Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on Author Erika Ferencik. Award-winning novelist Erica Ferencik has received glowing critical praise for her literary thrillers featuring women who face extreme physical challenges in nature, even as they grapple with internal struggles.
Devoted to authenticity in her craft, Erica spent weeks in the wilderness of northern Maine as research for her debut novel, The River at Night, an Indie Next Pick that New York Times bestselling author Ruth Ware called “raw, relentless, and heart-poundingly real.” For her “hair-raisingly vivid” (Kirkus) follow-up, Into the Jungle, Ferencik journeyed a hundred miles up the Amazon to experience firsthand the lush and perilous Peruvian jungle.
Now, inspired and informed by a month-long trip to Greenland, Ferencik sets the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal’s editors’ pick, GIRL IN ICE, in one of the most unforgiving, unforgettable landscapes imaginable.
Erica, Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
People can find my work anywhere books are sold.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from Girl in Ice?
I write thrillers set in exotic locations – remote forests, perilous jungles, and now, with Girl in Ice, the desolate Arctic landscape:
Val Chesterfield is a linguist and teacher trained in the most esoteric of disciplines – dead or dying languages – yet she seems at a loss to grasp the intentions of her own twin brother, Andy, a climate science researcher based hundreds of miles north of the Arctic Circle on a remote island off Greenland’s north coast. So, when Andy takes his own life by walking out into a 50 degree below zero night wearing only a pair of boxers, she spends months inconsolable, wondering if she ever really understood her brother at all.
When Wyatt, Andy’s fellow researcher in the Arctic, discovers a young girl frozen in the ice who thaws out alive and speaking a language no one understands, Val is his first call. Will she travel to the frozen North and meet this girl, try to comprehend what she is so passionately trying to say? Val has to shelve a reluctance to be at the place where her brother had fallen into such despair, tapping every ounce of bravery just to get on the plane, but her encounter with the mysteries on the land of ice at the bottom of the world is only just beginning.
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
During my month-long research trip to Greenland, a small band of explorers and myself kayaked with our native guide into a section of a fjord known as the Iceberg Graveyard, where – because of quirks in ocean currents – thousands of giant ice floes gather until summer, when most melt away.
All around us, jaw-droppingly strange bergs loomed only hundreds of yards away. Some soared ten stories high, all were carved into impossible shapes: eerie cathedrals, massive arches, a bulbous monster two city blocks long, scored and warped by the waves.
I asked my guide what would happen if one of these split or calved. He said we’d all have to turn our kayaks toward the sound – fast – in order to keep from being flipped into the icy waters by the mammoth waves that would form. Heart pounding, I thought what am I doing here, then took my cue from the others, each of them calmly gliding along between the ice monsters, listening.
What was the inspiration for [newest release/series release is part of/spotlighted release]? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
One bitterly cold morning in the winter of 2018, I was walking in the woods near my home, and came upon three juvenile painted turtles frozen mid-stroke in the ice along the shallow edge of a pond. They didn’t look alive, but they didn’t look dead either.
It turns out there are some animals (and plants too!) that have this freezing-and-coming-back-to-life thing down. Painted turtle hatchlings, some species of beetle, wood frogs, certain alligators, and even an adorable one-millimeter length creature called a Tardigrade or “water bear” that can be frozen to -359C and thaw out just fine. Most of these creatures possess a certain cryo-protein that protects their cells from bursting when they freeze.
A protein that…we don’t possess. Still, the image of a young girl frozen in a glacier in the Arctic popped into my head. From there, I asked myself: How did she get there? What was her story?
From this initial inspiration, I teased out my story, all the while reading everything I could get my hands about Greenland, its people, landscape and history. I spent four months creating an outline, many more months writing a first draft, and it was only at that time did I plan my research trip to Greenland.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
The novel I’m working on now is a little under wraps at the moment, but I can tell you that it’s an eco-thriller, called The Intelligence, that poses the question: what happens when nature strikes back at humankind’s attempts to destroy it?
In the course of the story, the protagonist must somehow answer a second question: how do you defeat an enemy you desperately need for your own survival?
What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
I’ve been a dancer all my life, and used to teach some basic jazz and ballet classes. I still take classes four or five times a week: it keeps me sane. It also literally makes it possible for me to sit the many hours necessary in order to write books.
In terms of making time for things I love, nothing beats staying organized, sticking to a schedule even when I don’t feel like it, and being stubborn about achieving my goals and meeting deadlines.
What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?
Mornings are spent “taking care of business” – errands, emails, exercise, you name it, life stuff. I settle down in my studio – a very simple, small rehabbed shed behind my house – at around three pm. I bring my dinner in there and work till nine five or six nights a week, seven when I’m behind or on some crazy deadline.
It’s a really simple place – and I need it that way. No decorations, just a lamp, desk and chair, and a coffeepot.:) The shed has a big window that looks out over the woods behind our property. All sorts of animals have dropped by to see me as I work: deer, rabbits, coyotes, skunks, owls, and porcupines – and I’m delighted to see them all.
While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!
Most of the time, I need absolute silence in order to write, which is a tall order in this noisy world of ours. I have not one, but two fans in my studio for white noise (there are families with kids on either side of us). This is why I prefer composing a first draft in the dead of winter – I love cold, dark winter evenings for getting the work done. Every now and then I’ll listen to very select movie soundtracks, but only the very atmospheric variety and never any with lyrics.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?
No matter how your work is being received, love yourself at every stage of your writing life. I sure wish I had been kinder to myself.
I took rejection hard over the decades before my first novel was published. And trust me, the demons still want in. There are days I beat myself up for perceived shortcomings more than I actually write. I castigate myself for not being able to produce when it’s time to produce, for creating words, sentences – entire stories – that don’t live up to what I’d conjured so clearly and beautifully in my head. So, see? I don’t always live by my own advice. Hell, I even beat myself up for beating myself up😊.
But here’s what I’ve learned:
Each cell in your body replaces itself every seven to ten years. It stands to reason that you will literally be a different writer in your twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, and beyond. Each writer you were, are, or will become, is important, valid and frankly wonderful. Sure, we’ve all got the stories – maybe even whole novels – shoved in the drawer, but without having written them, it’s quite possible you couldn’t have moved on to what you’re working on these days, and admit it: you love what you’re working on now, right? And who knows? Maybe – in one of those squirreled-away manuscripts – an idea for a new novel or screenplay lurks, some key to the opus you were born to write. It happens all the time. It happened to me.
So don’t be such a beeyatch to yourself. Would you treat a friend like that? Of course not. Now have a cookie.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Erica!