Erica Waters: Unboxing Ghost Wood Song

I can only imagine the excitement an author must feel when they get the first copies of their book — whether it’s a finished copy, or a box of ARCs. Today, debut YA author Erica Waters talks about seeing her book Ghost Wood Song in print for the very first time.

One experience every debut novelist I know looks forward to is coming home to find a box of their book’s ARCs—Advance Reader Copies— on their doorstep. The ARC is the book in its almost-final form: it has a cover, at least some of the final interior design, and the uncorrected manuscript inside. The manuscript this writer has been toiling and crying and bleeding over for years is now a paperback novel with their name on the cover. It will still have to go through one final round of proofreading and will most likely be published as a hardcover, but even so, it’s A BOOK. An actual physical book, made of paper and ink and all the words the author wrote.

In the weeks leading up to that box of books landing on my doorstep, I’d been feeling immense anxiety about how my debut, Ghost Wood Song, would be received by the reading public. Would readers like the book? Would some be unhappy with how the love triangle is resolved? Would they think the mystery was too obvious? Suddenly, this book that I had put my whole heart and mountains of hard work into seemed glaringly imperfect, half-dressed, maybe even a little hideous. Could I really send it out into the world looking like that?

And then the box of ARCs arrived. I sliced open the tape, unfolded the cardboard flaps, and stared at a pile of books with a gorgeous cover bearing my name and my photograph on the back. Ghost Wood Song was a book—a real, concrete, physical object that people could hold, hug, toss across the room, put on their shelf, or use to prop up an uneven table leg. It was real.

Suddenly, that anxiety that had been wrapped around my insides loosened and floated away. Because in a single moment Ghost Wood Song transformed from being an intangible piece of my own heart to a physical object entirely separate from me. The novel wasn’t mine anymore—now it belonged with all the other books in libraries and bookstores and collecting dust on bedside tables. It belonged to the readers.

From time to time, I still get hit by soul-crushing anxiety about how the book will be received. Some days, it feels like my skin will never be thick enough to withstand having my writing judged by the world. But whenever it gets to be too much, whenever I want to forsake civilization and go live in the forest with the bears and the bees, I pull out one of my ARCs and hold it. I look at it. I let myself feel immense pride that I have a book that’s going to be published by a major publisher, that I worked hard enough to see it happen. I let myself feel relief that it’s out of my hands now. And I remember that the book doesn’t belong to me anymore. My name is on it, but it ain’t mine.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m not responsible for the words. If the book has problematic content, if it hurts someone—of course, that’s on my head. But my book belongs to the readers now, with their own individual tastes and likes and dislikes. They can rate and review it, recommend it, or donate it to a charity shop. That’s their business.

My business is writing the next book. For now, that new book belongs only to me—I’m living inside it, breathing life into it, shaping and molding it, crying over it and yelling at it. For now, this book is mine and mine only. But Ghost Wood Song is yours, dear reader.

Sawkill Girls meets Beautiful Creatures in this lush and eerie debut, where the boundary between reality and nightmares is as thin as the veil between the living and the dead. 

If I could have a fiddle made of Daddy’s bones, I’d play it. I’d learn all the secrets he kept.

Shady Grove inherited her father’s ability to call ghosts from the grave with his fiddle, but she also knows the fiddle’s tunes bring nothing but trouble and darkness.

But when her brother is accused of murder, she can’t let the dead keep their secrets.

In order to clear his name, she’s going to have to make those ghosts sing.

Family secrets, a gorgeously resonant LGBTQ love triangle, and just the right amount of creepiness make this young adult debut a haunting and hopeful story about facing everything that haunts us in the dark.

Available Now: Amazon | Harper Collins | Parnassus Books

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

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