To celebrate the release of The Hunt, I thought I’d share the original, deleted opening. (SPOILERS AHEAD, if you have not read The Rules.)
I almost always flail and fumble a bit when I start a book, usually because I’m starting in the wrong place. :) The finished version of the first chapter, you’ll find, doesn’t bear much resemblance to this! (It’s also a good reminder for me that this is why second drafts exist—it doesn’t have to be perfect on the first try.)
But I still loved the idea behind this scene: that something you have wanted for so long, something you’ve fought for—in this case, freedom—can be completely terrifying in its newness.
Chapter One (Deleted)
The trouble started with the pancakes. Or, rather, the lack of pancakes.
It was such a simple thing. So stupid. Sunday equals pancakes. It had been that way every Sunday for the last ten years. But it wasn’t like I was required to eat them. They held no special nutritional value for me. If anything, I probably should have chosen eggs or something with more protein. Does an alien/human body good, you know.
But Sunday equals pancakes, so that’s what I ordered when Zane and I pulled into a fast food drive-thru just over the border in Indiana.
Indiana. Two states away from Wisconsin. Farther than I’ve ever been before. I felt a quiver of anxiety. A warning sign, if I’d been looking for it. But I wasn’t.
“I’ve never been outside Wingate before,” I said after Zane placed our order. I wasn’t sure if I was telling Zane or just acknowledging the fact aloud.
Zane, behind the wheel, gave me a tired smile and stretched his arms. We’d been taking shifts driving the van, but when the sun had come up, Zane had pointed out carefully—for fear of hurting my feelings—I was the more recognizable of the two of us. It was probably better if I wasn’t as visible.
No argument there, unfortunately. In a crowd, Zane would always stand out, for his 6’5 height, if nothing else. But behind the wheel, my too-light hair and oddly white skin were probably more noticeable.
“Welcome to the great Crossroads state,” he said, suppressing a yawn. “Just like Wisconsin, only flatter. I’m pretty sure that’s their state slogan.”
I tried to smile, but my face felt oddly tight. I hadn’t slept much…at all, really. “You’ve been here before?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Yeah, lacrosse stuff.”
I envied his casualness, his comfort with the unknown, which, I guess, wasn’t quite as unknown to him as it was to me. Then again, almost everything fell into that category.
“Sorry. Out of pancakes,” a bored voice said suddenly through the crackly speaker, making me jump. I hadn’t realized someone was still there. “You want something else?”
Zane looked to me.
“I…” My words dried up in my throat.
It was a simple question. But it stopped me dead.
I forced myself to look at the light-up menu, the options swimming in front of me.
“A hamburger,” I managed through a throat that felt like it was closing off.
Before Zane could relay that, however, the intercom guy spoke up again. “Grill’s not set up yet for lunch. Breakfast menu only.”
I could feel my breath coming too fast. This was ridiculous. Logically, I knew that whatever I chose to eat had no bearing on anything. But pattern, routine, and rules were always what I clung to, how I made sense of my day, my life.
I wiped my hands down my pants, still the white ones from the lab. I’d covered the tunic with a sweatshirt from the bag of supplies my father had left.
I should have changed my clothes. All of them. It was too much of a risk to stay like this. I hadn’t wanted to put on clean stuff while I was still dirty, covered in dirt and bloody scratches from our flight through the woods behind GTX. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
“Hello?” the intercom voice asked impatiently.
“Are you ok?” Zane mouthed to me, his expression alarmed.
I nodded jerkily, trying not to cry. 8 hours. 8 hours of true freedom was all it took to break me. That, and a breakfast value menu. Pathetic.
“Uh, yeah, sorry, we’ll just take three number threes with orange juice,” Zane said quickly.
“Is that three total or in addition to the number three you already ordered?”
“Three total,” Zane snapped at the guy, still watching as though I might explode or collapse in a heap. Either felt possible at the moment.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered,
“I’m fine. I just need to…we need to stop, get off the road.” I was suddenly all too aware of the cars around us. People who could be watching. The open sky above us loomed menacingly, filled with invisible-to-the-naked-eye satellites that could be tracking us, homing in on the little chip still nestled near my spine like tiny tumor waiting to spread malignancy.
A chip that I hadn’t even known existed until eight hours ago. Until the letter. What else did I not know?
Check out the final version in THE HUNT, which is out today! :)
You are my favorite author! You're writing is so fantastic; I just love it. I was wondering are you going to write another series after the project paper doll books? Or just write a novel?— Anonymous
Thank you so much!!! :) Project Paper Doll has one more book after THE HUNT (which comes out next week), so I’m working on book three (title TBD) at the moment. Book three will be out in April 2015.
But I do have some other projects in the works that I’m super excited about. More details coming soon! :D
I'm not 100% sure I haven't sent this in before, so sorry if I have... But 'Suffering So' by April Smith kind of reflects Will's attitude towards Alona in the beginning of the first book in my opinion? I felt the need to share this for some reason X'D— themoonsavedme
Nope, this is all new to me! :) And you’re absolutely right. I looked up the lyrics, and WOW! Yeah, it totally could have been written from his perspective on Alona. I love it!
Thank you for letting me know about it. :D I love music, and I’m always buying songs and creating playlists, especially ones that remind me of particular characters or emotions I’m writing.