The revival of a frozen child named Sigrid drives the plot of Ferencik’s science thriller Girl in Ice (Scout, Mar.).
You’ve stated that your “passion is to create un-put-downable novels set in some of the most inhospitable regions on earth.” How did that originate?
I could speculate on all kinds of deep psychological reasons for my love of survival stories. Let me put it this way: like so many others, I survived an extremely challenging childhood, and so I have ready access to dread, to feeling trapped, to planning creative ways to survive. In short, my fight or flight hormones are quite close to the surface. I’m a sucker for stories of survival where the setting is an element to be reckoned with.
How did you create the language Sigrid uses?
I immersed myself in the sounds and cadences of the living Nordic languages to get a feel for inflection and tone. I also dove into recordings of Old Norse, the main language of the Vikings, in order to create morphemes, or units of meaning that sounded Nordic, but that were just slightly distinct from known languages, so I could create Sigrid’s unique tongue.
How did you develop this plot?
One bitterly cold winter morning in 2018, I was walking in the woods near my home, and came upon what looked like juvenile painted turtles frozen mid-stroke in the ice along the shallow edge of a pond. They didn’t look alive, but they didn’t look dead either. It turns out there are some animals and plants that have this freezing-and-coming-back-to-life thing down. Most possess a certain cryo-protein that protects their cells from bursting when they freeze. It’s a protein that we don’t possess. Still, the image of a young girl frozen in a glacier in the Arctic popped into my head. From there, I asked myself: How did she get there?
Did your decade doing comedy influence your fiction writing?
When I was doing stand-up or sketch comedy, I was a frustrated writer with several terrible novels in my drawer, but with a hunger to be seen and heard. Getting up on stage and letting it rip was instant publication: immediate feedback. It taught me to think on my feet. It taught me discipline; you had to come up with new jokes all the time. Comedy demands keen powers of observation. It you’re not paying attention, taking notes about what you see, hear, feel, then take the second step and ask yourself, why is this funny, how can you come up with material? But the first step is always to observe. Which is also a crucial skill for a novelist.