Interview with Amanda McNeil
Thank you Amanda for joining us today and giving our readers a chance to win a copy of your book, Waiting for Daybreak.
Waiting for Daybreak is a book about a zombie outbreak. With zombie fiction being so popular lately, can you tell us a bit about what aspects of your book will make it stand out from all the rest?
There are three things that I think make it stand out. First, the virus itself. The virus mysteriously only affects the mentally healthy. Those suffering from a mental illness are immune. Second, it is set in the north in Boston, whereas a lot of the zombie tales we see right now are in the south or in the countryside. Third, the main character is a 20-something city dwelling woman with Borderline Personality Disorder. She does not have access to guns. She lives in a studio apartment. How she survives then is perhaps a bit more relatable to other city dwellers.
Your main character Frieda suffers from depression or a similar emotional disorder. You don't see many heroines with this type of character flaw and I love the concept of her reevaluating her normalcy now that the zombie apocalypse has hit. Can you give us some more insight on Frieda, her depression, and how it plays into this zombie scenario?
Well, when I created Frieda, I decided to give her Borderline Personality Disorder, although I never explicitly say the name of the disorder in the book. I’ve been fascinated at how readers are trying to figure out exactly what she has. I didn’t realize it’d matter so much to them! Perhaps future editions will include an author’s note explaining what Frieda has.
In any case, people with BPD have a different sized amygdala than the rest of the population. The amygdala regulates emotions, so a key aspect of the illness is that they feel things more strongly. The DSM IV (the manual psychiatrists use to help them diagnose mental illnesses) lists nine aspects of the illness. A person must exhibit five in order to be diagnosed. If you or your readers are interested, you can see the full listing here, but the primary ones that you see in Frieda are unstable emotions (particularly anxiety and depression), self-injury, disassociation, and unstable interpersonal relationships.
Obviously since the virus only doesn’t affect those with a mental illness, my main character had to have one. I chose BPD because it is more complex than some others, and I wanted readers to realize that mental illness *is* a complex thing. I also chose it for those who have it to see a positive reflection of themselves in literature. Most movies and literature demonize people with BPD, and that is just a reaction to the discomfort of not understanding someone.
Beyond just the fact that Frieda had to have a mental illness in order to be a survivor, her illness plays into every single decision she makes. Her illness is what made her be at home the day of the outbreak and thus safe from being eaten by zombies. Her illness gave her anxiety to such a level before the outbreak that she was actually moderately well-prepared for an apocalypse due to her “irrational” fears. Her intense love for her cat is also what sends her on her dangerous mission across the city that is the catalyst for a lot of the action in the book.
I'm a zombie fanatic so I'd like to take this time in the interview to ask you some fun flesh flavored questions.
If you found yourself in the middle of a zombie outbreak and the only weapon you had to defend yourself with was the item directly to your right... how screwed would you be? (I would be pretty screwed as mine would be a water bottle lol)
Hehe, mine is my reusable coffee mug...so I wouldn’t be any better off than you!
No but seriously, what would be your weapon of choice in a zombie outbreak?
A hatchet. It takes away the noise factor of guns but you don’t have to get as close as Frieda does with her kitchen knife!
Favorite zombie flick?
Sugar Hill. It’s a 1974 blaxploitation film in which the main character takes revenge for her boyfriend’s death by calling up a voodoo god and getting a gang of zombies together to attack the gang responsible. It is amazing.
What was your favorite thing about writing a zombie book?
Going for walks and imagining what my city would look like overrun by zombies!
Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring authors looking to self-publish?
Be persistent and believe in yourself and your writing. The hardest thing about self-publishing is the people out there who believe every single self-published book is bad. This is not true! But you will have to stand up for yourself and your work. Not in an aggressive way, but in a brave I’m going to put myself out there and let the haters hate way. You’ll have to grow a thick skin and just hope that with your work will somehow find the right readers for it. Writing the book is easy. Putting it together for the various distribution requirements (Amazon, Smashwords, CreateSpace) and tossing it out there is really hard. Harder than I expected. Prepare yourself for that. Also, never ever ever respond to reviews, whether positive or negative. It will always make you look bad. Unfortunately, self-published authors actually do have to look at some of the reviews to at least gather up quotes to use in marketing. It’s unavoidable. But don’t respond. Be ready to close your computer and go drink some wine with some friends. :-)
Thank you, Amanda for indulging me!
Thank you for having me!
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?
About the Author
Amanda McNeil lives in Boston in a funky attic apartment that used to be a servant's quarters. She, alas, must write by night and work by day. She writes scifi, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and horror and has been strongly influenced by Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, and Chuck Palahniuk.Her first book, Ecstatic Evil, was released on July 7, 2011. Its sequel is set during American Thanksgiving and the release date is not set yet.Her second book, Waiting for Daybreak, about a woman with Borderline Personality Disorder attempting to survive a zombie-like virus outbreak in Boston, was released on June 4, 2012.You may contact Amanda at email@example.com and find her online at her blog where she also maintains an up-to-date listing of her published short stories
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