Author Amber Kizer on Survival and Inspiration for A Matter of Days
Today we’re thrilled to share a special piece written by young adult author Amber Kizer. Her new book, A Matter of Days, will be available June 11th. It’s a chilling survival story set in a post-apocalyptic world and was a favorite among our group of reps. Amber is here to give us a look at the books that inspired her story, in-depth looks at the book’s characters and what survival means in her own life. Don’t miss this dark, exciting read!
Does anyone else think about waking up one morning all alone in the world? Everyone gone…but instead of panicking…enjoying it? Exploring a mall alone? Snooping through houses? Taking what you want, and need, when you want to? Life distilled back to the basics? NO? Hmm…Maybe it’s just me. I can’t resist daydreaming about the possibilities.
The story idea for A Matter of Days has its roots in my teen reading.
One of the first big books I read in middle school, and by big books I mean loooong, was Stephen King’s The Stand—it’s a showdown of good versus evil in a world devastated by a plague. Awesome book! I followed that with dozens of nonfiction books about the Holocaust and WWII. Resilience personified.
In high school I read Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone, which is the true story of Ebola (nasty virus) arriving in Virginia. I became fascinated with the science and history of viruses. They are quite complicated and amazing organisms.
I was thrilled to combine both survival and viruses in A Matter of Days. As a reader, I demand characters I connect with. That’s always a focus for me as a writer—Nadia, Rabbit, and Zack make this journey across the country fun…yes, I said fun! I know survival stories are supposed to be full of dark, depressing, shoot-me-now scenarios but who wants to survive to live in that all the time? There has to be fun, joy, peace, and laughter possible in any reality.
Laughter isn’t where A Matter of Days starts though. At Day 56, after BluStar went global, we meet Nadia and Rabbit as their mother’s death arrives. Before BluStar, Nadia never wanted to be a stand-in mom to her younger brother Rabbit. When their father died in action their mom withdrew into grief. It’s a position I know a lot of teens can relate to—being the eldest in the household while parents work long hours, or leave completely.
Nadia has good instincts; she’s able to persevere. She sees that every decision has the potential to hurt or kill them. That means Rabbit has to have a voice and she begins to listen to him. She transitions from “boss” to “partner” across the miles.
Rabbit is only three years younger and in a lot of ways he’s raised himself. He’s smart, curious, and a great problem solver—all traits that serve the siblings well as they journey out.
And there’s Zack—Zack who lived on the streets of Los Angeles before BluStar and knows how to survive in very inhumane circumstances. But he started over and found an abandoned town to rebuild his reality.
Nadia and Rabbit’s dad taught them to “be the cockroach” which means to be adaptable—survival in many ways is about mindset, not equipment. But outside of a catastrophe there are plenty of ways to apply being the cockroach to everyday life. It’s a way of looking at the world and seeing all the possibilities. It’s a way of persevering, when other people quit and give up.
The obvious way I’m adaptable is my health. My legs throw curveballs at me all the time. But less obvious ways to adapt mean taking rejection, disappointment, grief—all things that are unavoidable in life—it means taking them as they come. Feel the emotions, but get back up, work harder or smarter, try again. For the religious, it means rowing the boat while you pray for deliverance.
We don’t have to have a pandemic, or a natural disaster “to be the cockroach”—whether it’s working toward college scholarships, asking that boy to prom, finding a job to help pay the family bills—these are all situations where being strong and adaptable are important. You have to take risks or what’s the point?
But honestly my goal in A Matter of Days is to take readers on an entertaining and enjoyable ride—make them stay up until three a.m. just to find out what happens! There are lots of accurate survival tips buried inside and the science of the virus is based on a variation of research going on right now. One of the coolest parts of the cover art is the overlay of the 1918 influenza under a microscope. Check it out and let me know your thoughts! Amber@AmberKizer.com or @WriteAmberKizer