Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It's the Final Countdown to GATED's Release!

Before I go into this post we all have to get into a celebratory mood. So whip out your concert lighters and acid washed jeans, people, because whenever I say the words "final countdown" I immediately think of the eighties and these guys (you can thank me for this little bit of big haired magic later):

Properly rocked out...or creeped out? Both are sort of appropriate because I'm on the blog today to talk about my contemporary thriller, GATED, and to mark the final two week countdown to the book's release. It doesn't even seem possible that it's almost here. But since it is, I figured maybe this might be a good time to help you get to know my book before it's out in the world. So, here are fourteen facts about GATED (and me) that you might not already know:

1. In the first draft, Lyla is much more attracted to Will than she is in the final draft and they share a somewhat smexy make out session just outside the Silo their community's underground apocalyptic shelter. This scene got cut very early on.

2. The horse that my MC rides everyday was inspired by a real horse, but I changed it's name from Pockets to Indy. The horse really does have a loose bottom lip that flaps around when it walks. It is ridiculously cute.

3. In the first draft of GATED Pioneer met Lyla at a public meeting he was speaking at in an old, defunct movie theater.

4. I wrote the entire book in longhand first.

5. I listened to Linkin' Park's "Waiting for the End to Come" while writing over and over and over again.

6. GATED took me seven months to revise and write. It's sequel...took me almost a year.

7. Lyla's comment about having the hots for Kyle Reese from The Terminator is the one direct similarity we share. I had a huge crush on Michael Biehn after that movie came out. HUGE.

8. The painting "Christina's World" by Andrew Wyeth was a huge inspiration for me while I wrote.

9. GATED was fueled by Coke Zero and Nutella. My body is still trying to shake off the consequences of this.

10. When I first began writing, I pictured the actor Hugh Laurie as Pioneer.

11. While writing this book I convinced Libba Bray (at a book signing) to loan me some of her juju so that maybe I'd end up with an agent/book offer like she did when she was my age. Her juju WORKS. I am the proof:-)

12. I avoided all fictional cult books while writing this book so I could try to avoid too many similarities between other authors' work and my own.

13. GATED was originally called THE SILO.

14. My husband still hasn't read this book. He's waiting for the hardcover copy.

If  this little teaser has made you want to read the book you can go here to get the lowdown:

Now all that's left to do is wait for August 6th!

Monday, July 22, 2013


As the resident Brit Middle Grade Lucky, Independence day is a particularly poignant holiday for me, with its raison d’etre being…well, not unlike mine when I moved to the States. Cut loose from the old country, celebrate a new start. So around July 4th, when I realized that the ball for this month’s Meanwhile, Middle Grade post was in my court (not that the imagery there was affected by Wimbledon finals or anything), I thought, Now wouldn't Freedom and Independence be an apt subject? 

So I emailed this question to the other MG Luckies: In what ways do our main characters break free from a difficult situation, or find independence? Or....maybe some don't. 

Here are our answers.

Tara Sullivan, GOLDEN BOY (Putnam Juvenile)

These are great questions for Habo! Because of his albinism, Habo experiences many difficult situations: rejection, an inability to do "real" work in the sun, and having to run from those who want to kill him. By the end of Golden Boy, not only does Habo find friendship, independence in a new skill, and safety, but most importantly, he learns his true worth: not as a commodity, but as a person.

Elisabeth Dahl, GENIE WISHES (Amulet)

In Genie Wishes, fifth-grade class blogger Genie Haddock Kunkle must decide which aspects of growing up she's ready to embrace (like shaving her legs and wearing deodorant) and which (like wearing makeup and having crushes) don't yet feel right for her. Genie quietly believes in—and later comes to advocate for, through her blog—having the freedom to grow up at a pace that feels right for you. More broadly, the book's about the pursuit of homemade Halloween costumes, Japanese hamster erasers, and other varieties of happiness.
Polly Holyoke, THE NEPTUNE PROJECT (Disney-Hyperion)

Nere Hanson, the heroine of my undersea adventure story The Neptune Project, and her companions find a remarkable degree of independence after their Neptune transformation. For the greater part of the book they have to make decisions and fight to survive in the sea without any help from grown ups. They also are escaping from the repression of a totalitarian government back on land. I think many middle grade readers love stories where kids take charge and learn to survive on their own.

Shy Nere, who was discounted both by her family and classmates, becomes the leader of her group during their long journey north to a new colony. Along the way, Nere comes to realize she is both brave and capable, something more girls need to learn about themselves.

Peggy Eddleman: SKY JUMPERS (Coming 9/24/13, Random House Children's Books)

My book takes place 40 years after green bombs wiped out nearly everything in the world, leaving the few remaining people to gather themselves into towns. To regain some of what they lost, Hope’s town focuses on inventing. Its importance is seen everywhere— in their school classes, at their festivals, in how they judge a person’s worth. So to Hope, the person in town who’s worst at inventing, it’s makes her feel incapable and powerless. When her town gets attacked, Hope realizes that she’s been using her biggest weakness to make a difference, just because that’s what was important to everyone else. But she figures out that she’s got some pretty powerful strengths, too, and maybe it was time she started using them. Not only could relying on her strengths free her, but it just might free her town, too. 

