Home News and Features Montpelier Writer Proves You Are Never Too Old for Success

Montpelier Writer Proves You Are Never Too Old for Success

TikTok sensation Lloyd Devereux Richards sits on his couch at home in Montpelier with his newly best-selling book “Stone Maidens.” Courtesy photo.
Grandma Moses started painting at the age of 78. She exhibited her work internationally while in her 90s, and died at 101. So … how old is too old to find success? 

A Montpelier writer has recently received international notice (with the help of his daughter and the internet) at age 74. Relative spring chicken Lloyd Devereux Richards started writing “Stone Maidens” in his 40s, finished it in his late 50s, and got an agent at 60. He finally saw his novel published at the age of 63. He was thrilled to have reached his goal of writing and publishing a novel even if it never did sell very well … until he hit the jackpot at age 74 thanks to his daughter, Marguerite.

As a young girl, Marguerite sat on the attic stairs — sometimes with her brother — as her father wrote in the evenings. She was always impressed by his positivity and persistence. Once the book was published, Marguerite thought it was great, but as time wore on she wished more people would read it. So on Feb. 7, 11 years after “Stone Maidens” was first published, Marguerite made a 16-second video showing her dad at his writing table in front of a big beige desktop computer with on-screen display text briefly telling the story: “My Dad spent 14 years writing a book.” “He worked full time and his kids came first. But (he) made time for the book.” “He’s so happy even though sales aren’t great.” “I’d love for him to get some sales. He doesn’t even know what TikTok is.” 

She also laid down a snippet of a recording of the John Lennon song “Beautiful Boy.” Then she went to bed. What happened next was astounding to many, as millions of people soon shared the TikTok video and invited the father-daughter pair to appear in news media all over the globe. Interest in their story continued as recently as March 11 (and perhaps even onward).

How it all Started

Lloyd went to law school in southern Indiana, where he worked for an appellate judge. During that time in a town surrounded by beautiful hardwood forests, there were a number of murders involving “coeds” — an outdated term for female college students. Lloyd knew one such student who had survived an attack. However, Lloyd said the assailant has not been identified. 

After college, Lloyd moved to Vermont and worked as a lawyer at National Life Group. When he reached his 40s, he decided to try his hand at writing a novel. Fortunately his home is a stone’s throw from what was then Vermont College, which had a Master of Fine Arts in Writing program, where Lloyd became acquainted with Christopher Noel, a professor for the program. Lloyd met with Noel for a couple of years while Noel taught him the basics of writing a novel, such as crafting a back story, dialogue, and pacing. Lloyd first wrote one autobiographical book that he never published in order to learn the craft. Then he set about to write “Stone Maidens” based on those unsolved murders back in Indiana.

“Stone Maidens” started as threads of scenes he would write out while working as a full-time lawyer at National Life. He then worked on it for 14 years in an uninsulated attic. In winter, “I’d wear a hat, gloves, fingerless mittens,” Lloyd said. And in summer, it was “hot as blazes. I’d have fans on me.” But he kept at it before work and in the evenings until he was done with a scene. In order to collect his ideas, Lloyd always wore cargo pants with small writing pads in the pockets to capture scenes, which would suddenly come to him at unexpected moments. “I am somewhat dyslexic in that I can start in the middle, and the middle might wind up being the beginning — in the end,” he said, adding, “the writing process is mysterious. All I can tell you rationally is that I wanted to persevere and write a book that is commercially feasible and how I got there is persistence.”

How did he know when it was done? First of all, he had two stacks of drafts in his attic he calls the “twin towers.” While editing and revising, he would go back to the beginning and re-write the whole book from beginning to end. Then he worked with an editor for the last several years of its creation, who told Lloyd it was finally ready for a line edit. It was around 2008 or 2009 and by then he was in his late 50s. “I did have a lot of energy,” he said.

But How to Get an Agent?

