Hitchhikers (Wolf Point, #1)

(2009-2011)

Hitchhikers ebook cover 4Daniel Connors knows he’s a monster. He’s been on the run since that terrible night three years ago, when he killed three adult men… including his own father.  Every time he blacks out, someone dies.

When a dog begins following him on the road, Daniel begins to feel almost normal, not counting the dreams about his cousin Kayla asking him to return home.

“You can save us all,” she tells him.

Daniel knows he can’t save anyone.

As he travels through the Midwest, the hitchhiker in Daniel’s head leaves a trail of blood in his wake.  When escape doesn’t seem possible, he will have to decide if his destiny lies home, in Wolf Point.

Available as a free download at Smashwords & Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

Inspiration

One day I was stuck in my writing and I tried to recall some piece of work I’d done that had a very immediate setting, and I thought of a story I’d written back in 1997 (my senior year of high school), called “Billy.” The story was about a kid named Dan who was on the run from murdering his family three years ago on his thirteenth birthday. In keeping with the theme of insanity I liked to write about back in high school, Dan had another personality living in his head called Billy, who had telekinesis. I kept thinking about this story and wondering if it might not be a similar situation if Daniel was a werewolf – if the other personality inside his head was the wolf. And then I had to start writing.

Without further ado, here is the original story, Billy. (And yes, I made the cover on a dot matrix printer back in the day, taped on a picture cut out from some Christian youth magazine article about depression, and typed the story on my typewriter – sorry about the typos!).

Process

Since this is my first novel completed outside of Nanowrimo since 2005, I used a very different writing process than the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants method. Because Hitchhikers is about a journey, I tended to allow myself to go on little side trips as I wrote. Daniel spends a lot of time hiding from his “destiny.” This is also something of a hero quest, and it surprised me (after I finally realized that’s what it was) when I looked up Joseph Campbell’s hero quest outline and found that unconsciously I had written it that way.

Usually I know how I want a book to end, and this was no exception. The path to get there took a lot longer than I was used to after all the Nanowrimos. Often I would have the conflict in mind as I did something non-writerly like play solitaire, then the answer to how the story should progress would come to me. I was very close to the end, and hadn’t written anything for a couple of months after Nanowrimo 2010, then I decided the ending was RIGHT THERE all along and finished it so I could enter it into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.

Soundtrack

Here’s my 8tracks mix, which includes some (but not all) of the following songs:

  • 30 Seconds to Mars – Hurricane
  • 30 Seconds to Mars – This Is War
  • America – Ventura Highway
  • Amon Tobin – Big Furry Head
  • Audioslave – I Am the Highway
  • Bon Jovi – Wanted
  • Deftones – Be Quiet and Drive (both the original and the slowed down version)
  • Deftones – Passenger
  • Florence + the Machine – Heavy in Your Arms
  • The Into the Wild soundtrack by Eddie Vedder
  • Rascal Flatts – God Bless the Broken Road
  • Rascal Flatts – Life Is a Highway

Road to Publication

In early 2011 I submitted Hitchhikers in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest.  It passed through 2 rounds, but was rejected on the third.  However, entry into the contest meant that I received reviews from Amazon reviewers as well as a review written by a Publisher’s Weekly reviewer.

Here are some blurbs from those reviews, as well as some positive things agents have said (before rejecting the manuscript, of course):

The writing is sharp and small, making the horrors the boys commit even that much worse. All in all I would definitely pick up this novel.

Absolutely fascinating plot. Just information revealed and concealed to keep you reading and not frustrated-allowing you to develop your own theories about what sort of supernatural action is taking over the life of our narrator.

This is an engrossing story that hooked me from the beginning… The writing is tight and straightforward.

Dan’s remarkable sense of smell adds an additional richness to the manuscript, along with the unusual twist of grounding a werewolf story in the real world… Dan is an engaging character, reacting like a true teenage boy in the situations he faces. The suspense keeps the reader turning the pages until the very end.

Wow! I thought your writing was strong, intense.

You write wonderfully – excellent sentences, details, voice.

Cover Story:

While I felt like my first cover captured what the book is about, it was sort of boring.  I browsed through a lot of book covers that had a similar feel as the tone of Hitchhikers, and settled on this design.  I couldn’t get permissions for my first attempt at the new design.   I found the background image on http://www.sxc.hu. I‘m very happy to have found a background that even remotely looks as moody as the original did.  I liked the expression on the model’s face, but he didn’t have Daniel’s dark hair.  After browsing through many, many images, I found an image on Flickr that I felt best looked like Daniel (after I reminded myself that Daniel is sixteen, and being a werewolf, is probably more mature-looking than I imagine him).  It is really hard to find images of people who both look like your character physically and are dressed as your character might dress, and also fit the requirements I needed to fit the cover – there are a lot of shots of people who might look like the character but who are smiling, or it’s just their face, or it’s the whole body and too far away, etc. 

Background: “Highway in the Sky” Margus Saluste

Foreground: “Iliya” by Amir Kurbanov

Other Covers:

Hitchhikers
My very first cover for Hitchhikers. The resolution is pretty horrible and you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find an image of a hitchhiker with a dog!
My first design for the ebook cover - couldn't get permissions to use either of these images!
My first design for the ebook cover – sadly, I couldn’t get permissions to use either of these images!

Parental Advisory (spoilers, maybe)

Swearing: You can check out my posting “dropping the f-bomb” for the blow-by-blow on how many swears are contained within the pages.

Violence: Daniel is a monster who rips people and animals apart.  This is a very gory book.

Drinking/Drugs: One instance of Daniel smoking pot.  Several instances of Daniel drinking, mostly because he is getting stitches outside of a hospital setting.

Sex: One incestuous sex scene.  One character is a prostitute.