecessors.

That being said, it *is* our responsibility to right the wrongs of the past. To use the movie example, Balian and Saladin both right a wrong by acting out of respect and honor when in the past there was simply violence and greed.

The greatest way we can right the wrongs of the past is to break the cycle: to teach those who come after us how to value the lives of others, and to make sure we create an environment in which every person has the chance to thrive (regardless of race, status, etc.). We right the wrongs by being honest with the past, learning from the mistakes that were made, and honoring those who were hurt and those who were brave and wise enough to challenge a broken system.

We right the wrongs of the past by creating a present and a future that honors every life.

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