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Q&A with Erika Robuck, Author of The Last Twelve Miles

Q&A with Erika Robuck, Author of The Last Twelve Miles

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Erika Robuck is the author of historical fiction novel, The Last Twelve Miles.

Erika Robuck is the national bestselling author of historical fiction including Sisters of Night and FogThe Invisible Woman, and Hemingway’s Girl. Her articles have appeared in Writer Unboxed, Crime Reads, and Writer’s Digest, and she has been named a Maryland Writer’s Association Notable Writer of 2024.

A boating enthusiast, amateur historian, and teacher, she resides in Annapolis with her husband and three sons.

The Last Twelve Miles is a historical fiction novel following codebreaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and the rumrunner known as Spanish Marie—two real, genius women from history who were locked in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse on opposite sides of the Prohibition Rum War of the Roaring Twenties. Sounds amazing!

Get to know Erika as she talks favorite novels, balancing fact and fiction in storytelling, her TBR list and more!

What are some of your favorite novels? 

  • HAMNET and THE MARRIAGE PORTRAIT, by Maggie O’Farrell.
  • WOLF HALL, by Hilary Mantel.
  • A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW, by Amor Towles.
  • THE NIGHTINGALE, by Kristin Hannah.
  • BEAUTIFUL RUINS, by Jess Walter.
  • THE GREAT GATSBY, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  • EMMA, by Jane Austen.
  • BELOVED, by Toni Morrison.
  • POSSESSION, A. S. Byatt

When did you know you wanted to become an author?

I wrote my first play at age 7, and I’ve been writing ever since. It’s an affliction.

What do you like best about writing historical fiction?

I love research and shaping (read: beating into submission) real lives and events into the focused, encapsulated worlds of novels. It feels like spinning straw into gold; or at least into bronze, but I’m reaching for gold.

How do you balance fact and fiction when writing about real-life women of history?

I used to work with inserting fictional characters into history, but I quickly realized my imagination is more limited and not nearly as colorful as history itself. Now, I try to stay as faithful to the historical timeline and characters as possible. If I make any changes, it feels almost criminal, and I confess my sins against truth in the Author’s Note. 

Tell us about The Last Twelve Miles! What drew you to covering codebreaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and the rumrunner known as Spanish Marie? 

Inspiration comes in many ways, and this time three different people at three different events suggested I write about Elizebeth Smith Friedman. I obeyed. As a boating and cocktail enthusiast, I knew I wanted to explore the uncharted (to me) waters of rumrunning, and I thought having a woman as an antagonist would up the interest level for me. Ask and you shall receive. I found her: Marie Waite. I thoroughly enjoyed writing both points of view.

What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR (to be read) list? 

I just finished and loved Kristin Harmel’s extraordinary multi-period novel THE PARIS DAUGHTER, and and advanced reader copy of MARIA, by Michelle Moran, about the Von Trapp Family of THE SOUND OF MUSIC fame. A glance at my staggering TBR pile includes but is not limited to: THE WOMEN, by Kristin Hannah, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ASTRID BRICARD, by Natasha Lester, and THE QUEENS OF LONDON, by Heather Webb.