Check it out below, and keep an eye out for my review, coming soon!
A MATTER OF DAYS seems quite a bit different from your Fenestra series - though the Fenestra series did have some darker overtones, AMOD is post-apocalyptic/dystopic, and any book that centers on surviving a pandemic is bound to get dark. Was it a very different experience for you, writing A MATTER OF DAYS?
A: I also write the Gert Garibaldi books—ONE BUTT CHEEK AT A TIME and 7 KINDS OF ORDINARY CATASTROPHES which are contemporary and funny! Gert is very different from AMOD but the Meridian books are in the same vein as AMOD—survival and instinct. The obstacles are different and the definitely the characters, but at the foundation it’s the same process whatever I’m working on—listen for it, dig it out, research the hell out of the details, and do my best to give the reader a ride they enjoy taking.
Did you do a lot of research into pandemics/infection, survival skills, doomsday scenarios, etc.?
A: Of course, I do a lot of research on door knobs and other mundane things readers never notice—it’s part of the deal for me—I want details and if I’m going to make them up I want a basis to jump off from! I love to learn and every project allows me to feed my curiosity.
I love viruses, the nasty ones they study in Level 4 spacesuits especially intrigue me. So a lot of that information gathering can’t be called research because it was in my fun pile of reading! But I wanted the things Nadia and Rabbit did to survive to be real and authentic—I also wanted them to think it through and problem solve in a way that teens might. I didn’t want it to sound like I dumped a couple of teenage special ops survivalists into this new world. That’s not fair and certainly not interesting. So yes, lots and lots of research on every aspect. I also spent hours on Google Maps tracking their road trip—making sure the timing was write. Potentially readers could take the same road trip!
Follow up: what was the most interesting/disturbing thing you came across in your research?
A: Aside from the mystery virus scientists are studying right now, that has a high kill rate and they’ve never seen before? It was on NBC news last week! BluStar anyone?
Seriously though, what always surprises me is how many people are not even remotely prepared…for anything. That scares me. I’m not talking about a zombie outbreak or end-days-pray-quick scenarios: a tornado, a power grid going out for three days in a big city, an earthquake, a hurricane somewhere new. All of these have the potential to be survivable or life ending.
How about what happens if you’re babysitting someone’s kids and they can’t get home, with phones down? For days, or weeks, or ever? What’s the plan? Do you take the kids home with you? Do you stay put?
Do you know how to walk home from school, or to your siblings’ school if you have to? Do you know where to meet up if your neighborhood is destroyed?
You don’t have to be crazy and live in a bunker to just be prepared—thinking minor things through when you aren’t stressed, or keeping an extra couple bottles of water and energy bars in your locker at school might save your life. It means being aware of little things—like you can drink water out of the toilet tank (the back part that refills) because it’s a closed system and isn’t contaminated. Or if you live in apartments and the power goes out—fill your bathtub. It doesn’t have to be hot water, just give yourself a little more in case the taps stop working. You can drink this too, if you have to. Or if it’s cold and there’s no heat? Make a fort of blankets—your body heat will make it toasty quick, especially if your whole family is in there. If you take medications or have an inhaler—make sure you carry some with you at all times if you can—that way you cover yourself. All of it’s just in case and we all hope it’s never needed, but there’s no harm in trying to prepare.
What do you think it is about end of the world, catastrophic scenarios that has so caught the public imagination lately? (Not that this is a new thing, but it's certainly THE thing right now...)
A: If you think about it, the “end of the world” in story has been around since humans started telling stories—Aztecs and Mayans have stories, The Bible, Torah, and Koran…I’m sure there are experts who can speak better on the topic, but I’d guess that every indigenous and modern culture has a variation on the theme of “apocalypse.”
In modern literature Camus’ THE PLAGUE pops out for me from right after WWII (an awesome book!). Then, my introduction came from Stephen King’s THE STAND, which was published first in the 70s I believe, and I read in the 90s. Again, an incredibly well written book.
I think we tend to gravitate toward stories where life is boiled down to the essentials and all the noise is stripped away when we feel out of control or helpless. They are stories that really aren’t about the dark or the gore or the death—they are about what’s important and what makes us human.
Is A MATTER OF DAYS going to be a stand-alone, or do you have a series/spin-offs planned?
A: Right now it’s a stand-alone but I have Zack’s story (pre-Zackville) and #2 in the works if the opportunity arises. I would love to spend more time with these characters.
If you had to live through something catastrophic and give up everything you love, what's the one useless, frivolous thing you'd miss the most?
A: Just like Nadia and Rabbit—ice cream.
What's one thing you'd absolutely want to have with you in a doomsday scenario?
A: Aside from my family? Or my pets? Lots of fresh water.
How do you think Nadia from A MATTER OF DAYS and Meridian from the FENESTRA series would get on?
A: I think they’d bond quickly. I’d love to see Meridian and Tens double date with Nadia and Zack. That would be an awesome dinner and a movie!
Your soundtrack for the end of the world:
I’ll give you one better—the soundtrack from Nadia’s mp3 player (that previously belonged to her dad) and some of their road trip music!
- Simple Minds “Don’t you (Forget about me)”
- Warren Zevon “I was in the house when the house burned down”
- Bon Jovi “Blaze of Glory”
- Cyndi Lauper “I drove all night”
- Bangles “Manic Monday”
Thanks for stopping by, Amber!
A Matter of Days is out now, guys, and I don't think you'd go amiss to pick up a copy. Before I let you go, I have one question for you, and it's one I asked Amber: what's the one useless, frivolous thing you'd miss the most?