Author Spotlight: Erica George
April 23, 2021
We are excited to feature author Erica George and her debut young adult novel, WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY (Running Press Kids), out on May 25. Enter to win a copy!
Book cover designer: Frances J. Soo Ping Chow
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for teens.
I think that both of my jobs have benefited one another rather nicely! I also happen to be an 8th grade English teacher, and it’s a passion of mine to get books into the hands of my students. I’m working hard on incorporating curriculum that centers around and values student choice, so middle grade and young adult novels are all over my classroom! I think I write for teens because I can remember what it’s like to want to see myself within in the pages of the books I read, to find answers to questions. Teenagers are an incredible group of people, and I have nothing but respect for them. To be able to teach them and write novels for them is an honor.
Congrats on your debut YA novel, Words Composed of Sea and Sky! Tell us about it and what inspired you.
Believe it or not, this novel has been with me in one shape or another since I was thirteen years old! Words Composed of Sea and Sky tells the story of two poets; Michaela, living on modern day Cape Cod, and Leta, living in 1862 in the same small seaside village. When Michaela enters a contest to write the poem that will adorn the dedication plaque of the town’s local legend, Captain Benjamin Churchill, she discovers more than she bargained for. While researching the whaler, Michaela stumbles across the diary of Leta Townsend. In 1862, Leta writes poetry under the name of Captain Benjamin Churchill, a boy who she thinks died at sea. But when Ben returns, completely unscathed, she worries he’ll discover her secret. Even worse, she’s beginning to fall for him. I knew that I wanted the book to be set on Cape Cod, a place that holds my heart, and the idea of combining poetry and whaling just sort of came together. I also really loved the idea of comparing the formats of modern poetry to that of the mid 19th century.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
Something in between! After I graduated college, I began drafting a young adult fairy tale retelling. Once it was complete, I had no idea what to do with it, so I joined a few local writer groups, made friends, and learned more about the publishing process. When I attended my first SCBWI conference, I sat down in front of agent Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency, and (nervously) pitched my book. She asked to see the full manuscript and signed me a few weeks later. That book, though, is still unpublished. Words Composed of Sea and Sky is my fourth novel and my first to be published!
What projects are you working on now?
I’m currently working on revisions for my second YA novel, The Edge of Summer, which is out with Little, Brown BFYR next summer! It’s about a girl named Coriander who is juggling her best friend’s unexpected death, her first love, and saving humpback whales from entanglement during her summer on Cape Cod.
What research tips do you have for authors who want to write historical novels (or novels set partly in the past)?
I would say that while the internet and books are always great resources, I’ve really enjoyed visiting museums, lighthouses, and touring historic homes to get a taste for the time period. The more I can immerse myself in the period I’m writing, the more authentic the story becomes!
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I played piano for almost ten years! While it’s been a while since I sat down at the keys, I can still play a few Christmas carols.
Where can people find you online?
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 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. Words Composed of Sea and Sky is her debut novel.
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