Published by Simon & Schuster
A high stakes drama set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, charting the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident, The River at Night is a nonstop and unforgettable thriller by a stunning new voice in fiction.
Winifred Allen needs a vacation.
Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.
What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare
Welcome everyone to my very first author Q & A!! I’m beyond thrilled to have Erica Ferencik on my blog today to answer some of the most pressing questions regarding her writing process and the juicy details of how she came about creating one of the most thrilling books I’ve read in recent months!! I’m reposting my review after the Q&A in case you missed it the first time around. The River at Night releases TODAY so after you finish reading this post head to your favorite book buying site or bookstore and grab yourself a copy. Happy Reading!
Q&A with Erica Ferencik
- What intrigued you about writing about female friendship?
Everything intrigues me about female friendship. Its very intensity can turn things inside out very quickly.
I especially love stories of female friendship gone wrong, such as in the 1992 film, Single White Female.
The stakes in female friendship are just as high or higher than in romantic ones. We trust our women friends with so much intimate knowledge – why is that? Our hairdressers know for sure….isn’t that the truth. Why do I still share things with my women friends that I don’t with my husband of twenty-two years? (Sorry, honeyJ)
The stakes are even higher for long term friendships. It’s such a delicate balance to keep these relationships alive, as well as intensely difficult to determine when or whether it may be time to end them, or to come to grips with the fact that – since everything changes – these cherished friendships must change as well.
- The ending of this book leaves readers feeling unsettled. How did you come up with the ending? Did it change as you went through the writing process?
I’m glad to hear it makes readers feel unsettled!
I had maybe three different endings over time. I didn’t want to sew it up too neatly, but there had to be some ominous things lurking, as well as some light at the end of the tunnel. Even though it’s a pretty wild tale, it’s plausible as well, which is one reason I think it’s so scary.
In terms of how I came up with the ending – without giving it away – I wanted to play with aspects of bringing the “wild” world back into so-called civilization.
One hard part about writing novels – and there are lots of hard parts! – is knowing when you are done. Where does a story really end? Why there and not someplace else? What is enough for the reader, leaving them satisfied but perhaps wondering a bit, keeping them in the spell of your story – but not in a frustrating way – and what is just too much sewing up or sweeping up for them? It can be a fine line, a really delicate balance.
- What part was the most fun for you to write?
Let me say it this way: writing is like childbirth: in the end you fall so in love with your baby you forget all the pain that came before…
But honestly, I had a blast with the whole thing, from first word to last.
I especially loved writing about white water rafting. For me, it’s this combination of exhilarating and terrifying, like a roller coaster only worse because it’s nature, and (most of us) know better than to mess with that. For me, the moment-to-moment experience of white water rafting can tip from ecstatic joy to oh-my-God I’m going to die.
I loved doing the research, both online and especially in person, interviewing rafting guides and all the off-the-gridders I was fortunate enough to interview.
- Do you have a favorite character, or one that you identify with the most?
There is the old (writing) saw that every character we create comes from some aspect of ourselves, and I think there’s a lot to that.
I think I am one part Pia – because I’m quite physical and love adventure and used to be very idealistic and clueless like her – now I’m just clueless – and one part Wini, because I’m full of terror and shame. But then I like to think I have a tough Rachel side as well as a sweet Sandra side. Basically I’m nuts.
- Any tips for people interested in white water rafting?
No, seriously, I would say just make sure the company is legit, the guides actually have some training and experience, and – this depends on your level of risk tolerance for sure – aim for nothing higher than Class 3 rapids, especially if it’s your first time out. Talk to someone who has gone out with the company you’re thinking of using, learn about the river you intend to raft.
As part of my research I had a look at all the accidents resulting in death since records were kept. Man, that will curl your hair. Who died, when, on what river. One out of 250,000 rafters, on average, die each year. In 2006, ten died on commercial rafting trips, but the number skews higher if you include people who go it alone.
- What sort of research did you do for the book?
The farthest north in Maine I had ever been was Portland, so it was time to plan a trip up into the hinterlands – into the storied Allagash Wilderness, over 5,000 square miles of rivers, lakes, and forest.
My goal – one of them – was to interview people who live off the grid.
But I didn’t know a soul up there.
I called the chambers of commerce in towns from Orono to Fort Kent, as far north and west you can go until the road ends and the forest begins, which is just past a little town called Dickey.
Everyone I spoke to on the phone said: well, these folks don’t want to be contacted. That’s why they live off the grid…but I do know someone who knows someone…soon I was able to line up half a dozen interviews with people who had decided to disappear.
