Author: Anne Mendel
Publication Date: April 22, 2012
It’s the 2020 Apocalypse and Sophie Cohen, former social worker turned neighborly drug dealer, must keep her family alive amid those pesky end of the world issues: starvation, earthquakes, plagues, gang violence and alas more starvation.She investigates a serial killing and takes down the sinister emerging power structure while learning to use a pizza box solar oven, bond with her chickens and blast tin cans from the perimeter fence with a Ruger 9MM.
In order to accomplish all this she must find a way to love her mother, accept her daughter’s adulthood and reignite her moribund marriage.
She might discover that a decentralized, consensus driven life—without fossil fuels, iPhones and chocolate éclairs—isn’t the end of the world, after all.
The Characters: Our protagonist, Sophie, was such a fun character. She is smart, sarcastic, funny and a little over emotional. She is in serious need of some affection, and her inner monologue kept me giggling. On the other hand, her husband, Bertrand, wasn't easy for me to connect with. I can't specifically say what it was, but I think part of it had to do with his personality. He seemed a little standoffish and needed just a smidgen more of depth. Aside from our two main characters, we also got to know Lulu, Sophie's mother, who acts oblivious to most things but is actually very sly. She was also a fun one, obsessed with looking her best even though she rarely left the apartment and nobody ever came over. We also meet Sasha, Sophie's daughter, Mitchell, Sophie's brother, and a myriad of other characters who live in Sophie's building. Each quirky side character brought their own special something to the story and it was for the better of it.
The Setting: Since this story takes place in the not-so-distant future, Sophie's world is still pretty easy to relate to. Common brands and trends from the present are still relevant (or at least referred to, since the world has gone crazy and all), all this makes the story easy to follow without having to learn new jargon.
The Plot/Storyline: The story follows Sophie as she lives her day to day life after the apocalypse has taken out much of the world. She lives in an apartment building where everyone helps to take care of each other. When Bertrand, a doctor, notices that someone has been murdering prostitutes, he and Sophie decide to investigate. What follows is an intense, although humorous, thriller. It was well developed and quickly paced but not rushed. There's plenty of action and fun dialog to keep you consistently turning those pages!
The Writing: I have to admit that it did take me a few pages to really get sucked into this book. At first, I found the writing style to be a bit clumpy, does that make sense?. It seemed like Sophie would be talking about one thing and then all of a sudden jump into another topic without much of a segue. She came off at times as a little scatterbrained. Fortunately, after I got to know Sophie and figured her out, I really started enjoying the way the book was written. Her snarky personality was the perfect venue to tell this story.
Overall, I truly enjoyed Etiquette for an Apocalypse. It's the perfect combination of suspense and humor. Sophie's voice will show you that she could be any one of us and even if the world goes to hell, it's possible to still keep sight of who you are and make the most out of what you are given.
Anne Mendel, the author of Etiquette for an Apocalypse, has also been kind enough to stop by today and answer some questions for us. Welcome, Anne!
Q: CAN YOU PLEASE TELL US A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT YOURSELF AND ETIQUETTE FOR AN APOCALYPSE?
I wrote an end-of-the-world book because I am an optimist. I believe my fears are based on what I don’t know. So, the more I know about disasters and survival and the better prepared I am, the less fearful I become. I’m a community organizer and my main character is one too, although my she’s much stronger than I am. The book is more do as I say, not as I do because in a terrible disaster I would probably end up on Darwin’s short list to extinction.
I have two sons, who have made it very clear they do not want to be in my books in any way, shape or form, so, Etiquette for an Apocalypse ended up with three generations of women living in the same house. It left a lot of room for conflict, intrigue and humor. My husband is neither a doctor nor Haitian, but we do live in Northwest Portland and the book is set in our neighborhood.
Q: HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR THIS BOOK?
A few years ago I saw a movie about what happened in Cuba in 1990 when the Soviet Union collapsed and they lost all of their fuel overnight. The Long Emergency was about the things in Cuba that got better after the collapse. People lost 30 pounds, diabetes II disappeared and community flourished. I thought it would be great to write a book that explained how, in hard times, some things can get better; BUT, it will be a lot easier if you start preparing now!
Q: DOES THE IDEA YOU START WITH AS INSPIRATION FOR YOUR WRITING EVER TURN INTO SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY WHEN YOU ARE DONE?
I did start out with the idea that I’d be writing a murder mystery set in a post-
apocalyptic world. No one could be more surprised than I was when it
turned into a thriller. I thought I was a vegetarian pacifist, but in order to
write a book that was believable, I had to learn things about war strategy
and guns. As my main character evolved, I began to evolve into someone
who took shooting lessons and followed survival blogs.
Q: IF YOU COULD WRITE A BOOK FROM ANOTHER AUTHOR’S SERIES, WHICH WOULD IT BE?
That’s an easy one. The Hunger Games. It hugely influenced my book. I
was fascinated with the first book. In each chapter I thought, “things can’t
get worse.” And then, they always did. I tried hard to follow that model.
Q: WHAT WAS THE BOOK THAT MOST IMPACTED YOUR LIFE AND WHY?
