Handpicked 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.
Thank you so much for having me! I thought I’d offer readers a “behind-the-scenes” peek at some sections that were part of earlier drafts of HANDPICKED, and why they didn’t make the final cut.
This first one is part of an extended version of the opening scene. Our main character Jill is trying to get ready for her final night of sorority rush in her dorm bathroom…
The girl from the stall emerged, wearing a gold lacy number and looking movie-star perfect except for her red, watery eyes. She reached around me, grabbed a paper towel, and daintily dabbed her mouth. "I can't effing handle this," she said, squeezing into my mirror space and fluffing her wavy brown hair. "I haven't been able to eat for days."
Blond handed her a piece of gum. "Couple more hours, and it'll all be worth it. And that dress looks amazing on you now."
The brunette caught me staring at her reflection and raised her eyebrows. She sized me up, clearly not approving of how I was still in my yoga pants and a tank top, and how my long red hair was in a loose ponytail. "Where are you preffing?" she said casually, asking which sorority parties I was visiting for the final round of rush that night. Thankfully, I had just learned the jargon earlier that day.
I shrugged. "I can't remember, my list is back in my room."
She gaped at me. Her hand stopped not even an inch from her face, her lip gloss still pointed to her mouth. "You can't remember?"
Blond started to laugh as if I'd been joking.
I bristled. "Well, all their names sound the same, don't they?"
They stared at me.
"I guess some do," the brunette said slowly, like she didn't really think so at all.
My cell phone started buzzing from my pocket, so I quickly grabbed it and scooped up my small make-up bag. "Excuse me," I said, glad to get away. They smelled like a Victoria's Secret store mixed with throw-up.
Ultimately, this exchange was cut simply for pacing. I wanted to speed up the time it takes Jill to get back to her room so we can get her out the door and to the sororities faster.
This second one is from a scene when Jill dozes off next to her crush, Tad…
In my sleepy state, I was less guarded than I would have been under most circumstances. He started tugging at my sweatshirt, and instead of encouraging him to explore underneath it with his hands, I simply raised my arms up high. Obediently, he lifted it. The hood was tight over my head, but he managed to squeeze it off me, pulling out my ponytail holder. My long red hair fell loosely over my face and I imagined it looked quite sexy. Well, sexy for me, which is about as sexy as like, one of those live-action Disney movies that gets played on Sunday night cable.
This section was cut because of Jill’s reference to being less guarded because she was tired. I was concerned that her comment it made it seem like she wasn’t that into Tad, which was not at all what I was going for – the final version of the scene makes it *pretty* clear that she’s excited to be with him J
Thank you for giving me the chance to share these scenes!
Tell us three interesting facts about yourself
My dream vacation is an RV roadtrip across the USA, my favorite food is macaroni and cheese, and I’m a boyband enthusiast.
What made you decide to sit down and write an NA novel?
It happened the other way around, actually. It was a couple years ago, when I was about mid-way through the first draft of HANDPICKED that I first heard of New Adult as its own category. The more I researched, the more I realized how much of a fit it was. I can still remember telling my husband that I’d heard of a new genre that I just happened to be writing already. It was good timing!
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I had a baby this year, so snuggling him is pretty high on my list. I also love thrift shopping, reading, and anything involving coffee and/or wine. I’m a semi-ambitious DIY-er, I make a lot of my own jewelry. I also have a real-world career in educational outreach, so that takes up a lot of my time as well.
Who are your favorite writers?
All time favorites? Curtis Sittenfeld, Judy Blume, Rebecca Wells. I’m also getting into Jennifer Weiner lately, and I’m having a lot of fun discovering other NA authors, too. My to-read list is almost all NA since so much has come out since I’ve been in my writing bubble!
Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
Probably still living with my family somewhere on the West Coast (where I’ve spent most of my life already), with more books out. Hopefully I’ll have traveled a bit more by then, too – I really want to see the southern states and the UK.
What is your favorite movie and why?
So many! I have the entertainment tastes of a teenager. My husband teaches film and just rolls his eye at the movies I love…Mean Girls, Pitch Perfect, all the Harry Potter Films, Wedding Crashers, Wet Hot American Summer. Though, if you twist my arm, I think I’d say Dirty Dancing. It’s such a classic New Adult story, and I love the soundtrack.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Keep reading and don’t worry so much :)
Labels: Book Blitz, Dani Oden, Xpresso Book Tours