The Hippo


Jun 4, 2020








Erin Bowman presents Retribution Rails

Where: Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord 
When: Sunday, Nov. 19, 2 p.m. 
More info:

Going west
Erin Bowman releases new YA novel

By Angie Sykeny

 Concord-area author Erin Bowman always wanted to write a Western novel. Growing up in Connecticut, she became fascinated with the West after taking a cross-country trip with her family. Clint Eastwood films and books like Little House on the Prairie became her favorites. When it came to writing a Western of her own, however, she never had a story idea big enough to fill out a novel. 

That changed after Bowman’s husband, who has family in Arizona, told her about the legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a rich mine said to be hidden in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona. To this day, people still search for the mine, and some have even died in the pursuit. 
“I had this muse explosion when I heard about it,” Bowman said. “I knew I had to use this legend to inspire my book.” 
In 2015, she published her young adult Western novel Vengeance Road. Set in the 19th-century Wild West, the story follows Kate Thompson, a teenager who sets out to avenge her father’s murder and, in the process, uncovers family secrets and winds up on a hunt for a lost gold mine. 
On Nov. 7, Bowman released a companion novel set 10 years later, Retribution Rails, which she’ll present at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord on Sunday, Nov. 19. It follows teenagers Reece Murphy, who is on a quest for freedom after being forced into an infamous gang because of a mysterious gold coin he acquired, and Charlotte Vaughn, an aspiring female journalist looking to break into the male-dominated industry, who manipulate each other for their own ends after crossing paths in a botched train robbery. 
Bowman said the books use “morally gray characters” to explore themes like family, identity, justice and revenge and philosophical questions like, “Will revenge bring true happiness?” 
“I like writing about characters who make decisions that aren’t the best, but you still root for them,” she said. 
Bowman didn’t set out to write young adult novels but was drawn to the challenge of writing teenage characters. 
“Teens are discovering who they are and what they want to be in the world. It’s an intense time,” she said. “That theme of discovery has always resonated with me, and I find myself coming back to it and exploring that theme.” 
Part of that challenge, she said, was writing about teenagers who live in a world that is very different from the world today. She did a lot of research about the Wild West, reading archived newspapers from that time period and even hiking the Arizona landscape herself. 
“I wanted to hike the places that [the characters] hiked and experience what they experience so I could really get the sensory details,” she said. “It gave me an appreciation for the people who lived out there at that time.” 
Before Vengeance Road and Retribution Rails, Bowman published the Taken trilogy, a series of young adult science fiction dystopian novels. Next summer, she’ll release the first book of her new duology Contagion, which she says is “science fiction-action-thriller-horror.”
“I love to jump between genres,” she said. “I have a lot of fun doing one thing, but then I’ll decide to do something totally different.” 
However, the dystopian science fiction genre and Western genre aren’t as different as one might think, Bowman said. Many fans of the Taken trilogy, particularly fans who claimed to have had no prior interest in the Western genre, gave Bowman positive feedback about the Western duo. 
“People are surprised that they end up really enjoying it,” she said. “I think that’s because, in many ways, the Wild West is a dystopia. It’s a gritty, lawless setting that’s common in many futuristic dystopian books, so if you’re a fan of those, give the Westerns a try, and you might be surprised.”

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