2021 Debut Author Interview: Erica George!

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and to spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun for years to come! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2021 debuts and chat with them about their writing process and what it's like to be a new author. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats, and more!

At the end of 2020, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Erica George and her novel WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY, and we have been interested in it ever since! We are so excited to have Erica on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

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 rotate 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.

Keep up with Erica: Website / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads

The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?

Erica: Thank you so much! And it feels surreal! I’ve been imagining what it would be like to hold my book in my hands since I was a little girl, so this is absolutely a dream come true. 

The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?

Erica: For me, the best part of the writing process is revisions. I love the feeling of taking what I’ve written and reworking it, molding it, into something that really works. While I love drafting, I always dread that what I’m writing down (usually rather quickly!) won’t make sense, and revision is the time that I can guarantee that it does. The most difficult part of the writing process is definitely brainstorming and outlining for me. Usually my ideas come to me in a kind of haphazard nature, and trying to organize my thoughts into something coherent can be a challenge.

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the idea for WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY?

Erica: Believe it or not, parts of Words Composed of Sea and Sky came to me when I was in eighth grade. That’s when I originally came up with the character of Benjamin Churchill, the whaler and possible poet, and most certainly the love interest for Leta in 1862, so I’ve carried him with me for a while! But the story really came together for me back in 2018. I knew I wanted to set the novel on Cape Cod and combine the elements of the setting that make it so unique—the sea, the history, the wildlife, and so much poetry. I gravitated towards the idea of having a dual narrative, one set in present day and one in the 19th century, but giving he protagonists the same problem dealt with in different ways.

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult?

Erica: While I love all of my characters, my absolute favorite character to write was Mellie, Michaela’s little sister. She’s so full of spunk and humor, and I loved getting to know her better! The most difficult character to write was Benjamin Churchill, for sure. He has a lot of baggage. He isn’t always the greatest person, and it took a lot to balance his demons and make him likable at the same time, to make it obvious why Leta fell in love with him.

The Book Bratz: What surprised you the most about the publishing process?

Erica: I think the most surprising thing about the publishing process is how many times I had to read my own book! And each time you read it, you catch something you need to change. By the time WORDS went to print, I needed a break!

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY? 

Erica: So much of WORDS is about being brave enough to claim your voice. Both Michaela and Leta experience people who wish to steal their words in one way or another, or they feel they’re not worthy of speaking up or being heard, and this is untrue. It’s a difficult thing to cope with when we’re young, but worth the effort.

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?

Erica: WORDS is a standalone novel, so I think this is probably where it ends for these characters. But I’m currently working on revisions for my sophomore young adult novel, THE EDGE OF SUMMER, out with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in summer of 2022. It follows Coriander Cabot, an aspiring marine biologist, as she copes with the unexpected loss of her best friend and first love, all while spending her summer on Cape Cod disentangling humpback whales. I can’t wait to share it with the world!

Title: Words Composed of Sea and Sky
Author: Erica George
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Publication Date: May 25th, 2021

Summary: Michaela Dunn, living on present day Cape Cod, dreams of getting into an art school, something her family just doesn't understand. When her stepfather refuses to fund a trip for a poetry workshop, Michaela finds the answer in a local contest searching for a poet to write the dedication plaque for a statue honoring Captain Benjamin Churchill, a whaler who died at sea 100 years ago. She struggles to understand why her town venerates Churchill, an almost mythical figure whose name adorns the school team and various tourist traps. When she discovers the 1862 diary of Leta Townsend, however, she gets a glimpse of Churchill that she didn't quite anticipate. In 1862, Leta Townsend writes poetry under the name Benjamin Churchill, a boy who left for sea to hunt whales. Leta is astonished when Captain Churchill returns after his rumored death. She quickly falls for him. But is she falling for the actual captain or the boy she constructed in her imagination?

Thank you so much to Erica for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY and can't wait for it to be out in the world on May 25th

Celebrate So Excited GIF by Hey Violet

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