Gettin’ Lucky: An Interview with Erin Richards, Author of VIGILANTE NIGHTS

About VIGILANTE NIGHTS (taken from Erin’s website):

A “good boy” will do anything for vengeance when a gang rite kills his twin sister. Will Lucas win, or follow his sister Silver into the darkness?

After a hideous car wreck, Lucas wakes from a coma to find that his world is gutted. Not only is his beloved twin sister, Silver, gone forever, but Lucas is broken in body and spirit. He will never be a college athlete, and is robbed of what he now realizes was the most important bond of his life. Although they weren’t identical twins, Lucas and Silver shared a bond so fierce it defied reason, and was nearly supernatural.

After her death, that bond seems to endure when Lucas sees Silver everywhere he turns. Either he’s crazy, or Silver is trying to tell him something about the California gang initiation they stumbled into that cost Silver her life. Lucas is bent on revenge, turning on Raymond, Silver’s former boyfriend; the one Lucas never wanted her to date. He forms a posse of vigilantes to take out the gangsters responsible for Silver’s death, but he risks not only his own life, but the love of the new girl on his block, who knows more about Lucas and Silver than can be accounted for by mere chance.

This is your first young adult novel, but you have two published adult romances. Why did you decide to write a YA novel? Do you plan to write more YA?

My muse has multiple personalities! When I started writing adult romance novels that’s what I was reading. People say write what you read. But the first book I ever wrote when I was eighteen was for young adults, and I really wanted to go back to writing YA. I gave it a go and wrote my first YA novel from a girl’s POV. I had so much fun writing the novel, I was hooked. The next book I wrote was Vigilante Nights. I don’t plan on giving up on writing adult romance, but I really like writing for teens. There’s something fresh and innocent about teenagers coming of age in any setting, whether contemporary, supernatural or SF&F that appeals to me. It takes me back to my own childhood and the type of books lacking back then.

Can you tell us a bit about your path to publication? How did you get your agent, and then how long did it take before she placed your novel at Merit?

I decided to submit Vigilante Nights to publishers on my own. At that time, I had just heard about Merit Press, the new YA imprint of F+W Media, and I was able to get early submission guidelines from my editor of another F+W Media imprint. When I read the guidelines, I thought Vigilante Nights would be perfect for Merit. I submitted to them (nail biting commenced) and within two months, the acquiring editor, Jackie Mitchard—NY Times bestselling author—emailed to tell me she wanted to talk. A new round of nail biting commenced. I was heading out on vacation and she was traveling so we didn’t connect for a couple of weeks. After a few rounds of emails, I received the offer to publish on August 28. After I picked myself up off the floor, happy dancing ensued!

I still wanted an agent to represent me and negotiate the contract. Right off the bat, I contacted Natalie Lakosil of Bradford Literary. I had connected with her on a couple of other novels and we had informally met that summer standing in line together at an RWA convention book signing, no less! Within ten minutes, she responded to my email, and agreed to read Vigilante Nights. The next day, she offered representation.

Can you tell us about how you got the idea for VIGILANTE NIGHTS?

The novel I wrote at eighteen was originally inspired by S.E. Hinton’s classic novel, The Outsiders, one of my favorite all time novels. Memories of gang activity and street racing from my teen years also played a role in the plotting. My story had stayed with me for years, and I always wanted to update and write it with a fresh outlook and more experience. Vigilante Nights bears only slight resemblance to that long-ago story, but Lucas’s coming of age in a time of tragedy remained constant.

Although it’s listed as contemporary, you have a paranormal element throughout. Was it natural for you to mix those genres?

Yes, it was very natural for me to mix supernatural or magic realism with a contemporary setting. I love all things paranormal whether it’s a lightweight element based on science or psionics or a heavier mythical creature element. My first romance novel, Chasing Shadows, is similar in that it’s a contemporary romantic suspense and the main character has telepathy. I’m currently writing a YA romantic suspense novel and the main character has a deep intuition that’s almost clairvoyant.

The novel begins with a teen’s death during a Mexican gang initiation and continues with tense moments related to the gangs’ criminal activities. Did you have any concerns about handling the racial issues, including slurs used by the characters?

Even though you all know this, it bears repeating: Vigilante Nights is a work of fiction and the views expressed by my characters are not my views. I tried to remain sensitive to this issue while also keeping it real and maintaining the authenticity of the issues, the story, the setting. My main character’s best friend is half-Mexican (who himself uses a racial slur against another Mexican).

It was never my intent to offend anyone, and I tried to keep a filter on my teenage characters. But Vigilante Nights is intense and emotions run high. Most people say things they may regret in the heat of the moment, in anger, fear, grief, and I didn’t want to treat my characters any differently. I can only hope my readers keep an open mind. Vigilante Nights is about loss, friendship, and love, not just vengeance.

As this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid.

As an avid reader since the time I learned to read, this is an easy one! Each of these books represented a step in shaping my fictional taste buds.

1. The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

2. The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton

3. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Erin Richards Photo

Erin Richards
Author Photo by Dawn Schubert Photography

Thanks for stopping by, Erin!

About the author:

Erin Richards lives in Northern California. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, photography, and American muscle cars.

Her YA debut novel, VIGILANTE NIGHTS, releases from Merit Press (F+W Media) on July 18, 2013. In addition to her website and blog, she can be found online on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Cindy L. Rodriguez is a former journalist turned public school teacher and fiction writer. She lives in Connecticut with her young daughter and very old dog. She loves coffee, chocolate, the ocean, and power naps between obligations. Her debut contemporary YA novel, RESURRECTING EMILY, will be published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books USA (Fall 2014).
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