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Nearly three decades ago, Lloyd Devereux Richards found himself inspired by the Midwest’s dense, haunting forests. Go 60 miles south of Indianapolis, he says, and you’ll find rich woodlands and deep ravines that flow with the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers down into Kentucky and Tennessee.
Within these woodlands, these ravines, there are mysteries. Disappearances. Murders.
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Richards, who’s originally from New York City, ended up moving to Vermont, but that stretch of land stuck with him. With it and his “very strong, artistic, intelligent” grandmother in mind, he began drafting his first book, Stone Maidens.
Writing Stone Maidens took 14 years. After that was the long slog of struggling to find an agent. Richards says he was rejected by around 80 before one agreed to take Stone Maidens around to publishers. Thomas & Mercer liked it, signed it, and put it on shelves in 2012.
And there it sat, with not many sales.
That didn’t bother Richards. “I just felt so pleased that I was able to publish a book,” he says.
But his daughter, Marguerite Richards, wanted more for him.
@stonemaidens It’s a beautifully written thriller on Amazon ❤️ #stonemaidens #booktok #authorsoftiktok #thrillerbooks #books ♬ original sound – e
“I knew my dad had written a beautiful book, and then, as the years went on, his sales…” she says. “I think last year, he sold one or two books or something.”
She wanted more people to read Lloyd’s work–especially because he was already working on Stone Maidens‘ sequel, Maidens of the Cave. So, in February of this year, she made a TikTok account called “stonemaidens” and posted one 16-second video about Lloyd and Stone Maidens.
BookTok found that video, and within a week, the stonemaidens account had more than 100,000 followers. Even more importantly, the fervor it generated pushed Stone Maidens to the No. 1 bestseller spot on Amazon–and kept it there for four weeks.
Now, Maidens of the Cave is here, and we sat down with Lloyd and Marguerite to hear their story.
Check out our chat with them below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: I would love to hear a little bit about your background, Lloyd, and how you started writing, and then I would love to hear about, Marguerite, your decision to get on TikTok in the first place.
Lloyd Devereux Richards: Well, I’m Lloyd Devereux Richards. I went to school in various places. My parents died when I was young, and my grandmother took custody of me. I went to school in South Carolina, then, eventually, I landed in Indiana, where I went to law school. I’m accelerating this a little because while I lived in Indiana, there were some unsolved crimes. Indiana hardwood forests in the southern part of the state are very much, if you drove on I-70 across the country, you’d never know it because it’s all flat. If you go 60 miles south of Indianapolis, you run into the forested hill country and ravines that run into Kentucky and Tennessee and Missouri, and Ohio. It’s just this huge, incredible hardwood forest. The major rivers flow through, the Ohio River and the Mississippi, of course. Anyway, in this location, there were these unsolved crimes, which gave me the idea for my first book, Stone Maidens, which didn’t hatch until 10 years later. It worked in my mind as I moved here to Vermont to take a job as a lawyer. I started that book after I lived in Vermont for about 10 years.
Marguerite Richards: TikTok was me, because my dad didn’t know anything about TikTok, and he’s never been on there, and he still doesn’t have an account, actually. I knew my dad had written a beautiful book, and then, as the years went on, his sales…I think last year, he sold one or two books or something. In that time, he still kept writing, and he wrote the sequel, which is coming out August 1.
What touched me was that he stayed so positive in all that time, and he wrote a sequel to a book that wasn’t really selling, and it just gave me an idea of like, I know how incredible TikTok can be, and I just thought maybe I’d put out a video and a few people would see it and buy his book and get to appreciate what a good writer he is. I just made that little video, obviously, having no idea what was going to happen, but I would have been happy if a few people read his book. That was what I had in my head.
Tubefilter: Then, clearly, it went much better than that.
Marguerite Richards: Yes, it was just unbelievable what happened. It went so viral, and to this day, I think my dad’s just so–I don’t know, just so lovable. I think people are actually, like at first, they hadn’t read, the book and now that they’ve actually read the book, it’s all come together. It’s really amazing what’s happened.
Tubefilter: What’s your background? What were–or are–you doing career-wise?
Marguerite Richards: I was a teacher and I like taking pictures and making movies, but I’m definitely not a TikToker. There wasn’t really a background in this, really.
Tubefilter: Then once that video took off, did the two of you have a discussion about, “Yes, we’re going to keep doing this”? Because having your first video go viral like that, I feel like, is a little intimidating and surprising. How did the two of you decide to continue posting?
