K-State student writes and publishes first novel

Whitney Horn, a sophmore in English, wrote a novel for a her highschool senior project which has since been published. "No Right Answers" is a teen fantasy novel about teenagers that get trapped on an island and must compete for survival and a chance off the island. The book is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. (Hannah Hunsinger | The Collegian)

Whitney Horn, sophomore in English and creative writing, proved just how great of a writer she truly is when she published her first novel, “No Right Answers,” earlier this month.

Great readers make great writers, at least according to Greg Eiselein, professor in English and Horn’s mentor for K-State First, the university’s first-year experience program, our way of helping students establish a great foundation for the rest of their college career.

“Whitney is a great reader as well as a great writer,” Eiselein said. “She reads everything.”

“No Right Answers” began as a dream Horn developed into a full-fledged novel.

“I had a dream about this girl that was trapped on an island and she was desperately trying to get her friends that were imprisoned in this jail cell and she didn’t know where it was,” Horn said.

The dream stuck with Horn for so long that she eventually began to develop a story about it.

“No Right Answers” follows Horn’s dream closely. When a volunteer class trip goes horribly wrong, the protagonist Asta and her classmates end up stranded on an island in the South Pacific. Asta must enlist the help of a dangerous island native to find her friends while the Director, the owner of the island, plays a deadly game with them all.

Horn said her inspiration came from the desperation of the girl to find her friends.

“She was so clearly able to save herself and just leave them, but she had to go back for them because she cared about them that much,” Horn said.

Horn said she asked herself, “What kind of person would do that for their friends?” Her novel stemmed from the answer to this question.

When Horn was younger, she said she wasn’t a big reader or writer. She spent most of her time outside hanging out with her brother. However, she began to enjoy literature when she read the “Harry Potter” series in sixth grade. From there, she slowly developed a love for writing and honed her talent in middle school.

“Whitney is extremely creative, and came to me with a love and passion for writing,” Tammi Landis, Language Arts teacher at Prairie Trail Middle School in Olathe, Kansas, said. “I pushed her to write outside of her comfort zone–with genres she hadn’t tried, and in styles that were new to her.”

Horn began participating in writing competitions and developing her own style of writing. She even attempted novellas and poems.

“I took a couple creative writing classes my freshman and sophomore year (of high school) and I just started (to really love) writing,” Horn said. “I just decided that I wanted to write something full-length that meant a lot to me.”

During her senior year of high school, Horn was a member of Olathe North High School’s Distinguished Scholar’s Program. She was required to have a senior project and, after asking her teacher if she could write a book, Horn began the process of writing “No Right Answers.”

Horn started with the research. She decided where the island would be, what type of plants and wildlife there could be and what the psychological effects of being stranded on an island were. From there, things became more challenging as Horn tried to maintain a normal lifestyle as a high school senior.

“The biggest struggle when actually writing the first draft was finding the time to write in all the details,” Horn said. “The climax and big turning points of the story were fun to write, so I made time for them. But when I was writing, I was a graduating senior trying to apply for colleges and keep up with my studies as well as write … so the scenes that are necessary for transition and depth but don’t actually have action or interesting conversations were hard to stay focused on when I knew I had so many other commitments to keep as well.”

After she graduated and came to K-State, Horn began the process of finding a publisher. Many authors, including J.K. Rowling, have received many rejection letters from publishing companies; however, Horn found support for her novel after only one rejection. Her second attempt with Rowe Publishing proved to be a success.

Rowe Publishing, based in Stockton, Kansas, decided Horn’s novel was worth reading. Sherri Rowe, the owner of Rowe Publishing, met Horn at the Kansas Book Festival a year ago. After hearing a short synopsis of the novel, Rowe decided she wanted to see more and asked Horn to provide a first chapter.

“The story has strong characters and a writing style that is rich with content and highly entertaining,” Rowe said in an email interview. “The many layers of this coming-of-age plot are engaging and we hope to see a sequel in the making.”

From there, the rest is history. Rowe and Horn worked this last year to perfect “No Right Answers” and turned it into the novel Horn wanted it to become. This last year has been hectic for Horn, between her novel’s release and starting her second year of college, but the fountain of ideas hasn’t stopped.

“I’m outlining a series that I’m trying to write right now,” Horn said.

So be on the lookout for more work from this emerging young author.