Saturday Spotlight- Erica Waters

Posted July 24, 2021 by stuckint in Saturday Spotlight / 0 Comments

Hello everyone and welcome to another Saturday Spotlight- where every month I feature an author and their recently released work.

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Erica Waters to Stuck in the Stacks. You can check out book recommendations based off of key themes from the book here and stay tuned for a spoiler-free review of The River Has Teeth tomorrow.

About the Book

The River Has Teeth by Erica Waters
Published by HarperTeen Pages: 400

Lush and chilling, with razor-sharp edges and an iron core of hope, this bewitching, powerhouse novel of two girls fighting back against the violence the world visits on them will stun and enchant readers.

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.
From the author of Ghost Wood Song, this eerie contemporary fantasy is perfect for fans of Wilder Girls and Bone Gap. 

About the Author

Erica Waters grew up in the pine woods of rural Florida, though she now resides in Nashville, Tennessee. She has a Master’s degree in English and works as a university writing tutor. When she’s not writing books, you can find her hanging out with her two dogs, Nutmeg and Luna, and forgetting to practice her banjo. Ghost Wood Song is her first book, and you can visit her online at  

The Interview

1- For those who haven’t read the novel, what is The River Has Teeth about and what was the inspiration behind it?

The River Has Teeth is a YA contemporary fantasy about Natasha, who’s determined to find her missing sister, who disappeared near a nature park. The search takes her to a local witch named Della for help, but Della is hiding secrets of her own—she thinks her mother, who was changed into a monster by a spell gone wrong, is responsible for the missing sister’s disappearance. Readers can expect spooky magic and monsters, a fast-paced plot, a LGBTQ+ cast, and a slow-burn romance between the two protagonists.

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 Della’s family.

2- The novel is told from two alternating perspectives. Did you always intend for the story to be told from both Della and Natasha’s perspectives? Did you find one character easier to write than the other?

Yes, I always planned for this to be a dual-POV novel. 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.

3- The magic system was so intriguing. What was the inspiration for it? What was your research process like as you built the world and the nature based magic?

Thank you! The magic system was one of my favorite bits of the book to write. I took a naturalist class while I was working on the book, which helped me get more familiar with the natural history and ecology of Tennessee. I spent a ton of time in nature parks, learning the names and behaviors of plants, birds, and insects. I also read up on fungal networks, which are an intrinsic part of Della’s magic.

4- The River Has Teeth contains a lot of horror elements, especially in the action scenes. Do you enjoy horror? What initially got you interested in the genre?

You know, I am actually a huge wimp when it comes to horror. I can barely make it through a horror movie! The last one I watched (The Babadook) I could only handle during daylight, and even then I paused it halfway through for a long break because I was too scared. I have an easier time reading horror, though I prefer it more on the gothic and literary side than the truly scary stuff.

I like to write about the things that scare me, so my writing edges into horror territory on its own. But the book that really got me interested in writing YA horror more intentionally was Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand, which is a deeply frightening, beautifully written book.

5- At its heart, The River Has Teeth explores the exploitation of women by men as well as female rage and empowerment. What role does literature in general play in discussion of such issues and how do you feel your novel fits into the conversation?

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- Were there any scenes cut from the book that you wish would have made it in?

Yes! I wrote a sort of “Easter egg” scene where the bluegrass band from my first book, Ghost Wood Song, plays at a show in The River Has Teeth. I loved that scene, but it ultimately didn’t work due to pacing issues, so I had to cut it.

7- The River Has Teeth is your sophomore novel. How did writing this one compare to Ghost Wood Song?

A sophomore novel is a strange, unwieldly thing. It’s often written under contract and on deadline, which is a big change from the endless amount of time and freedom you get to write your first book. But for me writing The River Has Teeth was exhilarating and challenging—I really had to stretch myself to write a dual-POV and a more complex plot and to tackle difficult, sensitive topics. I think my second book is also a better expression of my voice as a writer and truer to how I see the world.

8- Can you share anything about the projects you are currently working on?

Right now I’m working on my third HarperTeen novel, The Restless Dark, which comes out in fall 2022. It’s a queer supernatural thriller about two girls who team up in a macabre true crime contest to find the missing bones of a serial killer in a foggy, creepy canyon in Georgia.

I’ll also have a ghost story in the YA folk horror anthology, The Gathering Dark, edited by Tori Bovalino, also coming in fall 2022.

9- Do you have any reading or writing quirks?

I often read the acknowledgements of a book before starting it. I like to see the love and time an author put in, how many people contributed to the book or supported the writer’s efforts, etc. I think doing so makes me a more generous reader, puts me on the author’s side, and helps me come to the book ready to love it. For me, that makes for a more pleasurable reading experience.

10- As an author, what do you wish more readers knew about the writing process and author life?

I’d love for readers to know how much they mean to authors and how much power they have as consumers. When a reader loves a book and tells others about it, that makes a huge difference. Word of mouth is still a surprisingly effective way to get books out in the world. Additionally, when readers purchase books or check them out from the library instead of pirating them, that makes it much more likely that the authors they love will be able to keep making books for them to read. Finally, most authors are so grateful to hear from readers who enjoyed our books. Every time I get an email or social media message from a reader who connected with my words, it helps me remember why I’m doing what I do.

Rapid Fire Questions

1- What is your perfect reading snack? A bowl of cherries
2- Where is your favorite place to read? At home on my comfy couch!
3- What was the last book you read? Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
4- What 2021 releases are you excited about? The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould, Within these Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood, and A Touch of Ruckus by Ash Van Otterloo
5- What do you hope readers take away from The River Has Teeth? A sense of their own powerful magic
6- Lastly, where can readers learn more about you and your work? My website (, Instagram (@ericawatersbooks), and Twitter (@ELWaters)

What About You?

Do you have any questions for Erica? Have you read The River Has Teeth yet? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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