Marguerite Richards: I created an account for his book, for Stone Maidens. I was thinking over time, I know with TikTok I think you have to have 1,000 followers to have a link [in your bio], and I was thinking, maybe over time, one day, we’d have a link. Honestly, I didn’t have a whole game plan. I just wanted to make one video. That was as far as I had gotten, but he had about 100,000 followers within three days, I think. Two or three days. And now he’s at over 400,000 followers.
What happened, like I said, my thinking didn’t get much past that first video, but then it got so viral so fast, and pushed his book to the number one spot on Amazon, that I was reading the comments, and everyone’s like, “Well, we want to see his reaction,” and I hadn’t told him yet. I was like, “Great, I’ll get his reaction live.” Then everyone just kept asking questions, wanting to know more, and I was like, “Okay, well, I’ll make this video, this video.” Then it evolved now, but it was never a premeditated thing.
It was just people loving him, and wanting to see more of him, and now it’s just something we enjoy doing together. He just turned 75, he’s retired, and it’s like this whole new world we’re in and it’s really fun to do together.
Lloyd Devereux Richards: That’s true.
Tubefilter: That’s very cool. You guys being able to bond over it is fantastic.
Lloyd Devereux Richards: It certainly opened the door as an author, for me, having that huge response from TikTok, that has changed, obviously, the dynamic of my writing career, because there’s a lot of interest in my writing a third book, which I’m in the process of doing. I think that’s wonderful. It’s just incredible. My daughter did this for me, so, I’m just very grateful.
Tubefilter: I know social media can get a bad rap, but it’s amazing what it can do. There’s a lot of power and a lot of positivity there.
Lloyd Devereux Richards: The comments, I think were extraordinary, and so many. Marguerite just pointed out how many people have ended up buying the book and responding to us directly, and it gave me a really good feel for the country, the people and the country, the young people that like to read. It’s just such a positive force.
Marguerite Richards: It’s been amazing. It’s so fun, and everyone is so sweet. It’s amazing. We haven’t really had any negativity, which I know can be on the internet as well. It’s such a nice little slice of the internet, we found.
Tubefilter: Yes. The fact that you haven’t had any negativity, it’s amazing to me.
Marguerite Richards: If there has been, I haven’t seen a lot of it. Obviously, that first video, I think has something like 47,000 comments, so I’m sure there’s a few things in there. Honestly, I haven’t really seen anything, and I haven’t read every comment, but no, for the most part, it’s been a really wholesome experience. I think other people, they’re commenting that too. The whole thing just seems wholesome. There is a lot of good out there for sure.
@stonemaidens first print of the Stone Maidens’ sequel! Its real!❤️ #maidensofthecave #stonemaidens #thrillerauthor @HarperCollins @HarperCollinsUK ♬ MMMBop 2.0 – Busted & Hanson
Tubefilter: Yes. It just it can be hard to find sometimes. Clearly, like you said, this whole response has changed your writing career, but the translation from views into sales has been staggering, right?
Lloyd Devereux Richards: Yes. My daughter didn’t mention, but we’ve received foreign publications that are really excited in Italy. She’s been corresponding with a person there. They produced a magnificent hardcopy of Stone Maidens in Italy. It’s beautiful. They sent us a copy. It’s incredible. We’ve had also huge response from England and other countries. Brazil is coming out with an edition.
Marguerite Richards: And it’s interesting what you said, because videos go viral all the time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean sales will come of that. That’s why our reaction video was so emotional, because, yes, I made a video of my dad and it went viral and that’s great, but I didn’t even think about the thought that it could go to the number one book on Amazon for four weeks, it was like a really long time too. I don’t know, I can’t explain that part, but that was what was so moving for us. It was like, oh my gosh, that’s way beyond expectations.
Tubefilter: Then when did you start working on the second book?
Lloyd Devereux Richards: Well, that was actually a while ago, before Marguerite–
Marguerite Richards: That’s what inspired me to post it. He finished the sequel last summer.
Lloyd Devereux Richards: Finished it last summer just because I love my character, the lead character, the forensic scientist Christine Prusik. She’s a very dynamic person. I didn’t mention you asked initially about where I grew up. Well, my grandmother was a very strong, artistic, intelligent woman. She believed in spending each day, some part of the day, reading. I would read, and she would read, it was almost a schedule. Christine is a very strong-minded, intelligent, intuitive forensic scientist. I have to say that my belief is that a woman protagonist was definitely important to me because I believe women’s intuition and intelligence is superior.
Tubefilter: And you’re currently working on the third book, right?