I left my house with a backpack filled with power bars, warm clothes and mace, with plans to interview five individuals and one family who had decided to cut themselves off from civilization. It wasn’t easy to convince my husband I was going to be okay, but in the end he let me go.
Even though I made hotel reservations for nine nights, I only needed them for the first and last, because everyone I met offered me a place to stay.
I crashed in two cabins, a teepee, a yurt, a rehabbed bus, and a boat (in a field, not on water.)
Sometimes a good mile from anything resembling a road.
- What was one of the biggest challenges you had in writing your book?
Balancing backstory with the main action is always a challenge for
- How can you make the reader care about someone they don’t know without bogging them down with too much information?
Also, rewrites cause me physical agony, forcing me to eat a lot of sugar before I can really get down to the task at hand
- – Were there any movies, books, or media stories that inspired River at Night?
Every scary book, movie or media story I’ve ever seen or heard about helps me with ideas, however, 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 fabulous, propulsive, 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 series of bad decisions that led to disaster.
The summer before I started the book I was hiking in the White Mountains with a few friends and we got lost. We had all depended on Lucy to map out the day; she was the one who had the most experience, the one we were convinced knew what she was doing. Turned out, Lucy had done some pretty shabby planning.
The idea was to get to the hut – maybe it was Carter Notch or Zealand – by around five to get cleaned up and grab a bunk before they serve dinner at 5:30. 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 legs 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…anyway we made it to the hut with just this shred of light left, barely able to see our hands in front of us to find that they had been organizing a search party there. 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.
Thank you so much Erica for taking the time to answer and share those questions with us! Following is my review in case you missed it last month….
First things first..that is the perfect cover and title for this pulse pounding, can’t put it down thriller. I went into this read not knowing anything about this story except that it was an adventure thriller in which some friends decide to go white water rafting but things end up going very wrong. I didn’t read the Goodreads or Amazon blurbs and I urge you to do the same! I’ve only included about a third of the Goodreads blurb above just to give those of you who haven’t heard of this book an idea of what it’s about because, in my opinion ,the entire Goodread’s blurb gives away too much of the story. This book is a thriller! It’s about being surprised and not knowing what’s going to happen on the river or what lurks in the wilderness so you’re along for the ride with the ladies. And what a ride it will be.
Here’s a question to ask yourself…would you choose to go white water rafting in the remote Maine wilderness for your girls-getaway-trip, tackling a river that most people don’t even have access to? My answer was a very loud no, never, not in a million years could you pay me to go white water rafting anywhere , let alone on a remote stretch of river that’s not open to the public. And for this very reason, of being scared at just the thought of rafting down any river, I couldn’t wait to find out what happens to these four friends when they decide to brave the very adventure that sounds terrifying to me.
It all begins with the “leader”, Pia, talking her three good friends, Rachel, Sandra and Wini into going white water rafting for their annual girls trip. Apparently, Pia is into extreme living and she has, in the past, talked the ladies into other adventure type vacations. Wini, however, isn’t super keen on this one as they are all nearing forty and she’d rather hit a beach and relax on a chaise with some cocktails. I have to say I totally agreed with that vacation choice. She was basically strong-armed into going on the rafting trip and reluctantly headed to REI to stock up. You see, none of them except perhaps Pia had any idea what was involved, what to buy, etc. They’d never been white water rafting before! They did all have some things in common in that they were each slightly damaged from events in their lives and were looking to escape even if it was just for 5 days and even if that meant driving 9 hours, camping, being wet, and braving a raging river. And oh, by the way , NO cell signal for the whole 5 days. Can’t you just feel that something is bound to go wrong?
I thought the author did a wonderful job of setting the story up in the first few chapters. It is told from Wini’s perspective and we get important details about the struggles each of the friends have been dealing with in their own lives as well as a good indication of their friendship ties over the years. So, by the time they hit the river, I was very invested in each lady and I especially liked Rachel, Wini, and Sandra. I even liked Rory the guide. The characters became real which just points to brilliant writing. And I was extremely worried about them because you know what else became real…the river! I literally couldn’t turn the pages fast enough once the action began and for the rest of the book I’d catch myself holding my breath. With her breathtaking, detailed writing Erica Ferencik put me right in the river as well as smack in the middle of the woods at night with them. And there are bad things looming in both places you can count on that! And the twists…I literally gasped out loud at one of them and had to re-read the section to be sure that what I had just read was true. Upon finishing this tension filled read my first thought was…now THAT’s how you write a thriller!!