An Annapolis writer tackles the dissolution of author Ernest Hemingway's second marriage through the eyes of a fictional maid in her second novel called Hemmingway’s Girl due out Sept. 4.
Set in Depression-era Key West, Erika Robuck said she was inspired to write a story that revolved around the real life of Hemingway after visiting the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in May 2009.
The former third-grade teacher at Millersville Elementary School had just self-published her debut novel called Receive Me Falling, and she was trying to figure out what do to next. Then, she had a dream.
"Ernest Hemingway sat with me in the Key West house, and told me to write a book about him because he had become irrelevant," Robuck said. "I never looked back after that."
Robuck said she has always loved Hemingway's novels like Moveable Feast and Old Man and the Sea, but for this project she delved into his personal life. A task that her publicist Kevan Lyon said took a lot of sweat equity and courage.
"You really need to do your homework to get it right, and Erika is obsessed with doing her research," Lyon said. "These books that touch on a historical character are always a complicated process. You can’t just skim the surface—it has to ring true for the period for the character."
She said Robuck's novel grabbed her interest from the very first pages, and she said she believes it will carry over to wider market than just fans of Hemingway or historical fiction. There are already plans to publish Hemingway's Girl abroad.
New American Library, a division of the Penguin Group, has signed Robuck for four books, including one about the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, due out early next year.
"They really see her as a rising star—we all do," Lyon said.
For Robuck the research and energy she spent writing Hemingway's Girl was a labor of love.
"I’ve always really enjoyed reading about the past and writing about the past," Robuck said. "I’ve always found fiction that uses a historical character so interesting because you learn about the past though the story."
She said one book in this genre she really enjoyed was Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, which tells a fictional tale about the creation of one of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer's most celebrated paintings.
The 35-year-old mother of three also drew on her life in Annapolis in order to write about life in coastal Key West.
"When I went to Key West I felt like I was home," Robuck said. "It’s just something I recognized before. I think maybe it's because both are sailing and dock towns, so everywhere you go people are sailing or on the dock."
She said she hopes the book shows Hemingway the man.
"We’ve seen him in The Paris Wife, and we've seen him in other publications as mean and cruel," Robuck said. "I wanted to show more than that. Not only his cruel side, but the full picture of Ernest Hemingway."
To pre-order your digital or paperback copy of Hemingway's Girl on Amazon, click here.