On Ghost-Raising Fiddles and Writing

An Interview with Author Erica Waters

I’m so excited to share an interview with Erica Waters. Erica was a member of the Pitch Wars class of 2017 and I’ve been able to read a bit of her work – I love it! Erica’s debut Young Adult novel, GHOST WOOD SONG, will be released by HarperTeen/Harper Collins this summer. GHOST WOOD SONG is a spooky, contemporary fantasy – and good news – it’s available for pre-order! Follow any of these links:

Here’s a brief bio for Erica from her website:

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.

Before we head into the interview, check out the awesome summary for GHOST WOOD SONG…

Shady Grove is her father’s daughter, through and through. She inherited his riotous, curly hair, his devotion to bluegrass, and his ability to call ghosts from the grave with his fiddle.

That cursed instrument drowned with him, though, when his car went off the road, taking with it the whispering ghosts, nightmares, and the grief and obsession that forced her daddy to play.

But Shady’s brother was just accused of murder, and so she has a choice to make: unearth the fiddle that sang her father to the grave and speak to the dead to clear her brother’s name, or watch the only family she has left splinter to pieces.

The ghosts have secrets to keep, but Shady will make those old bones sing.

So let’s find out a little about how GHOST WOOD SONG came to be!

INTERVIEW

Your Young Adult debut novel, GHOST WOOD SONG, is due out the summer of 2020 from Harper Teen/Harper Collins. Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for this book?

Inspiration for GHOST WOOD SONG came from several places–my grief after losing my dad, memories of growing up in a haunted house, and a whole lot of bluegrass music. But here’s how I got the idea for the ghost-raising fiddle: One day, I was upstairs writing in my attic office when I heard someone playing a banjo. We have a few banjos in our house, but I was the only one home. When I went downstairs, the music stopped. So that got me to thinking about a connection between ghosts and bluegrass instruments, and Shady’s ghost-raising fiddle was born! 

For the writers in the query trenches, can you share something about how you kept positive while querying? Is there any specific guidance you followed when writing your query letter that you found helpful?

Querying was a bit of a long road for me. Three books, three years, and 101 agent rejections. I don’t know if I always stayed positive, but I kept going by focusing on the writing: writing the absolute best books that I could, leveling up my craft, and learning from my fellow writers. It’s tempting to focus on extraneous things–meeting the “right” people, building a brand on social media, etc.–but the words on the page are what matter most. Additionally, connecting with others in the writing community who were in the same boat as me was hugely helpful. We read each other’s work, commiserated over our rejections, and cheered for each other’s successes. 

You can read Erica’s blog post on how she got an agent here:  https://ericawaters.com/2018/05/17/how-i-got-my-agent/.

Check out the query letter that helped her land an agent here: https://ericawaters.com/2018/07/24/query-for-ghost-wood-song/

A lot of writers out there have a shiny new NaNo manuscript ready to revise. Do you have any revisions tips?

Revisions, oh the dreaded revisions. I feel like I’ve spent about 85% of my writing life revising books. What works best for me is to revise thematically, rather than chronologically. So instead of going through chapter by chapter, I do big-picture revisions like this: I read through the whole manuscript, making notes as I go. Then I write a revision plan in outline form, grouping all my concerns under headings like “Plot” and “Worldbuilding.” Then I do a pass through the manuscript for each of those groups of issues. I find this makes revision less overwhelming and prevents me from simply line editing when I need to be making structural changes, for example.

Do you have any favorite craft books?

I think Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, by Jessica Brody, is a great resource for learning to plot successfully. I’m a pantser, meaning I don’t plan or plot out a novel before I write–I just dive in, letting the book take me where it will. This is a lot of fun, but it’s also why I spend so much of my time revising. Save the Cat! has helped me develop a more instinctive sense of how to structure a novel and helps me course-correct when my plot goes completely off the rails. 

Are you able to share any hints about upcoming projects you’re working on?

I’m currently working on my next book for HarperTeen. I’m still in that stage of writing where I’m almost superstitiously afraid to say too much about the project. However, I will tell you that it’s about Southern witches, is set largely on a nature preserve in Tennessee, and has two badass girls as narrators. This is my first time writing a dual-POV novel, so it has been fun and challenging to take on. 

Thank you so much for taking the time talk with us about your debut novel and your writing process, Erica! We wish you success and, of course, more words! The interview wouldn’t be complete without sharing your amazing cover

Jacket art: Alix Northrup
Jacket design: Jenna Stempel-Lobell

So pretty! Thank you again, Erica!

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