I am so excited to get to share my review of The River Has Teeth by Erica Waters with you, but also to get to interview Erica about her new book too! Erica was kind enough to send me a copy of the ARC and agreed to answer a few questions as well.
Without further ado, here is my interview with Erica Waters!
1: What was your inspiration for this novel?
My books often grow out of their settings, and The River Has Teeth is a particularly strong example of this. I was inspired by nature parks in and around Nashville and wanted to set a story in a similar place. I was particularly inspired by the native flora, as well as invasive plants that grow here. The plants and animals I saw on my hikes weaved themselves into the magic of the Bend. The rest of the story grew pretty organically from there.
2: Both of your novels, Ghost Wood Song and The River Has Teeth, have musical elements to the storyline. Is music an important part of your personal life? Are you a big fan of folk music?
Yes, I love bluegrass and folk music! I get a ton of my inspiration from music. I started getting into bluegrass and folk soon after moving to Nashville, Tennessee, and going to bluegrass shows and festivals. Bluegrass is best experienced live, and there are no shortage of talented bluegrass musicians in Nashville, so I’ve been lucky to go to lots of shows. But the more I listened to this music, the more I found myself reminded of my growing-up years – music my grandfather played on his tape deck, songs my dad sang while he worked and drove. I found myself constantly thinking about home and family when I listened to this music, and I knew I wanted to write about it in some way.
3: You have lived in both Florida and Tennessee, and your novels have taken place in these states. Do you think all of your novels will take place in these settings? Are they special to you, and why?
The book I’m writing now is actually set in north Georgia! But I do think most of my novels will be set in the American South, particularly Florida and Tennessee because those are the landscapes that I know best, the ones that speak to me. But who knows? I might get super inspired by a new setting and want to write about it someday.
4: Did the characters, Natasha and Della, come to you at the same time? Or was one of them first? Do you feel more kinship with one or the other?
I love both of these characters, but Della’s voice came to me first and was the easier of the two to write. Whereas Natasha is intense and sometimes overwhelming in her anger, Della is emotionally distant, grounded, and realistic, which is closer to my own personality. I feel a lot of kinship with her.
5: There are a lot of passing references to women’s rights and the treatment of women in the novel. Is this an issue that is important to you?
Yes, very important. I dedicated this book to “everyone who’s been made to feel like prey, and wished for sharper teeth.” I hope that readers who have experienced or feared violence will find catharsis here. I certainly worked through a lot of my own fear and anger around issues of male violence while writing the book. But the book also raises questions about whose stories are listened to and magnified and whose are ignored.
6: How long has this book taken, from first sparking to life in your brain to finished product?
That’s a difficult question to answer! I think I first started writing it in 2017 while waiting for feedback on Ghost Wood Song. But I ended up completely throwing out the plot, which just wasn’t working, and starting over from scratch with the same setting and characters and a brand new plot. It probably took about two years of serious writing and revision to get it to the form in bookstores today.
7: When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?
I have always loved writing – since elementary school. When I was a kid, I read constantly and knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. But as I got older, I let that dream drift farther away for more “realistic” ones. But then I took a creative writing class during graduate school that made me realize that I loved writing fiction and seemed to be fairly good at it. So that’s when I really got serious about becoming a published author.
8: What are your favorite YA novels from the past few years?
Oh gosh, there are so many. Here are some that really stand out in my memory: Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand, The Silence of Bones by June Hur, and House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin Craig.
9: What are three random facts about yourself you’d like to share?
I love gardening and building terrariums. I can’t whistle. I am afraid of squirrels (they’re just so twitchy!)
The River Has Teeth by Erica Waters ~ 400 pages ~ to be published 7/27/2021 by HarperTeen
Girls have been going missing in the woods…
When Natasha’s sister disappears, Natasha desperately turns to Della, a local girl rumored to be a witch, in the hopes that magic will bring her sister home.
But Della has her own secrets to hide. She thinks the beast who’s responsible for the disappearances is her own mother—who was turned into a terrible monster by magic gone wrong.
Natasha is angry. Della has little to lose. Both are each other’s only hope.
What I Thought:
*I received this book for free from Erica Waters in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. Thank you so much to Erica Waters and HarperTeen for this ARC!*
Ooh, this book gives all of the fun, witchy feels without being too scary…which is my exact sweet spot! As most of you know, I am not a fan of horror. Scary and I, we just don’t mix. But, Erica’s books have both been such great reads for me. They have that scary edge without keeping me from being able to sleep at night. This is the perfect amount for me, so if you are a big weenie like me then you definitely need to pick up The River Has Teeth!
First, I absolutely love both Natasha and Della. They are both strong, independent ladies in their own unique ways. Natasha is struggling with the loss of her sister and she still manages to be strong and incredibly driven. Della is a bit of a loner with a very rocky exterior, but she has a soft, gooey center that makes me want to give her a big hug. The dynamic between these two is so fun to watch develop. It starts off a bit rough, but as the novel goes on they start to lean on each other more and it is so beautiful to watch.
I loved the setting of this book. I lived in Tennessee for about 13 years, so I had major nostalgia while reading this. I could absolutely picture the kind of woods that Della and Natasha are walking through. Also, Erica did an amazing job of creating an atmosphere that is at once stunning and terribly creepy.
As a musician myself, I am such a fan of books that include music as a major part of their storyline. Erica has done this with both of her books so far. The River Has Teeth is more focused on vocal music, which made me so happy as I am a vocalist. I loved the fact that Della’s mother used music as a conduit for her magic. The references to all of the folk songs throughout the novel were so fun, and now I want to go and make a folk playlist on Spotify.
All in all, I was a big fan of this book. The characters were nuanced and realistic. The setting was gorgeous and chill-inducing. The story was very interesting. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves a good spooky read and some sweet romance sprinkled in.
I gave The River Has Teeth 4.5 Stars!!
Do you want to learn more about this book/author? Check out the links below!
Have you read Ghost Wood Song? Are you a fan of southern gothic reads? What other books that have music as a major theme do you love? What about other slightly witchy books? Let’s chat in the comments!
Thank you again to Erica for agreeing to do an interview with me! You are a delight and I cannot wait to see what you write next! ❤️
Love and happy reading,