Monday, July 20, 2020

Erica Waters

Erica Waters grew up in the pine woods of rural Florida, though she now resides in Nashville, Tennessee. She has a Master’s degree in English and works as a university writing tutor. When she’s not writing books, you can find her hanging out with her two dogs, Nutmeg and Luna, and forgetting to practice her banjo. Ghost Wood Song is her debut novel. Her second book, The River Has Teeth, will be published in 2021.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Ghost Wood Song is not an obvious, literal title; rather, it is meant to be evocative—to convey the book’s eerie atmosphere and hint at its forest setting. For me, the title is like the sound of a bow on a fiddle’s strings, one that raises the hair on your neck. I think the title, especially as it is illustrated on the book’s cover, prepares the reader for the atmosphere of the book they are about to open. At least that’s the hope!

What's in a name?

My main character, Shady Grove, is named after an old Appalachian ballad by the same name. My favorite version is Doc Watson’s—when I heard it on vinyl for the first time, it gave me chill bumps. “Shady Grove” is a song that is simultaneously sweet and a little eerie, filled with longing and a desire for beauty and connection, as well as a sense of loss and incompleteness. It’s a perfect name for my main character, a bluegrass fiddler who is grieving for the father she lost and straining toward meaningful relationships in the present.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Beginnings are much harder for me than endings because I rarely start in the right place. I generally don’t plot or plan my books before writing. I find a thread and I follow where it leads, which means that by the time I finish, the beginning sometimes doesn’t really belong in the book. But by the time I reach the last 25% of the novel, I am propelled toward its natural conclusion. I rarely have to rewrite the end of a book.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I think there’s a bit of me in most of the characters I write—my strengths and weaknesses, my hopes and fears. Shady Grove, the protagonist of Ghost Wood Song, has my earnestness and sense of loyalty. Sarah has the same mile-high personal boundaries as me, and Orlando has my wonder and curiosity. Even characters who are my polar opposites have little pieces of my personality or personal experiences inside them.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Music has been an enormous influence for me, especially folk, bluegrass, and classic country. Music helps me figure out the mood and themes of my books and often serves as a way into the supernatural elements of my writing.

I am also an aspiring naturalist, so the natural world is always a big part of what I write. I’m inspired by landscapes, native plant life, and animals, as well as the less obvious citizens of our world: moss, mushrooms, insects, and snails.
Visit Erica Waters's website.

--Marshal Zeringue