by Dani Oden
Publication date: August 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult
College freshman Jill Holloway takes one look at the stuck-up girls going through sorority rush and nearly returns her borrowed dress and heels. Against her best judgment, she ends up falling for the prestige and parties, and snagging a bid from a top house. After moving in, she quickly grows skeptical of her too-perfect sorority sisters. She tries to ask questions, though no one will take time from their busy social calendar to give her any real answers.
Jill wastes no time digging for everything she’s not supposed to find, and soon comes face-to-face with a big and bloody secret hidden in her sorority’s basement. She knows she’s in over her head, but taking off so soon would raise the perfectly-plucked eyebrows of her suspicious new sisters. She’s stuck until she can make a smooth exit.
But the closer she gets to leaving, the more it becomes clear that it won’t be as simple as she hoped. A tempting fraternity guy, a best friend who needs her, and new details about what has really been happening in the basement have her questioning what her next move should be, and whether or not it’ll be worth the risks.
HANDPICKED is a New Adult coming of age, with elements of suspense and romance.
The commotion in the center of the room seemed to grow, and I leaned my head back against the barrel behind us. "How are we going to keep up with these girls?" I asked.
"What?" Lindy leaned toward me, nearly tipping over.
"These girls! They drink hard!" I shouted.
"Yes," she said, and I wondered if she heard me.
"What's happening?" Hannah interjected, staring at the mob of colorful dresses directly in front of us.
Our pledge sisters had stopped dancing and were all crowded together. A handful of actives seemed to be trying to organize the group, and once they managed to get everyone to step back and give space, I could see a girl in a bright turquoise dress lying in a heap on the ground.
"Oh no," Hannah cringed, sensing the emergency.
"Someone hurt?" Lindy said.
Within seconds, actives swooped in and scooped the girl up. Whoever it was, she was completely limp. Her limbs dangled and swayed as they stealthily carried her away through a set of double doors in the back corner of the room.
The music never stopped, and the lights never came on.
"Who's that?" Hannah slurred.
"Was she okay?" I asked, knowing neither of them was actually going to answer.
Lindy scrunched her face in concentration. "Kimmy?"
"Kimmy?" I repeated.
"Her dress," Lindy said, as if it was an explanation.
"Cammie," Hannah mumbled, tilting her head against her barrel and closing her eyes. "Cammie ruined her dress."
"The Idaho girl from our lunch table?" I asked. She'd been with us in the limo, too.
Neither of them responded.
"Where'd they go?" Lindy wondered, staring at the closed set of double doors. The party had started up again, and girls were back on the dance floor, standing and swaying on the same spot where she'd just fallen.
"Away," Hannah mumbled.
I wanted to get up to inspect, but I didn’t trust my jello-y legs to navigate through the pulsing crowd. "I think something's wrong, you guys," I said.
Where did your interest in writing come from?
My interest in writing goes wayyyy back. I have memories of dictating stories to my mom and then illustrating the pages she wrote with stick figures. I was around four or five at the time. When I got older, my dad had a home office so I’d go in at the end of his work day and use his typewriter to type up my stories. It was only a matter of time before it turned into something bigger!
How did you come up with the setting and plot for HANDPICKED?
HANDPICKED takes place in a university Greek system, with the majority of the action in a sorority house. I was a member of a sorority when I was in college and for me it was a fantastic experience. But, like everyone else, I’ve heard all the buzz about what people think happens behind their closed doors, so I wanted to explore the rumors, and both confirm and contradict some of the stereotypes.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Oh my gosh! This book was a great exercise in editing. The first draft was over 90,000 words, while the final version is just shy of 65,000.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
Building playlists for the project I’m working on! For HANDPICKED, I listened to a lot of Paramore, Alexz Johnson, Hey Monday and Marianas Trench. I try to find music that evokes the same moods I’m trying to create.
What was the toughest part about this process?
I had a few challenges with plotting HANDPICKED, but it was nothing compared to figuring out what I wanted to do after I finished it. I probably spent just as many hours writing it as I did researching independent publishing, traditional publishing, small presses, agents, etc. Ultimately, I’m happy with the decision I made to independently publish.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Unplug your modem J
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
THANK YOU for reading! And, please don’t be strangers – I can’t wait to hear from you!