Sunday, July 15, 2012

Waiting For Daybreak Blog Tour - Review and Interview


About the book: Written by Amanda McNeil, Waiting For Daybreak is a post apocalyptic zombie novel published in June 2012. 

About the author: Amanda is an energetic, masters degree educated, 20-something, happily living in an attic apartment in Boston with her shelter-adopted cat.  She writes sci-fi, horror, urban fantasy, literary fiction, and paranormal romance.  She has previously published short stories and a novella.

Summary/ Blurb: What is normal?
Frieda has never felt normal.  She feels every emotion too strongly and lashes out at herself in punishment.  But one day when she stays home from work too depressed to get out of bed, a virus breaks out turning her neighbors into flesh-eating, brain-hungry zombies.  As her survival instinct kicks in keeping her safe from the zombies, Frieda can’t help but wonder if she now counts as healthy and normal, or is she still abnormal compared to every other human being who is craving brains?

My Review

Richard Matheson's I Am Legend is the closest I had ever come to reading a zombie novel. The first half of Waiting For Daybreak reminded me a lot of it. There is Frieda, our main character: (with her cat Snuggles) suffering from a mental disorder (which happens to be the reason she survived this apocalypse), a typical survivor, with a fixed routine and a lonely life in her apartment. When Freida ventures out of her house (to get medicines for her sick cat), she meets Mike, another survivor, and the real story starts. 

The book is, on the one hand packed with thrill and action, and on the other, has a very emotional and thought-provoking side. What I appreciated was, how none of it is overdone: I specially liked the subtlety of the relationship between Mike and Freida. It is commendable, that such short a book about crazy, brain-eating zombies can seem, in a way, so realistic. It is also great, how the author has made a person with a Bipolar Disorder seem just quirky, because of the simple fact that she is surrounded by crazier 'people'. And that is really the point of the book isn't it; the question, what is normal? People often say that there is no point   in reading science-fiction or fantasy, because it is of no use to use. But I think, while such a book may not be like a real-life manual, it does make us question our very beliefs. 

The one thing that I might have had quite a bit of a problem with is the writing style, which I thought was slightly sloppy in places. The ending was abrupt and unexpected, but I guess it made the book different, unique in a way. Also, I would have liked to know a bit more about Mike and his past life. I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but it does require a little more work. That being said, I had no idea what to expect from a book about zombies, but I loved what I got! Let's just say, I don't know if I would recommend it to all the zombie fiction fans out there, but it can be a really good introduction to the genre.

Rating: 3/5

Author Interview:

How would you describe Waiting for Daybreak in just one line?
A character study wrapped in zombies.

What sparked the idea for this novel?
I work as a medical librarian, and I had been reading about fMRI scans of people with Borderline Personality Disorder showing that their amygdalas are a different size from those of people without a mental illness. I was thinking about that while I was walking home from the bus stop (I take public transit). It happened to be Thanksgiving weekend, and Boston empties almost completely out as most of the population goes someplace else for the holiday. The empty streets combined with the fMRI studies made me think: what if there was a zombie virus to which the mentally ill were immune?  It just flowed from there.

What part of writing Waiting for Daybreak was the most interesting for you?
I really enjoyed writing the zombie-filled perilous trek to the MSPCA. It’s where I adopted my own cat from and reimagining the route as a post-apocalyptic one was incredibly fun.

What is the biggest challenge when writing science fiction?
Making it seem plausible. You have to know enough science to be able to logic it out, as I call it. Is this a possibility on any level?  People who read sci-fi are smart. They know when something is more fantastical than scientific. 
What comes first - plot or characters?
Oh good question!  For me, the plot always comes first.  Well, I suppose not the entire plot. The basic central conflict.  Then the characters are formed and drive the rest of the plot.
Were your characters “borrowed” from real life?
I think the closest to a “borrowed” character is Frieda’s cat, Snuggles. Although my cat is a tortoiseshell, not grey, and is not allowed outside. Also, I used to have a downstairs married couple for neighbors, and they fought all the time, so Frieda’s downstairs neighbors who she overhears during the outbreak were definitely inspired by them. 
On a more serious note, I’ve had close relationships with people with diagnosed mental illnesses. So in addition to my medical/scientific knowledge, I have actual conversations and interactions to reflect on to say: how would Frieda respond to this? How would Mike? How would Frieda and Mike interact?

Which authors/books have influenced you the most?
Everything by Margaret Atwood, but especially The Handmaid’s Tale. That was the first time I stumbled into scifi by and about women. It rocked my world.  
I also find myself heavily influenced by Chuck Palahniuk and Stephen King.
Of course, I’ve been reading the scifi greats my whole life--Neuromancer, Asimov, etc...  You have to know the past of the genre to get a feel for the future.

Have your reading habits changed since you started writing?
Well, I’ve always written, so I’ll answer the question as since I made the decision to get serious about publishing.
Yes, definitely. It used to be that if I read a book and didn’t like it or enjoy it I’d say, “Well that sucked” and move on. Now I sit down and try to figure out why it didn’t work for me. That helps me know what to avoid in my own writing. I also do the same for books I love now. You have to actively think about what you are reading in order to continually improve your writing. 

What advice would you give aspiring writers?
First, stop calling yourself an “aspiring writer.” You either are a writer or you aren’t.  Second, stop stalling and just do it.  Everyone procrastinates.  Procrastination and hesitation aren’t signs you can’t write.  They’re signs you’re nervous and hesitant. Stop being nervous, sit down, and write. No excuses.

After Waiting for Daybreak, what’s next?
I have twoish chapters written for my next novel. It’s a dark fantasy in which the dark gods of Lovecraft fame have taken over the world and humanity has divided into groups that have vastly different ideas on how to deal with the problem.  I’m extremely excited about it because it’s my first book that will be written from multiple perspectives.

Check out the tour schedule at the author's blog, to read more reviews, interviews and participate in giveaways!


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