Nancy J. Cavanaugh, THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

My character Ratchet finds her independence by learning to appreciate who she is. She changes by accepting herself instead of wishing things were different. This empowers her to become who she is really supposed to be. Ratchet's life lesson is one that even some adults are never able to embrace. 


A. B. Westrick, BROTHERHOOD (Viking, coming 9/12/13) 

In Brotherhood, the main character, Shad, has pledged allegiance to the Ku Klux Klan. And once a brother, always a brother. Though questions his circumstances, and attempts to find his moral compass, and takes action to try to help a friend whom the Klan has threatened, will he manage to break free? By the end, he's not as ignorant as he once was. There's a glimmer of hope. But actual independence...that might be another matter.

Ari Goelman, THE PATH OF NAMES (Arthur A. Levine)

Dahlia, the main character in The Path of Names, is fiercely independent from the very beginning.  She's challenged both by the mystifying circumstances in which she finds herself (seeing ghosts, possible spiritual possession, a creepy caretaker) and by the mundane circumstances of summer camp (mean girls, cold showers, a creepy caretaker). She overcomes these circumstances by being true to her essential curiosity despite the peer pressure and out-and-out threats she encounters.

Barbara Brauner and James Iver Mattson. OH MY GODMOTHER: THE GLITTER TRAP (Disney-Hyperion)

Although the situations in Oh My Godmother: The Glitter Trap are very light hearted, Lacey, our main character, is actually battling karma: because she prevented another girl’s dream from coming true by injuring her fairy godmother, none of her own dreams are going to come true, ever. At first Lacey thinks there’s nothing she can do about it. (Karma sucks, after all.) But she finally realizes that she can fix her own life if she can fix the other girl’s life by stepping in as her fairy godmother. Lacey’s stint as an amateur godmother gives her confidence in herself; she realizes she has the freedom to make her own rules and choose her own destiny. And she would tell you that if your karma sucks, don’t just sit there –  do something about it! 
Jennifer Ann Mann, SUNNY SWEET IS SO NOT SORRY (Bloomsbury, coming 10/2/13)

One morning Masha (my main character) wakes up with plastic flowers glued into her hair by her little sister, Sunny. To make matters worse, Sunny isn't even sorry for doing it! Masha believes that if only Sunny were sorry for what she did, Masha would be able to forgive her and move on. What can a day with plastic flowers glued into your hair teach you? Friends are found in unlikely places. Sometimes the people closest to you are the ones you understand the least. There are plenty of things worse than having plastic flowers glued into your hair. A little more understanding and a lot less anger finally free Masha to discover that she can forgive Sunny independent of Sunny actually being sorry.

Kit Grindstaff, THE FLAME IN THE MIST (Delacorte Press/Random House)

Early in The Flame in the Mist, my main character Jemma discovers she was abducted as a baby by the Agromond family, the cruel rulers of Anglavia. She has to escape to prevent them from stealing her powers—her very identity. But as soon as she wins her personal freedom, she discovers she has a prophesied destiny to liberate the whole country from the Agromonds’ tyranny and the oppressive Mist they create. Only by stepping into her true identity as the Fire One, the bringer of Light, can she defeat the darkness of her own past as well as her country’s, and live the life of freedom she’s always dreamed.

Luckily, Jemma has some staunch liberty-loving allies in the form of two rats, as well as human and otherworldly freedom fighters...

 Kit Grindstaff was born near London and grew up in the rolling countryside of England, which bears a strange resemblance to the setting of The Flame in the Mist. After a brief brush with pop stardom, Kit moved to New York City and embarked on her successful career as a song writer. She now lives with her husband in the rolling countryside of Pennsylvania. 

You can talk to her on Facebook or Twitter, and find her bookas well as the others listed hereat Amazon, or Indiebound.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cover Scoop: CANARY

Of all the things a debut author can be nervous about during the path to publication, I have to say that my cover was one of the biggest for me.  I thought about it all the time.  Would I love it?  Would I hate it?  Would it make sense to my book?  I was so worried about it that when I finally got the e-mail from my editor with the cover, it took me almost two hours to open!

But luckily, I LOVED it.  Although, it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. 

Here's my cover story...

About six months before I saw my cover, I received a document full of questions that would help the art department with the creation of my cover:

CHARACTERS: Please give a description (hair color, eye color, height, age, sex, and race) of your two main characters. If your characters are not human, please be as descriptive as possible. Feel free to attach images for reference.

NAME: Kate Franklin
SEX: Female
AGE: 15
HAIR COLOR:  Brown hair (long enough to pull into a ponytail)
RACE: White
ATTITUDE: She’s going through some tough times for a lot of the story…she misses her mom and feels alone during most of the story because her Dad can’t/won’t connect with her and her brother has enlisted into the Army (which scares her).  She wants to find a connection to people, but has a hard time doing that because she doesn’t want to compromise herself. 
SIMILAR TO: Ellen Page, Willa Holland, Molly Ephraim, Ashley Rickards
CLOTHING: Current with the trends, but not too trendy…jeans (maybe skinny jeans), ballet flats.  She also wears a navy blue uniform skirt with white blouse.
OUTSTANDING FEATURES: She’s pretty average looking; I don’t think she has a feature that stands out.  She’s pretty, but not beautiful.

