Erin Young
February 13, 2024


Erin Young

THE FIELDS was Erin’s debut crime thriller, featuring Sergeant Riley Fisher of Black Hawk County, in the first of a planned series. THE FIELDS has been published in North America and Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Taiwan. On publication in 2022, THE FIELDS was a Glamour book of the year, a Times thriller of the month, an Amazon USA pick of the month, and was shortlisted for hardcover of the year at the ITW thriller awards. Erin was named in Oprah Daily as one of the best emerging female thriller writers of the year. THE FIELDS is in development for TV by the producers of Big Little Lies and City on a Hill.

Erin lives and writes in Brighton, England. She also writes historical fiction as Robyn Young.

Q Your 2022 debut, THE FIELDS is a riveting crime fiction novel that takes the reader into the heartland of America. Why did you choose an Iowa cornfield as your central setting, and how does it shape the narrative?

Erin: I had the idea for THE FIELDS while reading a disturbing article on the dangers of Big Agriculture and some of the more unsettling effects of over-farming, back in 2017.  I needed a location with a lot of corn to make it work and, after some research, I settled on Iowa – corn capital of the world.

Before writing this novel, I knew next to nothing about Iowa, and so, before I started writing, I went out there.  Travelling around the state – speaking to farmers at the state fair and having chance meetings with local officials – was invaluable.  A lot of the life and color I experienced there informed the narrative.

I found the juxtaposition between a more old-world, rural America, much of which has been affected in one way or another by Big Ag, and an ultramodern one – where farmers use drones to check on crops – fascinating, and worked to play on those contrasts, as well as using them to increase the tension, with corruption, state politics, eco-terrorism and global conspiracies all playing a role in the plot.

I also found the location incredibly atmospheric – the small settlements hemmed in by cornfields, the heavy summer heat, the whine of the bugs, the abandoned factories on the edges of once prosperous towns, and the general feeling of claustrophobia.  I think, in some ways, the landscape of Iowa became as much of a character in the novel as the people who populate it.


Q The character of Riley Fisher has to navigate her professional life while dealing with her personal struggles. How did you approach creating this balance within her character, and what inspired her creation?

Erin: When THE FIELDS opens, Riley has just been promoted as the first female sergeant and head of investigations in the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office. Her grandfather, now suffering with dementia and in an old folks’ home, was the former sheriff, and there’s a general sense among some of her (mostly male) colleagues that she only got the job because of him. She feels she has a lot to prove. 

Despite the fact she’s not married and doesn’t have kids, she’s ended up as the main carer for her family, having to navigate problems with her troubled brother and wayward niece, while trying to succeed in her new role. 

When she’s called to the body of a young woman, found murdered in a cornfield, and discovers the victim is an old friend of hers – Riley’s past, darkened by trauma, is brought crashing into the present and threatens to destroy the delicate balance she’s struggling to maintain between her home life and her career.

Riley was one of those characters who just grew naturally out of my initial idea – a young Midwest woman from a respectable family, who, behind closed doors, is falling apart.  A woman who feels increasingly like she doesn’t recognise the town she was born in – that there’s a new darkness creeping in around the edges of what was once familiar.


Q Given that THE FIELDS is your debut novel, how was the journey from conceptualization to publication? What challenges did you encounter during this process?

Erin: THE FIELDS was my debut thriller, but before this I’d been writing historical fiction for years, so I’m used to the crazy world of publishing! Unlike my actual debut, which took seven years from concept to publication, and went through many rounds of rejections, this one wasn’t too fraught.

My UK publisher gave the novel the greenlight early on, allowing me to make the journey to Iowa to do the research. The following year, just as Covid struck, I did a deal with Flatiron to publish in America.

The biggest difference was the pandemic. In some ways, because we were all used to doing video conferencing by the time I got the deal, I think I had a lot more contact with my US publishers than I would have done otherwise. I think this really helped. Less helpful was the fact that THE FIELDS came out during a particularly bad moment in the pandemic, when it was hitting the UK and US hard.

One other main difference, was that THE FIELDS was optioned for TV very early on in its conception, so I’ve had the (occasionally distracting!) excitement of that bubbling away in the background while I write. It’s been amazing to see it start to take shape in another medium. A real privilege. My fingers are crossed for its future.


Q Your upcoming sequel to THE FIELDS is ORIGINAL SINS, a complex narrative with interwoven storylines and a deep exploration of character psychology. How did you approach developing this layered narrative, especially when connecting Riley Fisher’s investigation with the Sin Eater’s serial attacks?

Erin: ORIGINAL SINS deals with a cold case serial attacker, who has returned to terrorize Des Moines, and a current threat against the state’s female governor. Riley Fisher is in the city on her first assignment as a rookie agent in the FBI. She’s left the comfort of her old job in the sheriff’s office – just as she was finding her feet – and the familiarity of her hometown.

Des Moines, caught in the depths of a brutal winter, is a harsh place to be. Riley’s been teamed with a male agent, who seems keen to keep her off the case, and her old family dramas threaten to unsettle her attempts at a new start.

It’s an intricate plot and I spent a lot of time doing behind the scenes work – most of which the reader never sees – to create the backstories of characters and the past and present investigations around the Sin Eater that soon crash together.

I used plot cards – writing key scenes, dates, characters and plot points on cards that I could then mix around, like a jigsaw, to see where the main points of tension, suspense and revelation might be. I do like to wrong-foot the reader, and recreate all the inevitable twists, false-leads and wrong-turns police in real life must experience when working on complex cases.

I felt it was important to follow several characters through the narrative alongside Riley – both villains and victims. I wanted to show the descent into darkness, as well as the repercussions of these sorts of crimes on the people affected. Riley, with her own trauma, is uniquely placed to be able to empathize with the victims, to feel their pain as her own. This leads her to make (sometimes questionable) choices in her hunt for the perpetrator, which, of course, will have repercussions in her new job.


Erin Young's Latest

Original Sins

Original Sins


It’s a brutal winter in Des Moines, Iowa, and the city is gripped by fear. A serial attacker known as the Sin Eater is stalking women and has just struck again. It’s a tough time and a tough place for Riley Fisher, a former small-town sergeant, to be reporting for duty as an FBI agent on her first assignment.

Teamed with a man she’s not sure she can trust and struggling to prove herself―while fighting the pull of her old life and family dramas―Riley is tasked with investigating a vicious death threat against the newly elected female state governor. Gradually, she traces a disturbing connection between this case and the hunt for the Sin Eater. Through snow, ice, violence and lies, Riley Fisher is drawn towards a terrifying revelation.

Erin Young follows up her acclaimed crime debut, The Fields, which has drawn comparisons with Mare of EasttownSilence of the Lambs, and True Detective, with another stunning thriller full of dark menace, surprise and suspense.

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