Lloyd Devereux Richards: I am.
Marguerite Richards: Which is a miracle. I don’t think that would have happened if this didn’t happen.
Lloyd Devereux Richards: That’s absolutely true. I’m amazed. It gives you such a confident feeling as a person to feel all these comments people from TikTok send to me. It’s very supportive. I can’t tell you how happy I am as a result of this. I don’t mean the financial gains, that’s not it so much at all. It’s just so rewarding to a writer to have that kind of reception.
Tubefilter: Do you have plans for the release of your second book? Are you holding any events?
Lloyd Devereux Richards: There are. We’re doing a variety of podcasts, and there are some other media. I’ve written a couple of essays. I think one will be appearing in Writer’s Digest if it hasn’t already. I don’t know that you’re familiar with, probably you’ve seen it on the news, we live in Montpelier, Vermont, we just experienced a really horrific flood.
Marguerite Richards: Yes, I was going to say, we were going to go to our local bookstore and do a reading, but our whole town flooded.
Lloyd Devereux Richards: Yes, the whole town flooded, and all the merchants are closed. It’s really awful.
Marguerite Richards: It wiped out all the stores, so that’s not going to happen. Of course, that has nothing to do with us, we’re worried about them. That was going to be where we did our little reading, and it’s so sad that that bookstore is not there right now.
Lloyd Devereux Richards: The second book is coming out. HarperCollins is the publisher, William Morrow. They will be getting us interviews, such as yourself, during the fall.
Marguerite Richards: We’re just so excited the book’s published at all.
Lloyd Devereux Richards: Yes, it’s unbelievable. Also the United Kingdom is publishing it.
Tubefilter: Oh wow! It’s fascinating that this has resulted in deals with international rights and international publications.
Lloyd Devereux Richards: That’s right. It is.
Marguerite Richards: I just want to add, he wouldn’t say this: The TikTok I made obviously went really viral, and so a lot of people learned about his book, but this wouldn’t be happening if he didn’t write an incredible book. I believe in my dad. He’s really humble with that stuff, but the book is really good. I think, yes, it went viral, but I think people are like, “Oh, it’s a good book too,” so I think that’s part of what has kept this going and getting international interest and stuff like that because it’s actually a really good book. If it was just a viral video and a so-so book, it could have be one and done.
@stonemaidens Lloyd’s special announcement Link in bio #stonemaidens #maidensofthecave ♬ original sound – sp33dsongsx
Tubefilter: How are you approaching making videos now? Do you have a set schedule where you want to put out a certain number of videos, or do you just film videos when you feel like it?
Marguerite Richards: It’s like when we feel like it, or if something’s happening, or I just get inspired. It’s not a very structured, overthought-out thing, it’s just natural if something pops in my mind that I want to make, or someone asks a question, or someone wants to know something, or it’s just inspired like that, I guess.
Lloyd Devereux Richards: We live very close. Montpelier is a small city, it’s the smallest capital in the United States. She lives probably five minutes away from me.
Marguerite Richards: Yes, I’ll just pop down to his house, or I’ll have him come up, or we’ll go for a walk, or if we’re doing something like going to the farmer’s market or getting an icecream together, I’ll just make a little video about that if I feel it. It’s not something that I have a camera in his face all the time, it’s probably a few times a week we might do something like that.
Tubefilter: Are you doing all the editing yourself?
Marguerite Richards: Yes. I taught myself and it’s something I learned that I like doing. I like making the content. I love making it with my dad, too. That’s what makes it extra special. He’s a good subject.
Tubefilter: I feel a lot of people still don’t realize it really is a creative pursuit.
Marguerite Richards: Oh, absolutely. There’s more that goes into it than people think for even a 10-second video. It’s a very creative process for me, which I didn’t know, and I love that creative process.
Tubefilter: What’s the plan with TikTok moving forward? Are there any plans?
Marguerite Richards: Honestly, everything is just sort of as it’s unfolding. No long-term, like, “This is the goal to be here by this point.” We’re just letting it unfold as it does. If one day it’s not making sense for us to keep doing it, we’ll stop, and if it is, we’ll keep going. Like I said, we both enjoy doing this together, so it’s a day-by-day thing. We have no plans to stop. We love doing it, and we love the BookTok community and interacting with everyone. That’s important to us. We try to respond to comments and messages and support other BookTok authors. I like to go through and look at content and comment. We love being a part of the community, so as of right now, it’s all green lights.
Lloyd Devereux Richards: From a writer’s point of view to me, because I am 75, I had my birthday a couple of days ago.
