It’s hard to believe One Was Lost is finally here. It feels weird to admit that I’ve been desperately looking forward to scaring you all and keeping you up way past your bedtimes, but it’s the truth. And now that it’s finally out in the world, I just can’t wait to hear what you all think! I mean, after you get some sleep of course. I’m not that impatient.
As a writer with my fourth book hitting the shelves, I can say each new release has its own special brand of excitement. Each story has elements that you cherish and characters you love. But One Was Lost wasn’t like any of my other books. Writing this book was a whole new ball game.
The truth behind One Was Lost is that my father died a few months before I started writing it. He was my inspiration for writing as a child and easily one of my closest friends throughout my life. Losing him was like having my foundation knocked sideways. My grief felt oceans deep and I was lost in the roll of every wave. It was brutally difficult.
For anyone who’s met me and knows what a class clown I am, I’ll confess 2015 was one of the least funny years of my life. Still, when I sat down to write One Was Lost, I knew I had something special. These characters were speaking to me like characters never had. This story was at a roiling boil in my head—but, could I really write it?
Doubt plagued me in those first days. Could I still remember how to get lost in a story? Could I get it right when I was still struggling so much? Most importantly, could I still be the writer I used to be?
The answer was quick and a little terrifying. No.
I couldn’t go back to the writer I was before. Losing someone incredibly important to you changes you. There is a new normal you must adjust to, and that new normal doesn’t fade away after the funeral is done and over.
My new normal proved to be a very powerful force in my writing life. One Was Lost forced me to face fears I might have danced around in other books. I had no choice but to dive more deeply than ever before. My new perspective had me spend more time than usual learning about these new characters. Trying to understand them. Hurting with them and fearing with them.
I didn’t just lose myself in One Was Lost, I drowned in it. I fell so deeply into this book that at times it was difficult to resurface to do normal, mundane not-lost-and-terrified-in-the-forest things. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more in love with characters in any of my stories, and I’m absolutely sure I’ve never been happier with the way a book has turned out.
It is my dearest hope that you’ll all get a little lost in this book too. Sometimes even the scariest things can bring out strength and goodness we never believed possible. And it is just that reason that One Was Lost is a book I’m so particularly proud of and excited to share with you.
After years as a professional paper-pusher, NATALIE D. RICHARDS decided to trade in reality for a life writing YA fiction. She lives in Ohio (Go Bucks!) with her husband, three children, and a ridiculously furry dog named Yeti. This is her third novel. Visit her on Twitter @natdrichards or at nataliedrichards.com.
Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Are they labels or a warning? The answer could cost Sera everything.
While on a mandatory senior field trip, a flash flood cuts off Sera and three classmates from their group with no way to call for help. But they’re not as alone as they thought…
Someone is stalking them through the woods. Someone who drugged them, stole their supplies, and wrote on their skin. Is it a judgement? A warning? If Sera doesn’t uncover the truth, it’s only a matter of time before the hunter finds her.
“Everyone, quiet. We need to move.” Mr. Walker’s voice is tight. Something’s wrong. But he’s halfway across, and the water is still below his knees. It’s moving quickly, but it seems OK. So why is Mr. Walker scanning the horizon like a soldier?
When he’s on the other side, he relaxes. “All right, let’s move. You’ll get to test those waterproof boots here. Emily, you first. Then Jude and right down the line.”
I stumble to the edge of the stream, rocks slipping and scattering under my boots. Jude’s next to me, earbuds in and his chin tipped up like we need a reminder that he’s better than us.
Emily begins to cross with Jude behind her. Then me and Lucas and the rest of the group after. I can’t help but think about what we must look like, this conga line of plastic-wrapped hikers splashing its way through the river.
Jude gasps ahead of me. Before I can ask, cold water gushes over the tops of my boots, then past my ankles. I stop when it reaches my knees. It’s higher. We’re not even halfway across.
Lucas splashes up from behind, rising over me. “Need me to carry you?”
I don’t dignify the question with a response. Behind me, Hayley and Madison shriek. I turn to see a glimpse of all three of them, Hayley on her butt in the water and Madison and Ms. Brighton rushing back for her. The girls are laughing hysterically.
“We’re almost halfway,” Lucas says, ignoring them. “Keep going.”
“Should we help?”
“They’re fine. Move.”
“Stop playing around back there! Get them up, Ms. Brighton,” Mr. Walker barks, then more softly to the ones climbing out, “Good job, Emily. Jude! Earbuds out!”
Mr. Walker looks downstream, and his expression hardens. “Sera, speed up now.”
I look up and wish I hadn’t. I don’t like the urgency in his tone any more than I like the rushing sound of water I hear off to the east.
“Is that rain?” I ask because I want it to be rain. Or hail. I want it to be anything other than what I already know it is.
Mr. Walker’s eyes flick upstream, his face going pale. “It’s flooding,” he admits.
My hope snaps like a rubber band. Fear billows out in its place, making me woozy.
“Sera, move!” Lucas says, prodding my backpack.
“I got it!” I snap, plowing ahead.
Hayley screams again behind us. They’re all three shouting. Something about a shoe. Someone’s stuck. Mr. Walker is yelling at Emily and Jude to back up, back up! And then the rain changes, the shower shifting into a driving roar with drops so hard they feel like sand spraying down. Everything is garbled. Muffled. Fear pushes the hair up on the nape of my neck.
We’re not going to get across.
Lucas. His voice right behind me, his wide hand just under my backpack, urging me forward. I stumble, spreading my arms wide for balance.
“Lucas, help!” Madison’s cry filters through the rain, but Mr. Walker shakes his head.
“No!” he bellows. “Move, Lucas! Ms. Brighton, pull Hayley and Madison back to shore!”
The water is moving quicker and higher, and my boots are sucking down into the mud at the bottom. The current pushes back at me. Steps turn into half steps. Quarter steps.
“Forget her shoes!” Mr. Walker screams. Someone’s coughing back there, but I don’t look, though I can hear their garbled cries. They’re struggling.
“I can’t get her!” Ms. Brighton’s voice is suddenly young and small, nothing like the serene woman from before. This is scared little kid voice. “Help! Hel—”