Thursday, April 7, 2022

Erica Ferencik

Erica Ferencik is the award-winning author of the acclaimed thrillers The River at Night, Into the Jungle, and Girl in Ice, which The New York Times Book Review declared “hauntingly beautiful.”

My Q&A with the author:

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

The title Girl in Ice can be interpreted as referring to the girl who is actually frozen in the glacier and thaws out alive, and/or the protagonist, the linguist Val Chesterfield, who is in one sense “frozen” by her anxiety disorder, which causes her to feel safe only in certain settings: home, her office, etc.

Girl in Ice is also short and direct, and has a thrillery-feel, which I thought would be effective, as much as I chafe at categorizing the novel strictly as a thriller, since it also has elements of mystery and touches of horror – and – it’s not a by-the-numbers thriller read. We tossed around a few other titles but not too many. One was Girl on Ice, which to me sounded like a skating story or an appetizer.

The title of the German edition (September 12th release) is Ein Leid Vom Ende Der Weld, or, Song From the End of the World, which I love. They are positioning the book as general fiction rather than a thriller. I love the complexity of the word Leid, which means song but also call, or melody, or melodic message. There is no literal singing in the book, but the girl who has thawed from the ice certainly “sings” her own message of warning and truth to this modern world about climate change and the dangers of not working together to address it.

What's in a name?

I come to names in a very subconscious way. I choose them without choosing them, if that makes sense. I picture the character and then name them. Who they look like in my mind, literally a sound picture. It’s tough to be as clear about this as I’d like.

I’m also hampered by associations I have with the names of people I’ve known. That kid Suzy who was a bitch in high school; mild, meek Sarah, bully Lisa and her gang. I tend to go for names I don’t have any association with; otherwise all I’m doing is picturing the person I knew, or know, with that name.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

My teenage self would be surprised that I became a writer, since back then I was a painter, a fine artist. She would also be surprised that, being such a conformist in high school, and also painfully shy, that I let my freak flag fly in all my books.

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

The ending of Girl in Ice, as apocalyptic as it is, felt inevitable me. The combustion of greed, misdirected grief, repressed love and lust, all trapped in one of the harshest environments on earth could only end in the way it did. I spend months outlining a book before I write a first draft, so endings don’t change. But beginnings, or first chapters, are rewritten dozens of times, because they are a balancing act of giving just enough of the who, what, why, when, and where to orient the reader but not confuse them, and an irresistible hook.

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

Call me an incurable narcissist, but I am in all of my characters, to some extent. Hey – I know myself best, why not reach inside and use what I’ve got? We all contain multitudes, if we admit it to ourselves. For my part, I know I can tap on inherent shades of the beast inside me, my cunning, great kindness, my grieving self, my joyous self, the part that remains a child, the jealous part, loving part, wounded, empathetic. And then there is the rich trove of tapping into everyone I know or have ever known….

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Like so many others, I survived an extremely challenging childhood, and so I have ready access to dread, to feeling trapped, to planning creative ways to survive. In short, my fight or flight hormones are quite close to the surface, so it’s natural for me to write stories filled with tension and scares.

Other influences are travel, being in nature, film music, theater, the news and films!! I love the films of Werner Herzog and Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water), especially.
Visit Erica Ferencik's website.

--Marshal Zeringue