Although author Emilie Richards got her start in romance novels, she’s no stranger to suspense and mystery.
“When I started out writing in the romance genre … you could pretty much do what you wanted to do if you could find an editor who could buy it,” she said. “So, I wrote a lot of suspense in my romances.”
The longtime Chautauquan will be celebrating the release of her newest book, A Family of Strangers, with a book signing at 1 p.m. Friday, June 28 at the Author’s Alcove of the Chautauqua Bookstore.
The book follows crime reporter and podcaster Ryan Gracey, who is faced with a dilemma when her older sister goes into hiding after becoming a suspect in a mysterious murder. Gracey moves back to her hometown and tries to clear her sister’s name, uncovering dark family secrets along the way.
Richards said she has been thinking about this story for about 10 years, after reading an article in The Plain Dealer about a seemingly perfect couple that committed a senseless murder.
While A Family of Strangers isn’t based on the case, she was inspired by the idea that “you think you know somebody … you think you have them pegged, but you don’t really know what’s going on inside.”
Richards enjoyed researching her main character’s job as a podcaster and journalist.
“For a whole year I listened to true-crime podcasts,” she said. “It was really fun.”
Richards first visited Chautauqua with her family in the late ’70s.
“We stayed for an afternoon. We didn’t think it was going to be a part of our future,” she said. “Then we started coming again and just fell in love with it.”
Richards and her husband have been visiting consistently since the ’90s and bought a house at the Institution in 2010. She rarely misses a morning or afternoon lecture.
“All the concerts, all the entertainment, sitting on your porch and talking to people about issues or just conversing with whoever you’re walking with as you go from event to event is just wonderful,” she said. “It’s very hard to get stagnant when you’re here. There are just so many ideas.”
Despite this, she doesn’t see herself setting a story at the Institution any time soon.
“Any atmosphere and setting that is really heavy on detail is really hard to write about because everybody’s going to be waiting for you to make a mistake,” Richards said. “Here we are, everybody knows the history and people talk about their neighbors and their mother’s neighbors and their grandmother’s neighbors. … I don’t want to do all that. I just want to love this place.”