Small Towns & Big Stories
Small Towns & Big Stories
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Small Towns & Big Stories

In the northern part of the state, in the city of Mohall, ND, 16-year- old high schooler Lindsey Undlin is taking rural North Dakota experiences and turning them into inked magic, hooking readers with vivid storytelling, one page at a time.

Writing has always come naturally for Lindsey, who started her writing journey when she was young. She built characters and stories, taking in what is around her in her rural community and its neighbors and turning it into adventure and mystery.

That’s exactly what she did with her books, “Stolen” and “Spiral,” the first and second installment of a fourbook series called Priders, which she plans to release two spin-off books for. “Stolen” was released on March 22, 2022, and “Spiral” on October 3 of this year, published by W. Brand Publishing—a publishing company based in Nashville, TN, and founded by JuLee Brand.

When Lindsey was finishing out the summer of 2020, right before she went into seventh grade, she began writing and planning that first book—a time when some middle schoolers avoided the pen and paper altogether, Lindsey was eager to begin “Stolen” and start building the storyline of what would become of the series in the future.

And at the humble age of 13, Lindsey self-published her first book, which was titled at the time, “Ruby Arthur.” But shortly after self-publishing, W. Brand Publishing reached out to Lindsey’s mother with the hopes of connecting. JuLee Brand was introduced to Lindsey’s work through a mutual friend, Ardelle Schmidt.

It was no coincidence that Lindsey was on JuLee’s radar, as the publisher hails from the same state. “Yes, I am from ND. I publish authors from all over the world but I have to admit I have a soft spot for the homeland and the stories that come from there,” she said. But it wasn’t the shared home state that hooked JuLee, she was intrigued by Lindsey’s skill.

“Lindsey’s character and worldbuilding skills are far beyond her years. I saw her potential to grow as an author,” JuLee said.

What is W. Brand Publishing?

“We are a hybrid independent publisher focused on memoir, fiction, self-help. business, and middle school genres. We publish positive stories of survival, diversity, inspiration, and motivation. I named the company in honor of my dad, who would have no doubt become an author had he survived cancer but it was losing my aunt/godmother when she was 99 years old that was the catalyst for me to start the company. I was tired of losing loved ones’ stories and I knew if I felt this way, there had to be many more stories out there that needed to be told. I truly believe everyone has a story.” -JuLee Brand, W. Brand Publishing

There was no one person or experience that inspired Lindsey to write and to keep writing this series, but she drew it from around her.

“The characters and story absolutely inspired me to keep writing, especially since some people relate to the stuff that I write about sports,” she said. “The characters are not based on any real people, but they’re mostly based on experiences that I’ve had with school, school basketball, and travel basketball. The towns [in the book] are also inspired by some of the cities that I’ve been to and the traits of each city that I’ve seen.”

Some of those cities include Fargo, ND; Rugby, ND; Rapid City, SD; and various places in Montana and Minnesota, creating a mix of northern Midwest representation in the books. Finding that inspiration all around her, Lindsey’s storytelling manages to take readers to that rural setting but with an added flair of mystery and intrigue to create something different from any small town you’ve experienced before.

16-year-old HD author, Lindsey Undlin’s second book in the Priders series, “Spiral,” came out earlier this month! See what’s happening with Cali and her friends in Swallowsville and grab yourself a copy!

The book, “Stolen,” is centered around a newcomer, Cali Horn, and her move to the town of Swallowsville, North Dakota—a place often hailed as the basketball heartland. Amidst charming boutiques and bustling cafés, there lurks a deeper, darker secret and Cali soon discovers that everything isn’t as it appears.

Cali quickly finds herself befriended by Ray, an intense basketball player whose eagerness to connect makes Cali suspicious. After being pulled into Ray’s world, she encounters challenges she hadn’t anticipated and questions if she will earn a spot on the coveted Varsity team and impress the fiercely competitive Coach Talivikki through the experience.

Navigating the perplexing town and its social norms, Cali realizes her new acquaintances have their own secrets. She’s left to fend for herself, grappling with her new environment and the pain of her brother’s mysterious death. And when a shocking event shatters Swallowsville, Cali begins to suspect her new friends, including the town’s golden girl, Harlow, and a former varsity player, Ruby, may be involved.

As readers are thrown into this universe of sporting intensity paired with deceitful mystery, it can come as an abrupt reminder that Lindsey was only beginning middle school when she wrote it. Looking back, she appreciates the time spent with her publisher and what she learned.

“I’ve learned how to take better criticism and learn about other people around me,” Lindsey said. “Learning about other people around me has basically changed my view on life, and also helped me write way better stories and way better characters.”

Another skill that Lindsey has developed throughout her journey of writing and working with a publisher is that of public speaking, ironically enough. To promote her work and share her story of self-publishing and working with an established publisher, Lindsey has spoken to groups in schools across North Dakota, including NDSU, Harwood Elementary School, and Bishop Ryan Catholic School in Minot, as well as speaking at an event at the Minot Public Library.

“[When I speak], they’re very interested in what I have to say,” Lindsey said. “I mainly talk to kids and I get feedback that I’ve been an inspiration for those kids.”

In addition to speaking about her experience as an author, she has held various book signing events across the state, including Ferguson Books in West Fargo and Barnes & Noble in Minot. She has had her hands-on experience in marketing her book by selling at various fairs around North Dakota, like Pride of the Dakota, Norsk Hostfest, and the Fargo Downtown Street Fair.

Lindsey has also been able to visit Tucson, AZ for a festival as well as the Chicago Printers Row Lit Fest recently.

“Lindsey really shines when she talks about her books to potential readers,” JuLee said. “You can tell she has a real passion for the story.”

As Lindsey continues to write and publish her series, she plans to visit more festivals and shows in Minnesota to continue selling her books, as well as continue to work on developing her characters through experiences outside of her own.

“I think it’s important for me [in writing characters] to reach out to more athletes or have athletes come to me and tell me their stories about their experiences with travel basketball. And also do more character development with those fictional athletes that I write stuff for instead of the main characters,” she said.

In these early stages of her writing career, Lindsey is ready to dive into pages of the “Priders” world and continue writing, yet she has to balance that with where she gets her inspiration from in the first place.

“I feel that Lindsey has a real talent for writing but there is never any pressure for her to meet a ‘quota.’ It is important for her to have a great high school experience, and if her book muse inspires her to write, I will welcome the next story but never at the cost of added stress to an already tough time to be a young adult,” JuLee said.

If you’re interested in diving into the world of basketball mystery in Swallowsville, you can purchase Lindsey’s work on Amazon, Barnes & Noble in Minot, and Ferguson Books in Bismarck, Grand Forks, and Fargo locations!

Lindsey is willing to share her personal story of writing and publishing alongside her fictional story of Cali’s unpredictable life. If you’re interested in inviting this young, published author to speak to a local school or university, you can reach out on Facebook. Keep an eye out on that socials to see where Linsday is speaking or selling her books next!

Instagram | @lindsey_undlin

Written by Geneva Nodland

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