Waiting for Daybreak
by Amanda McNeil
Summary: 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?
I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. Frieda is the narrator and it is written almost like a journal, but I suppose that is because Frieda is a zombie apocalypse survivor who is alone, save for her cat. Frieda suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder and struggles with the age old question: what is normal?
This book reminded me a bit of I Am Legend (the movie, as I have not read the book) in the sense that it is a lone survivor and her trusted animal companion that carry out daily tasks and occasionally forage, though the zombies are quite different from the ones presented in the movie. The overall tone is similar, though. The entire concept and feeling of loneliness is quite present in the narrator and I could feel Frieda’s apprehension about the world and what happens next.
While there is zombie mayhem and action and it’s pretty awesome, this book is more about the inner thoughts of someone who realizes she is probably the last person in the world and impact that has on her. Frieda tells us about the moments before the outbreak and the struggles she had in everyday life when the world was normal and how she is different afterwards, especially in relation to her disorder. It is both intelligent and philosophical and less focused on actual zombie action.
Without spoiling any parts of the story, I will say that Frieda grew as a character throughout the novel and was a pretty strong female character, while also being compassionate and loving (at least towards her cat. She was quite ruthless towards zombies.) Overall, this was an intriguing novel that touches upon some of the things I’m sure we all think about in terms of being all alone after an apocalypse or viral breakout. I thought it was a clever and extremely interesting. I think the author captured the tone perfectly. Wonderful book!
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. Follow her on twitter @amandamcneil.
How long have you been writing?
Since I learned how to write I’ve been writing down stories, binding them into books, and forcing them upon people. I vaguely remember that my first bound story was about a grasshopper. When I became older, life got busy, and after I finished grad school, I decided it was time to buckle down and get serious about it again. It felt very full-circle to me.
Your bio mentions that Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, and Chuck Palahniuk are some of your biggest influences. If you had to pick, what is your favorite novel from each of those authors and why?
For Stephen King, it’s the last book in The Dark Tower series--The Dark Tower. Without giving too much away, I loved the blend of various genres and the powerful ending. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale showed me how powerful scifi about women’s issues can be. It literally changed the whole trajectory of my life. For Chuck Palahniuk, the classic Fight Club. I have a deep appreciation for the minimalist, hard-hitting style of American writing that he exhibits, but also Fight Club’s message about the ennui resulting from consumerism and the fakeness forced upon people in the white collar world strikes a real chord with me.
How do you deal with writer's block?
I think it’s important to figure out the root cause of your block. For me addressing the cause tends to take care of the block. For instance, about a year ago I was trying to write a novella and was completely blocked. It turned out I was blocked because I didn’t really want to write that story. I wanted to get back to Waiting For Daybreak. It’s important to pay attention to what the writer’s block is trying to tell you.
What inspired you to add the element of struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder to a survivor's account of the zombie apocalypse?
I knew the central aspect of the story was going to be about what is normal and feature a mentally ill character. I wanted to choose an illness that can be difficult to understand, because I wanted to challenge the reader. BPD was the perfect match, because it can be scary and even unfathomable to someone who doesn’t have it or understand it. I wanted to drive the reader outside of their comfort zone to get to know somebody who is mentally ill and see them in a different light.
On the flip-side of that coin, I wanted to give readers with a mental illness themselves a realistically depicted yet positive version of themselves in a work of fiction, where they are much too frequently depicted extremely negatively. This is particularly true of BPD, which is often pointed toward as causing the “crazy girlfriend syndrome” in stories. In fact, I’ve often seen movies like Fatal Attraction used to explain BPD in news articles and such. It’s not fair or right to people who struggle with mental illnesses in general and BPD in particular to be surrounded by such stigma. I wanted to combat that to at least some extent in Waiting For Daybreak.
How fun was it to research zombie related material when you were writing Waiting for Daybreak?
In all honesty, zombies were one of the few things I did no research for at all in writing Waiting For Daybreak. I’ve been a zombie fan my whole life, so it was one of those things I just kind of intuitively knew. My research mostly revolved around getting Snuggles’s illness, diagnosis, and treatment right, BPD and Major Depressive Disorder, and re-visiting some of the neighborhoods some of the scenes are set in to make sure I got them right. Oh, I also did a bit of research on food preservation and container gardening.
Favorite supernatural creature?
I’m sorry, but it’s true, zombies! Although Cthulhu is an incredibly close competitor.
Favorite zombie book or movie?
Ok, I can’t “or” this question. I must answer both!
Favorite zombie book is Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. Although there are many that come close, and I also think that the graphic novel version of The Walking Dead is continually improving with time. (I don’t like the tv show).
My favorite zombie movie is Sugar Hill, a blaxploitation film from 1974 in which a woman wreaks vengeance on a gang that murdered her fiance with the help of a voodoo god and zombie hit men.
I love that, despite moments of weakness, Frieda is a pretty strong female character who kicks butt. Who is your favorite strong heroine from literature?
Oh gosh, there are so many to pick from! My current go-to for kicking butt, sexy times, and laughs is Kitty Katt from the Katherine “Kitty” Katt series by Gini Koch. I mean, she gets to work in a secret government agency, drive fast cars, shoot guns, and date a sexy alien in a three piece suit who looks like a model. What is not to like?
Are you currently working on another novel? If so, what is it about?
Yes! My next novel is a dark fantasy in which the dark gods of Lovecraftian fame have taken over Boston. I’m excited about it because it will be my first time writing from multiple perspectives, as there will be threeish main characters.
Any advice for 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.
Thank you so much for letting me pick your brain!
Check out Amanda’s blog for upcoming dates for the blog tour. More reviews, interviews, and giveaways will be available this month!