Today I’m pleased to welcome Erica Ferencik to the blog. Erica’s debut novel, The River at Night is published by Bloomsbury Raven, today, the 12th January 2017.
You can read my review of The River at Night here. Erica kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The River at Night.
The River at Night is a novel about four women friends who fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident in the wilderness of Northern Maine.
2. What inspired the book?
Two events in the summer of 2012 were my inspiration for this book.
I read and fell in love with James Dickey’s 1970 novel Deliverance. Most people have seen the movie – cue the banjos! – but I’m not sure the book has gotten the love it deserves.
Dickey was a poet, but he also wrote this propulsive, visceral, first-person novel about four male friends who go white-water rafting in the Georgia wilderness. The story was utterly terrifying to me; I was struck by this story of a series of bad decisions that led to disaster.
The summer before I started the book I was hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with a few friends and we got lost. We had all depended on – let’s call her Lucy – to map out the day; she was the one who had the most hiking experience after all, the one who knew what she was doing. Turned out, Lucy had done some did pretty shabby planning.
The idea was to get to the hut (the White Mountains have a system of huts hikers can stay in) by around five to get cleaned up and grab a bunk before a 5:30 call for dinner. But we were still hiking at 7:30; thank God it was summer so it was still light, but we had some older people with us, specifically a very tall, teetery gentleman in his seventies lugging this ginormous pack, and I thought we are going to have to carry this guy…we ran out of water and food, and one of the women had such bad cramps in her calves and hamstrings we had to stop and massage her muscles just so she could unbend her legs. The wind had picked up and the temperature dropped like a stone, and we were up past the tree line scrambling over huge boulders, completely exhausted and scared…finally we made it to the hut just past nine, barely able to see our hands in front of our faces. A search party was being organized. They were all suited up. I’ll never forget the looks on their faces when we stumbled in the door…talk about food tasting good, talk about a cot feeling like the Four Seasons…we had been so close to spending the night on the mountain, alone and lost.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel?
After many half-written I’ll just let the words take me where they will novels shoved in the drawer in frustration, I am an outliner and, as you say, a planner. Creating a book is no less complex than building a house – I would argue it’s usually a hell of a lot more complex – and so for me anyway, I need a blueprint.
A novel for me starts with an idea. Not just any idea, but one that has the depth and complexity novels demand, and one that I feel I can actually pull off. But even this stage is tricky. So many times I’ll come up with some brilliant idea, and I get so excited, and I go to bed some kind of freaking genius. I wake up an idiot, however, when I realize what a lame idea it is. But every now and then an idea sticks with me, stands the test of several nights sleep, and still feels like it has legs.
Then I bang out a rough outline that I can take months to flesh out. I refuse to actually start writing the book until I am clear on most of the elements: what happens, characters, subplots, the ending.
The shortest to write and complete rewrites for a book for me has been a year, the longest is four.
4. What would your ideal girls holiday be – an adventure like Pia or relaxing on the beach as Win dreamt of?
Something inbetween would be perfect…
I would love to go someplace exotic and lovely with lots of natural beauty, but safeJ, a place where we could each do our own thing and enjoy it, then get together later in the day for dinner and talking and drinking. I have found that a girlfriend getaway has to work for the group as well as everyone individually; part of a vacation is as we call it finding your bliss: for one of us that might mean sitting on the beach reading all day, for another it could mean shopping the local markets, for another it could be an invigorating hike. The best way to have fun is to not have expectations of each other, or to have minimal expectations. For many years we’ve all gone to Cape Cod which I love, but I wish we could all afford to do something crazy like rent a place in the south of France, or go to a Greek Isle…hey, now I’m getting ideas…
5. What did you discover about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?
This my sixth novel, first published one, so you would think there wouldn’t be a lot of surprises but there were. The truth is, no matter how many books I write, I am still learning how to write books. Why? Every book is different – plot, complexity, point of view, characters, tone; so there’s that. Also, in every book there’s so much to remember, to keep in mind, all at once as you write. And each time I’m always surprised at how much work it is. Duh.
6. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I LOVE being outside in any way, shape or form: I love to be in nature, be around animals, travel, explore this amazing world of ours, see friends and make new ones, and I love movies and of course, books. I love sleep. I love staring into space. Some pampering, a massage. A double feature. A day to do nothing!:)
7. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Stoner, by John Williams.
8. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
Q: What advice would you give a young writer?
Know that learning to write is a lifelong process. Consider the giver in every piece of criticism you receive. Not everyone is going to love your writing, and that’s okay. You need to find, love, and cultivate your audience.
Don’t ever give up. It took me thirty years, seven novels, countless screenplays and essays, and five agents to get my first novel published. I’m not saying it will take you a fraction of that time and effort, but persistence is your friend. Stay organized. Keep track of how you spend your time.
Remember that really difficult, big, lovely things are often made slowly, and in pain. The more compelling the path, the more lonely it is. And we all have that inner voice that says, this is a waste of time. It’s the worst thing I ever did.
And you need to answer, I’m going to do it anyway.
About the book:
“‘A thought came to me that I couldn’t force away: What we are wearing is how we’ll be identified out in the wilderness.’
Win Allen doesn’t want an adventure. After a miserable divorce and the death of her beloved brother, she just wants to spend some time with her three best friends, far away from her soul-crushing job. But athletic, energetic Pia has other plans. Plans for an adrenaline-raising, breath-taking, white-water rafting trip in the Maine wilderness. Five thousand square miles of remote countryside. Just mountains, rivers and fresh air. No phone coverage. No people. No help…”
To celebrate publication day the ebook is currently on offer for £1.49 on Amazon, ITunes and other ebook retailers. https://www.amazon.co.uk/River-at-Night-Erica-Ferencik-ebook/dp/B01MAVRUGF/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1484218502&sr=8-1