A group of teenagers on a volunteer class trip to the South Pacific crashed on a remote island. Little did they know they’ve become pawns in a magical yet deadly game where their most intimate secrets will be revealed.
To find out what happens next, you have to read the book, said Whitney Horn, slyly.
The 19-year-old’s first published novel, “No Right Answers,” was released earlier this month.
Horn started writing the first draft of the fantasy more than a year ago, when she was a senior at Olathe North High School. It was originally her Distinguished Scholars Program project.
Once she graduated in May 2013, Horn spent hours editing the novel and sent it to numerous publishing companies. Last September, her beloved manuscript was given the green light by Rowe Publishing, based out of Stockton, Kan.
“I screamed and woke up my roommate when I got the message,” the Kansas State University sophomore recalled with a laugh. “And then I ran down the hallway of my dorm to tell my friends and we jumped up and down. It was surreal.”
The accomplishment fulfills her lifelong goal to be a published author. Growing up, she was always writing short stories.
“When I read, I read to escape from real life and fantasy allows me to do that more than any other genre of literature,” said Horn, of Lenexa. “So when I was writing my book, I tried to make a storyline in which people would get lost.”
Fortunately for her, the owner of Rowe Publishing was mesmerized by the first chapter.
“The story has strong characters and a writing style that is rich with content and highly entertaining,” said Sherri Rowe. “The many layers of this coming-of-age plot are engaging and we hope to see a sequel in the making.”
The author’s mom agrees.
“When I read the book, I could not put it down,” said Tracy Horn of Lenexa. “The story line kept me interested and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I read the book in one night.”
In addition to a captivating plot, Horn spent a lot of time fleshing out characters and focusing on issues she hopes will speak to her peers.
“My characters face problems dealing with everything from unhealthy relationships to eating disorders,” she said. “I was inspired by hearing stories from my own friends. I think people my age will see a little of themselves in each character.”
Being a writer, however, is more than just writing, Horn quickly discovered.
“It’s almost like finding your way through a maze,” the teenager said. “It’s about finding a publisher and marketing your book and figuring out the layout and spending hours editing. Seeing what goes on behind the scenes was an exciting and insightful learning experience.”
When news of her accomplishment spread, not many people in her life were surprised.
“When Whitney has a goal, she’s driven to reach it,” said Paul Williams, the adviser for Olathe North’s Distinguished Scholars Program. “I think it’s awesome it happened so quickly for her. I’m very proud of her.”
He hopes her success will inspire other young people to follow their dreams.
“She proves that hard work, dedication and drive really do pay off,” Williams said. “You may not see it the next day, but some point in time, good things will happen.”
Horn’s novel is available in both print and e-book for purchase through Rowe Publishing, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
The book will be on display and available for purchase at this year’s Kansas Book Festival on Sept. 13 in Topeka. Horn will be on site for book signings.