Years ago I read Anya by Susan Fromberg Schaffer. It’s about two teenage best friends and how they were changed by the Holocaust. It planted, very deeply in my brain, the idea that no one knows who they will become in horrible times. My characters are all shaped by that idea. They all become people they didn’t know they could be. Some for better; some for worse.
Q: WHAT WAS THE CATALYST THAT FIRST SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN A CAREER IN WRITING?
I thought it would be fun to write as an outlet for “me” when my kids were little. So I would have to say playing Candyland with my kids. I had no idea it would take years of skill building to get to a place where I could get my ideas down on paper in a way people would read.
Q: WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE WRITING CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED?
Writing brings out all of my basic insecurities. I worry.... about everything. Am I good enough? Will people like me? Can I stick it out when the going gets tough? I worry I’ll be an utter failure. And, if I am successful, I worry I’ll never be that good again. I worry about big things like world peace and small things like what I’ll wear to a book signing. WORRY is my biggest life challenge and it seeps into everything.... will the answer to this question be good enough?!
Q: WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU FACE ON THE ROAD TO PUBLICATION?
It took twenty years of research, persistence and many, many, many rejections just to get started on Etiquette for an Apocalypse. I’m not good with rejection. But, because I think resilience is the most important personality trait to get us through hard times, I would have to say courting resilience helped me through the mess up and rejection.
Q: ETIQUETTE FOR AN APOCALYPSE IS YOUR RECENT RELEASE. WOULD YOU PLEASE TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT THE PREMISE?
The simple premise of Etiquette for an Apocalypse is that an apocalypse leads to finding the limits of one’s human potential (if they survive, of course). My hope is that it will inspire people to create and develop resilience, community and basic skills so they can feel safer in the world.
Q: THE CONDO TENANTS ARE QUITE AN ECLECTIC MIXTURE OF CHARACTERS AND PERSONALITIES. WHAT WERE SOME OF YOUR INFLUENCES BEHIND THE PERSONALITIES? ARE ANY OF THE CHARACTERIZATIONS BASED ON PEOPLE IN YOUR OWN LIFE?
Yes and No. There are bits and pieces of dozen of people I know in each character; for example, my protagonist’s mother. She is my mother’s obsession with weight, my best friend’s ability to strategize and she is one of my neighbors, who trains show dogs.
I also wanted to point out the fact that in a post-apocalyptic world, humans are going to have to figure out how to tolerate and work with people they disagree
with and don’t like; that is, if humanity is to survive. This is heavily demonstrated
through my characters.
Q: DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO WRITE A SERIES OF NOVELS FEATURING THE COHENS AND THEIR CONDO FRIENDS?
Yes, I am at work on my next book, tentatively titled, Rebellion for an Apocalypse.
Q: HOW MUCH RESEARCH WAS INVOLVED IN THE WRITING OF ETIQUETTE FOR AN APOCALYPSE?
I read dozens of books, took an array of classes in survival and have been
following a number of survival blogs online. I did this research before I started writing and through the entire process. Even now, after finishing the novel, I try
and keep up on as much as possible. I do believe all this knowledge has made
me stronger and less fearful in an uncertain world.
Q: IS THERE A MESSAGE IN YOUR NOVEL THAT YOU WOULD LIKE THE READER TO THINK ABOUT?
Yes! Take chocolate chip cookies to your neighbors TODAY. They are the one’swho will be pulling you out of the sink hole. I have a weekly blog that give suggestions for one thing to do each week to better prepare. www.annemendel.com
Q: MANY AUTHORS BOUNCE IDEAS WITH OTHER AUTHORS, OR BETWEEN FAMILY AND FRIENDS. WITH WHOM DO YOU BOUNCE IDEAS?
I have the best writing group imaginable. The-Last-Writing- Group critiqued every word I wrote, sometimes two or three times. Marc Acitio, a well-known writer himself, is my coach, tutor and teacher. This book would not exist without these people.
Q: ON WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING?
I am spending most of my time and energy on promoting Etiquette for an
Apocalypse. For years I fantasized about becoming published one day. I never
imagined the efforts it would take to market my book.
Q: WOULD YOU LIKE TO ADD ANYTHING ELSE?
Yes. Whether it’s a natural disaster such as a tornado or a financial disaster such as Wall Street greed, the better prepared an individual is, both with skills and tools, the less fearful they will have to be. I know I’ve mentioned this earlier, but it is so vital to one’s survival. You can check out my suggestions for building
resilience on my blog www.annemendel.com or follow me on Facebook.
This is a much harder question than the ones you’ve already asked. Just one?
Chocolate Bread Pudding
FAVORITE TV SHOW:
LAST MOVIE YOU SAW:
DARK OR MILK CHOCOLATE:
Dark (NO contest)
I can't thank Anne enough for not only allowing me to read and review her book, but also for taking the time to answer my questions! Want to know more about Anne or Etiquette for an Apocalypse? Check out her blog, or you can chat with her on Facebook and Twitter!
Want to get your hands on Etiquette for an Apocalypse? Purchase your own copy now from Amazon or B&N!