NAME: Jack Blane
SEX: Male
AGE: 16
WEIGHT: Tall and thin
EYE COLOR: Blue/Green
RACE: White
ATTITUDE: A bit cocky because he’s a star athlete and feels he gets privileges, but he’s also a good guy…he respects Kate and her father (the coach)
SIMILAR TO: Chord Overstreet, Chad Michael Murray
CLOTHING: I picture him in typical preppy type clothes (Hollister, American Eagle), I reference him wearing jeans with Converse sneakers, hoodies.  At school he would wear navy blue or khaki dress pants, white dress shirt and tie as part of his uniform.  His basketball uniform is maroon and canary yellow.
OUTSTANDING FEATURES: His eyes…they are a greenish-blue…kind of like looking at earth from space

*Swimming pool at night (Kate swims laps in the dark, her mom also swam at night when she got sick)
*Basketball court (the main character does not play, her dad coaches and she watches her boyfriend play)
*Beacon Prep School (old brick school)

*Maroon and canary yellow (the basketball team’s colors)
*Kate wears a navy blue uniform skirt if at school

*The main character fights off a sex assault by a player on the basketball team and wants to speak up about it, but her dad silences her (he’s the coach of the time), she must decide whether to say something or not.
*The main character has lost her mom and feels like her dad has shut himself down and won’t talk to her and her brother.  She feels like she’s alone with no one to talk to.
*The main character is pulled into the world of privilege and perks given to the basketball players at her school.  The players are basically treated like gods and can do no wrong (they get away with everything).

*Swimming pool at night (Kate swims laps in the dark, her mom also swam at night when she got sick)
*Basketball court (the main character does not play, her dad coaches and she watches her boyfriend play)

When I envision the cover I see either a silhouette of Kate swimming in a swimming pool at night (perhaps from above, so the whole cover is the pool and her silhouette is on the bottom) or Kate floating on her back in a pool at night maybe with her hair spread out around her.  Again, I see the whole cover the pool and a small part the main character of Kate.  I think this would evoke the idea of solitude or feeling alone, especially at night.

The other image that comes to mind is an empty basketball court and either Kate sitting alone in her school uniform on the edge of a bleacher or lying on the floor of the court (again, the whole court is most of the cover).  This would also evoke that idea/mode of being alone or solitude.  She doesn’t play basketball, but she’s surrounded by it.

Something similar to the cover for Carrie Arcos' Out of Reach...

After submitting all of this information to my art department, this is the cover that they came up with:

Not exactly like the cover that I suggest, huh!?!

If you look at my cover compared to the information I gave my art department, you would probably think it’s way off from what I was suggesting.  But the thing is, I think they got it before I did.  Throughout my comments, I kept referencing words like “solitude,” “alone,” and “scared.”  That’s exactly what the cover expresses.  I also love how the colors are those of the school and that the canary is in a basketball court.  The background looks like a school lunch bag and the vivid blue of the tear suggests hope.  I couldn’t have asked for a better cover, and I love the way the artist translated the emotions from the book.  

What do you think?  Would you pick it up off the shelf?  Click here to read more about Canary on my website.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Vigilante Nights is my YA debut novel with romance, suspense, and a little supernatural all thrown into a contemporary setting. I’m excited it’s finally and officially out into the world!

Book Description

His beloved twin dead, his future destroyed, Lucas forms a vigilante posse to take revenge on the gang members responsible. Can his new love, and his sister’s voice from beyond death, stop Lucas from self-destruction? 

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 that can be accounted for by mere chance.

You can find Vigilante Nights wherever books are sold in hardcover and eBook
 or at these online retailers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Powell's | The Book Depository

What Readers & Critics are Saying About Vigilante Nights

 “Richards’ keeps the paranormal aspect of the story subtle, adding to its mystery and tension.” ~Publisher’s Weekly
“I was pleasantly surprised to find that I couldn't put it down. This turned out to be, essentially, a nicely paced thriller with some lightweight supernatural elements.” ~Nathan Barker, Kayleighbug Books (Goodreads Review)
Vigilante Nights is brilliant for a Young Adult book. It faces the pressure and craziness of teenagers in horrible areas. It's a mystery book with twist and turns at every path.” Alice/KittiKat Reviews 
Vigilante Nights was, without a doubt, something unlike anything I’d ever read before. Filled with plot-twists and unexpected outcomes, I really enjoyed reading this story from beginning to end.” Jill MacKenzie, Whatcha Reading Now
Erin has published two adult romance novels: CHASING SHADOWS, a paranormal romantic suspense (EPPIE award finalist and Night Owl Romance 5-Star Top Pick) and WICKED PARADISE, a fantasy romance. Erin finally realizes her lifelong dream of publishing a young adult novel with the debut of VIGILANTE NIGHTS.
Erin Richards lives in Northern California. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, photography, and American muscle cars. 
Connect with Erin at:
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