Project Pandora follows a group of teens who are actually brainwashed assassins. Author Aden Polydoros describes what it was like writing a novel in high school.
About ‘Project Pandora’
Tyler Bennett trusts no one. Just another foster kid bounced from home to home, he’s learned that lesson the hard way. Cue world’s tiniest violin. But when strange things start happening — waking up with bloody knuckles and no memory of the night before or the burner phone he can’t let out of his sight — Tyler starts to wonder if he can even trust himself.
Even stranger, the girl he’s falling for has a burner phone just like his. Finding out what’s really happening only leads to more questions…questions that could get them both killed. It’s not like someone’s kidnapping teens lost in the system and brainwashing them to be assassins or anything, right? And what happens to rogue assets who defy control?
In a race against the clock, they’ll have to uncover the truth behind Project Pandora and take it down — before they’re reactivated. Good thing the program spent millions training them to kick ass…
Aden Polydoros discusses what it was like to write ‘Project Pandora’ while still in high school
I have always wanted to be a novelist, so when a story idea came to me in my senior year of high school, I decided to try to turn it into a young adult thriller. Project Pandora wasn’t the first novel-length work I wrote, but it’s the first one I can actually call a novel with pride. Before Project Pandora, my other stories were either unfinished or just sloppy attempts. They were practice though, and taught me about how to structure a story and engage readers. If not for those previous stories, Project Pandora would likely never have reached a publishable state.
I began writing the first book in the Assassin Fall series in the winter of 2015. I was eighteen years old, and getting ready to graduate high school. I already had my university of choice picked out — Northern Arizona University, far from the sweltering heat of Phoenix. Although I didn’t have much time on my hands, I sat down at my desk and started writing what would become the first chapter of Project Pandora.
I don’t outline my books, so when I first began working on this book, I didn’t know how it was going to end or even what the plot was. I had an idea in my head — a teenage boy wakes up in a stranger’s home, with a loaded gun in his hand — but little else.
Initially, I planned for Tyler to die at the end of the first chapter, as a throwaway character whose death would show the reader how deeply he was brainwashed and how dangerous Project Pandora is. Instead, by the time I had finished the first chapter, I realized that I wanted him to survive and break free of his programming. I became invested in his story, as well as the other three characters who would also become part of my main cast.
I was doing online school at the time, so I was able to reorganize my schedule around writing. I would complete a week’s worth of assignments within the first few days of the week, and spend the remainder of the time working on Project Pandora. It became a highlight of my daily life.
I set a goal for myself to write at least 1,000 words each day. Roughly four pages. It wasn’t much, but it gave me an excuse to procrastinate on studying for my finals and served as a way to channel some of the emotions I was dealing with at the time.
The characters in Project Pandora aren’t in control of their own lives; they are lost in someone else’s plan. Similarly, while working on the novel, I felt like I didn’t have much control over my life. I was struggling with depression and anxiety, and although I knew I would go to college in the fall, I couldn’t decide on a major. I figured I would change majors at least once (and was right). I felt like my life was speeding by, and all I could do was let it drag me along. Project Pandora became a way to slow down and focus on something I had control over, at my own pace.
When people tell me they are surprised that I had the dedication to begin Project Pandora in high school, I am surprised as well, but not for the same reason. I never really considered it work. It was a hassle sometimes, I guess, and a frustration when every word I put down seemed like the wrong one. But the satisfaction of writing a thrilling scene or ending a chapter made every moment of writer’s block and doubt worth it.
Of course, nothing went as smoothly as I make it sound. Instead of writing 1,000 words each day, there were days when I wrote nothing at all or when I could only manage to squeeze out less than a page. It was hard to focus on the story when I couldn’t stop thinking about college or my approaching finals.
Then there was the doubt, the fear that maybe the story wasn’t as good as I thought it was, or might be inappropriate, or might just be plain boring. There were days when I despised my writing so much, I wanted to throw my laptop into the dumpster. But I worked through it. I finished and revised story just before graduating from high school, and I spent the entire summer querying literary agents and publishers. I didn’t know it at the time, but eventually all my hard work would pay off — by the end of my first semester in college, I signed with an agent and acquired a two-book deal for Project Pandora and its sequel.
About the author
Aden Polydoros grew up in Long Grove, Illinois, and now lives in Arizona. He is a writer of young adult fiction. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys reading and going on hikes in the mountains. Aden Polydoros is a 2015 Gold Medalist in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and has published two short stories in Best Arizona Teen Writing of 2015.