Interview with Alex Richards, Author of Accidental

I am a young adult novelist–ACCIDENTAL (Bloomsbury 2020), and Back Talk (Flux 2007)–and regular contributor to Momtastic and Real Simple.

In addition to writing, you could also call me a dabbler. I’ve dabbled in photography, film, theater, television, and my husband and I have been known to make no-budget horror flicks in our spare time. I love movies, cooking, decoupage, yoga, good bands, ice cream cake, and almost anything cheesy (from pizza to Pretty in Pink).

I grew up in Santa Fe, NM but relocated to New York for college and subsequently, life. I live in Brooklyn with my husband, 2 cats, and our 2 fantastically remarkable kids. We love exploring the nooks and crannies of this great city, dancing in the dark, and huggling.

Alex Richards
This timely, emotionally-resonant story about a teen girl dealing with the aftermath of a tragic shooting is a must-read from an exciting new YA talent
Johanna has had more than enough trauma in her life. She lost her mom in a car accident, and her father went AWOL when Johanna was just a baby. At sixteen, life is steady, boring . . . maybe even stifling, since she's being raised by her grandparents who never talk about their daughter, her mother Mandy.
Then he comes back: Robert Newsome, Johanna's father, bringing memories and pictures of Mandy. But that's not all he shares. A tragic car accident didn't kill Mandy--it was Johanna, who at two years old, accidentally shot her own mother with an unsecured gun.
Now Johanna has to sort through it all--the return of her absentee father, her grandparents' lies, her part in her mother's death. But no one, neither her loyal best friends nor her sweet new boyfriend, can help her forgive them. Most of all, can she ever find a way to forgive herself?
In a searing, ultimately uplifting story, debut author Alex Richards tackles a different side of the important issue that has galvanized teens across our country.

Hi, Alex! What inspired you to start writing?

Hi YA Sh3lf! Reading great novels (even bad ones) has always inspired me to write. For this book, specifically, I was definitely inspired by the news. One heartbreaking headline after another, snippets of information about innocent kids whose lives have been changed forever.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Since I was a little kid, I’ve been obsessed with writing. I tore through The Babysitters Club books, and started writing a lot of Saved By The Bell fan-fiction in junior high (should I not admit that?!). Both of my parents are writers, and I think writing always felt like a natural path for me. I am lucky to have grown up in a supportive artistic household (with built-in editors to read over my work and offer advice!). 

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

Story and prose. You can’t (or shouldn’t) have one without the other. I have read books with completely gripping stories, but the writing-style was such trash I had to put the book down, or vice versa. I am also a sucker for good dialogue–it can really make the characters jump off the page. 


What can you tell us about Accidental?

ACCIDENTAL follows a 16-year-old girl who learns a horrible secret from her past. She’s been raised by her maternal grandparents, thinking her mom died in a car accident, but when her birth father unexpectedly shows up in her life, he blurts out the truth: that she accidentally shot and killed her mother with an unsecured gun when she was 2 ½. The novel not only tackles the issue of gun violence, but also explores the world of family secrets, betrayal, and forgiveness.

What is the significance of the title?

ACCIDENTAL was originally just a placeholder! I had no idea it was going to be the final title of the book! I didn’t want to keep writing UNTITLED on my documents, so I used a word that seemed the most fitting: the fact that what happens to the protagonist is an accident. Although I came up with a dozen alternate title ideas, my editor and I ultimately agreed that ACCIDENTAL packed a punch and got the message across.

If you had to describe Johanna in three words, what would those three words be?

Loyal. Artistic. Determined. (That was a tough question!)

What do you hope your readers take away from this book?

I hope Johanna’s story — and the impact lax gun storage can have on kids — will resonate with readers. If anyone reads this book who has been in a situation similar to Johanna’s, I hope it might help them find closer.

Do you write listening to music? If so, what music inspired or accompanied this current book?

Ahh, I absolutely love listening to music (in life, and in writing). My personal taste is quite eclectic, but I am one of those people who gets distracted really easily, so I can’t listen to music with words while writing. Honestly, my #1 listen on Spotify is “Rain Sounds” hah! But I also love electronic, and have racked up a lot of hours listening to DJs like Shlohmo and Gold Panda whilie working on this manuscript. 

What was the highlight of writing Accidental?

This was a difficult book to write, but I liked finding a balance between darkness and light. It was important to me to really dig into the guilt of what Johanna did and help her come to terms with it, but I also really enjoyed peppering in lighter angles — her supportive best friends, and a swoony new love interest. Overall, I’d say creating and getting to know each individual character was a highlight.

If you could choose three successful authors to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why?

That’s almost too hard to answer! Okay. One of my all-time favorite authors is Chuck Palahniuk. I absolutely love his humor and darkness. Honestly, I can picture him being really provocative at a dinner party — which sounds stressful! — but I’d also like to ask him all about his dark and twisty brain. I’d also invite Jeff Zentner. I Iove his writing and he seems hilarious. I think he’d be a nice balance with Chuck, and could throw in some jokes if things with Chuck got too dark. And then, to keep it interesting, I would invite Danielle Steele. I know that’s probably not what you were expecting, but she and my mother used to be in business together, and Ms. Steele has led a fascinating life — she’s written nearly 150 novels and has 9 kids, I mean, wow! I think she’d have us all in the palm of her hand by the end of the salad course.


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