interview by Erin Nuttall
I met Erica when we had a workshop together a few years ago. I found her work to be fun and engaging just like she is. Erica has a real joy connected with writing that is energizing to be around. Characters drive her stories, but she also recognizes the depth a good setting can bring to a story. I was excited to learn more about her inspirations and processes. —Erin
- KidLit Craft: What inspired you to write WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY?
Erica George: It’s been kind of a long and winding road, actually! I first came up with the character of Benjamin
Churchill when I was in 8th grade, but he sort of bounced around in everything I wrote, and I never quite knew where he belonged. It wasn’t until I realized that the book he belonged in wasn’t his story at all—it was the story of two girls finding their voices and struggling to stand up for what mattered to them. So much of the story is inspired by the history and natural beauty of Cape Cod, the poetry, the ocean, and what it means to claim your voice.
- KLC: Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?
- Pantser, plotter, or plants?
- Character first or plot first?
EG: All good questions! I am most certainly a plotter. I start out by creating a WIP [work-in-progress] hub—a document where I just drop information about my new project whenever it comes to me with absolutely no organization whatsoever. Once I start to get a feel for what I’m writing, I do a skeletal outline with post-it notes on my office wall, then I take those post-its and flesh them out into a 15-20 page bulleted outline. The parts of the story that I pants usually have to do with dialogue. I find that dialogue kind of reveals itself to me as I continue drafting the novel.
I can’t actually say whether plot or character comes first—sometimes it’s one or the other. It might be a snippet of dialogue, a scene, a theme that comes to me from a song I’m listening to, or general inspiration from a place I’ve visited. I can’t say that my novels start out one specific way each time I sit down to write them!
- KLC: How does sidewriting fit into your process?
EG: Sidewriting is like the broccoli of drafting for me. I will never (ever) sit down and choose to do side writing if I’m left to my own devices. However, if I’m working with other writers or given a sidewriting assignment from a mentor or advisor, I will happily complete it, love it, utilize whatever it taught me, and be thankful I took the time to benefit from it.
- KLC: Now that you’ve written a dual time period romance do you have any tips for fellow writers who are working on dual POV?
EG: I think the most important thing to consider when writing dual POVs is that you essentially have two protagonists who each require a satisfying storyline. Because the two POVs never actually interacted with one another in my book, I tried to make sure that I had plotted out each storyline almost as though they stood alone. When I’m writing multiple POVs but in the same storyline, it’s a little less tricky!
- KLC: How has craft study informed your writing?
EG: With this specific book, I did a great deal of craft study on poetry (with the fabulous Liz Garton Scanlon). I was incredibly intimidated to sit down and write my own poems—I hadn’t even attempted poetry since I was a teenager myself. Because I had two poets in two different centuries in this novel, I wanted their voices to be distinct. I studied the style of poetry popular in the mid 19th century, reading Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in order for Leta in 1862 to sound authentic. For Michaela in present day, I let her play a little bit more with form and style.
- KLC: What do you wish you had known about the publishing industry that you know now?
EG: That there’s a whole lot of waiting for news! It can be so easy to dwell and worry, so I try to keep my mind busy with new projects while I’m waiting to hear about something else.
- KLC: What one piece of advice would you like to give to aspiring YA authors?
EG: It might be tempting to look at the current trends in YA and write something to fit them, but you should always write the story that matters to you. When you chase trends, they’ll most likely be over before you can get a quality draft out to send to an agent or editor! If you’re writing the book that’s most important to you, though, then there will be a time and a place for it. Sometimes you have to wait a lot longer than you originally anticipated (my debut novel was bought four years after I signed with my agent! It was also the fourth novel I had completed), but it’s worth it.
- KLC: What do you feel you’ve gained from being a part of the KidLitCraft community?
EG: It’s wonderful to surround yourself with like-minded people! I love that when I have a question, I can reach out and pick the brilliant brains of other talented kidlit writers. I’m always amazed at how quickly plot or character problems can be solved when you get out of your own head. I also love how willing people are to share great examples of kidlit to use as mentor texts.
- KLC: What’s next on the horizon for your new fans?
EG: I’m putting finishing touches on my sophomore YA contemporary, The Edge of Summer, which hits shelves with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers/Poppy on June 14, 2022! It follows the story of Coriander Cabot who’s spending her summer on Cape Cod completing a marine biology internship while she grapples with the unexpected loss of her best friend, first love, and entangled humpback whales.
Thank you so much for interviewing me!
Erica George is a writer of young adult fiction. She is a graduate of The College of New Jersey with degrees in both English and education, and is currently an MFA student at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She resides in scenic northern New Jersey, but spends her summers soaking up the salty sea air on Cape Cod.
Many themes in Erica’s writing revolve around environmental activism and helping young people find their voice. When she’s not writing, you can find her exploring river towns, whale watching, or engrossed in quality British drama with her dog at her side.
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Erin Nuttall holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is an active member of SCBWI and ALAN. She lives outside of Chicago with her family where she writes stories for middle grade and young adult readers that offer a humorous take on friendship, identity, feminism, and romance.