Alex Taylor always wanted to be a writer.
And at age 19, she is about to publish her very first novel.
Her passion for writing was born at a young age. Enchanted by American Girl Dolls and their accompanying books, Alex composed her first piece of writing at age 7, titled "Meet Alex".
She recognized the power of writing and often claims that, "Story is the most powerful thing on the whole planet."
One particular story niche captured her mind: Growing up in the age of dystopian powerhouses such as "The Hunger Games" and "The Maze Runner," Alex was caught on the idea of centering a novel in a post-apocalyptic world.
"I always knew I wanted to write a book like that," she said. "Always."
She did just that.
Her first novel, "Breathe", co-written with best-selling thriller novelist Jack Patterson, is set in the post-nuclear war future. All remaining forms of human life exist in cities encased by bubbles and rely on their daily issued pills to fight nuclear radiation. But as the population increases beyond the capacity of these bubbles, the government must find a way to weed out the unneeded citizens.
However, instead of developing a dramatic and heart-entrancing love story to drive "Breathe," Alex chose instead to showcase a strong sisterhood based on her own sibling relationship.
"I wanted to change it up," she said.
Her little sister, Ansley, is 4 years younger than her. They are very close now, but for much of their childhood they fought. The two sisters in the novel have the same struggling relationship -- at times very difficult, but founded in love.
It was Patterson, one of her dad's friends from college, who recognized Alex's talent early in her childhood.
He remembers visiting a bookstore with her when she was 10 years old and watching her grab books off the shelves that seemed too large and adult for a tween. She eagerly told him that she wanted to be a writer and showed him pieces of writing she had done.
"She's got some writing chops for a 10-year-old," Patterson remembers thinking.
A few years later Alex sent him more pieces, and Patterson was again taken aback by her natural talent.
"I know how bad I was when I started out. I was terrible," he said, "And here was this girl. . .she's got some raw talent."
When Patterson extended the opportunity to co-write a novel together, high school sophomore Alex jumped at the opportunity. They spent almost three years planning, drafting character sketches and hammering out chapter outlines.
Balancing a writing job while being a full-time and involved high school student wasn't easy. A cheerleader, a thespian and dedicated student, Alex was involved around the clock and would often set the book aside.
Having deadlines to send pieces to Patterson wasn't always enough, and Alex would ask her parents to keep her on track for her own deadlines. However, writing for so long on a focused story took its toll on her passion.
"It burnt me out," she said of her decision to take a six-month hiatus from writing.
Her parents and Patterson never allowed her to give up entirely, at one point even threatening her education.
"It was a college requirement," she said. "They said 'if you want to go to college, you're finishing this book.'"
After returning to writing with a motivation to finish the novel, the moment finally came over winter break.
"[Finishing the novel] was the best feeling in the entire world because I never thought it would happen," she said.
Gearing up for "Breathe" to be published on May 30, Alex has now turned her focus to her studies and long-term goals. While is pursuing a creative writing minor and wants to continue writing, she wants to do so on the side. Right now, her focus is her psychology major and a co-major in film studies. Alex hopes to one day write screenplays and direct.
Her interest in screenwriting was born out of her parents nightly television watching ritual. Staying up until the early morning with them, watching classic shows like "Criminal Minds," she fell in love.
"A good TV show can change your life," she said. "Writing is great, but not everyone reads."
"Everyone has a show that they love," she added. "Media is the more accessible version of what I love: stories."
However she tells stories, Alex plans to do so brilliantly.
"I don't want to be mediocre," she declared. "I want to live my life outside the box."