Lloyd had a copy of “Writer’s Market,” which has listings of literary agents and their contact information. Back then, submitting novels to agents was not done electronically, so Devereux printed out his pages, put three or five chapters in a big white envelope with $6.50 in postage along with a self-addressed stamped envelope with $6.50 in postage on it for the manuscript’s return and started mailing it out. “You had to send a return $6.50 postage, or they would throw it in the garbage,” he said. Seven months and over 50 large envelopes went by before finally, one day in spring, Lloyd got a phone call from agent Elisabeth Weed. He said she was very sweet and told him, “I love your book. I want to represent you.” 

It took another year before Weed got a publisher, but Lloyd was thrilled. The publisher was Amazon. “I was a new writer, I was very pleased to get published. It was huge for me just to get published,” he said. But sales after the first nine or 10 months went down and languished ever since. Then he retired from National Life, and 11 more years went by, and during that time he began working on a sequel. He finished the sequel — another murder mystery set in Indiana — last summer. 

Becoming a TikTok Sensation

Marguerite said she was impressed with her father’s hard work and wanted to make a little video to tell people about “Stone Maidens.” She thought if she made a video, she might be able to generate some interest. “I love TikTok. I love consuming it,” she said. So she set up an account called @stonemaidens, and on Feb. 7 she posted the 16-second video of her father in his small writing nook. The next morning she saw the video had 700,000 views and 2,000 followers. But she didn’t want to tell her father at first. She hoped he would somehow find out by seeing a sudden surge in book sales on Amazon the next day, but he didn’t find out. 

Meanwhile, TikTok viewers asked her to record a video of his reaction to the sudden huge following he had received overnight. And by then he had 15 million views and was number 1 on Amazon’s best selling list. So the next day she recorded herself showing Lloyd the first video and all the “likes” and comments. She told him he was now a bestseller. They both cried with joy for their audience to see. 

“TikTok is different from other social media platforms. I had no idea this was going to happen. Nobody in the world could have predicted (what happened). It was very engaging and they fell in love with my Dad. They could see how I see him. It is a powerful way to connect.” 

That night, on Feb. 9, Richards said her stepmom, Cameron O’Connor, invited her to dinner. The three of them feasted on takeout from Sarducci’s and celebrated with their dogs. The food included calamari, grilled salmon, and for dessert, lemon cakes and tiramisu. O’Connor and Lloyd also gave Marguerite flowers — lilies called “Stargazers.” “I felt so special through all of this.”

Making the News

Now, over a month later, Lloyd has 400,000 followers, 50,000 comments, 11,000 likes, and has sold 95,000 books. And somehow the story got out to the mainstream media. “I couldn’t conceive of it. It is a different universe,” he said. But they had to get used to the new universe quickly. The media came calling, and the Richards were able to represent themselves. They’ve even had about a half-dozen inquiries about making the book into either a movie or a television series — but nothing solid, yet.

Media appearances included USA Today, People Magazine, Business Insider, The Washington Post, the Miami Herald, the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald, CBC Canada, the Daily Blast, the Today Show, CNN, Fox News, BBC, National Public Radio, Vermont Public, WCAX-TV, WDEV, the New York Post, the Seacoast Current, the Barre Montpelier Times Argus, The Bridge, Seven Days, The Boston Globe, the News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), the Greek Reporter, The Independent (UK), and more.

The book has also been reviewed by numerous online book reviewers. According to one young TikTok reviewer who calls himself “Booky Link,” “Stone Maidens” is a “viral internet phenomenon.” He describes it as the story of a serial killer who leaves behind spirit stones that were stolen from a museum, and he calls it a gripping psychological thriller that is chilling and entertaining. The main character is a female FBI agent who has to deal with sexual harassment and discrimination, he says. “The writing style is more reminiscent of a movie than a book,” according to Booky Link.

Watch the TikTok video that started it all at tiktok.com/@stonemaidens/video/7197570602176220458