Tubefilter: Happy birthday!
Lloyd Devereux Richards: Thank you very much. The idea of going around the country to bookstores is physically demanding. One of the benefits of social media is just what my daughter and I can do to reach out to thousands of people so, I see that as a real benefit to all writers.
Tubefilter: And the BookTok community is so passionate.
Marguerite Richards: It’s very passionate.
Tubefilter: There are several large booksellers that have specifically mentioned that BookTok has a dramatic effect on their sales and on authors’ ability to break through. It’s an interesting community.
Marguerite Richards: It really is. I think it’s, in a lot of ways, it’s the king of marketing right now. Instagram to a degree as well, especially with thrillers, actually. Thrillers tend to do better on Instagram, and romance tends to do better on TikTok, except for my dad. That’s why they’re surprised it took off on TikTok, because thrillers aren’t as big on TikTok. What’s cool about TikTok is there’s just this authenticity. If you’re just kind of being yourself, people connect with you and get to know you. People know us as humans too, not just an author. I think that’s just what’s really cool in driving about TikTok. You get to know a human being behind it. If I just put out a book that said Lloyd Devereux Richards, and I said it was a thriller and they didn’t get to know him, I don’t think they would’ve cared as much. I think there’s a human aspect to TikTok that’s really cool. That’s just what I’ve noticed with these authors who are especially able to connect with their readers a lot more. I think it’s really powerful.
Tubefilter: That’s true. I think Instagram still has this feel of curation where everything has to be polished or model perfect.
Marguerite Richards: I agree. That’s exactly how I feel. And it works. Instagram is good at getting your book out there, but not like TikTok. I think TikTok is at the moment the king of getting your book out there. All these small businesses that use TikTok, whatever it is you’re trying to let people know about. I think with that video, the first one that’s gone so viral where my dad was sitting, that’s where he wrote the book. In a sense, I wasn’t thinking that at the time, but it was this behind-the-scenes feel of like, “This person who actually wrote this book for 14 years,” and that made it a little more real than just talking about the book. They might not even know all that, but it just created this little feeling of this author.
@stonemaidens you all have given my dad a new purpose❤️ thank you! #stonemaidens ♬ Let’s goooooooo! – Kid Version
Tubefilter: It could not be any clearer that you are both very passionate about this, and that’s also part of it, I think.
Marguerite Richards: I think so. Probably one of the biggest comments is, “You don’t see a lot of fathers and daughters.” A lot of people don’t have their fathers and they’ve taken comfort in my dad and I love that. He loves it too. That’s really important to both of us too, that even if it’s for 10 seconds in your day, people can just feel like, “Oh, there’s a nice dad out there.” That’s a comfort.
Lloyd Devereux Richards: This is a long time coming. I have to say. My daughter used to point this out. It’s 25 years in the making, because I started writing Stone Maidens while I was working as a lawyer full-time and raising three kids. I had to stick to it at night and on weekends. I was rejected by everybody, trying to get an agent took seven or eight months. I thought it was impossible. It was back before the internet, so you had to send out the print with a SASE envelope inside. It was quite an undertaking financially–and discouraging, all the rejections. It’s very, very tough. Finally one day in the spring, after seven or eight months, I got a phone call. Then from there, it still was a mountain to climb. I was only halfway up the hill, so to speak. Then as my daughters pointed out, after 11 or 12 years of not such great sales–and I wasn’t discouraged by that, I just felt so pleased that I was able to publish a book–she did this TikTok video and like she said, within days it was selling number one on Amazon.com, and that was 12 years after a 14-year process of writing the book. Really a 25-year process. My point being, never give up. You really have to be a determined person and believe in yourself. Enough of a lecture.
Tubefilter: No, that’s not a lecture. No. I think that’s something a lot of people need to hear, I think, especially other writers.
Lloyd Devereux Richards: Persistence.
Tubefilter: Persistence. Yes.
Marguerite Richards: Also not being afraid, because a lot of comments I’ve seen is like, “Oh, I’ve been taking so long to write this book, it’s been five years,” and now they’re seeing someone took 14 years to write a book. They’re like, “Oh, maybe I’m okay.” It’s like encouraging them to go back. Like “Don’t worry about how long it’s taking you.” I love that he’s inspired that too. People are feeling like, “Oh, maybe I’m not so behind after all.”
Every flower blooms at a different time in the garden. I love that people have really, really been inspired by that. I felt behind so many times in my life too. I can absolutely relate with that. This is like a constant reminder for me every time I make a video, and I love that.