Aug 20, 2015

The Summer the World Ended by Matthew S. Cox

Her luck takes an unexpected turn for the better when she meets a boy who shares her interest in video games and contempt for small town boredom. In him, she finds a kindred spirit who might just make the middle of nowhere tolerable.

Description:
Published: June 29th, 2015
As far as Riley McCullough is concerned, her best friend getting ‘dragged’ off to Puerto Vallarta for the first two weeks of summer vacation was the end of the world―at least until the bombs fell.
Life in suburban New Jersey with her mother has been comfortable, not to mention boring, to an introverted fourteen year old. As if her friend’s surprise trip wasn’t bad enough, her expectations for the ‘best summer ever’ disintegrate when she gets sent across the country to stay with a father she hasn’t seen in six years. Adjusting to a tiny, desert town where everyone stares at them like they don’t belong proves difficult, and leaves her feeling more isolated than ever. To make matters worse, her secretive father won’t tell the truth about why he left―or what he’s hiding.
Her luck takes an unexpected turn for the better when she meets a boy who shares her interest in video games and contempt for small town boredom. In him, she finds a kindred spirit who might just make the middle of nowhere tolerable.
Happiness is short lived; fleeing nuclear Armageddon, she takes shelter with her dad in an underground bunker he’d spent years preparing. After fourteen days without sun, Riley must overcome the sorrow of losing everything to save the one person she cares about most.
MB's INTERVIEW
1. From what I could see, all of your main characters are young woman/girls. Why so and what were the obstacles you met when you put yourself in the girl shoes?
A lot of my mains are female. I can’t really say why I have an easier time writing a woman/girl as a main character, but it feels easier for me to get into their heads. When I am writing a female character, I am thinking in terms of a character doing things who happens to be a female – not a ‘female character doing things.’ I don’t feel that I’ve hit too many huge obstacles to writing female characters, though if I were to – it would probably be for specific minutiae that I haven’t yet had a character go through (e.g. pregnancy, menopause, female-specific health problems… essentially things that are uniquely feminine and would be difficult to imagine my way into.)

2. What it takes to build an “attractive” post-apocalyptic world?
Attractive can mean so many things. Visual description, thorough detail about how the mechanisms of life and society continued or changed, or perhaps attractive in the sense of a ‘pleasant’ post-war society where humanity has learned from its past mistakes. I think the most important thing to consider when portraying a post apocalypse is to have a solid sense of the world as it exists in the fictional world, and stay true to that vision. I tend to see things happening in my head like a movie, and have been told that my descriptions often feel ‘cinematic’ to the reader. If a writer can make the reader feel like they are in the world, I think they’ve managed to create an ‘attractive’ setting.

3. There is any room for “emotional impact” in a post- apocalyptic story / The Summer the World Ended? 
How I am writing an ‘emotional impact’ story in a post-apoc setting? Some writers bring their settings to the forefront, making the world itself a character. Sometimes that works, but it can backfire and make the reader weary of the technology in a sci fi setting or of the bleakness in a post-apoc world. Both for my sci fi stories, as well as this, I treat the setting as a backdrop for a character story. At its core, The Summer the World Ended is a story about Riley dealing with her disintegrating family. While integral to the plot, the post-apocalyptic elements could be edited into anything else from a colonized alien planet, to earth-normal-now to a far future sci fi setting and still work. The emotional impact comes from Riley’s journey through sorrow, fear, loneliness, hope, and maybe even love.

4. What are the specifics of the readers who read “post-apocalyptic” genre? To whom would you recommend The Summer the World Ended?
I got interested in post-apoc from being exposed to an old computer game back in the early-mid 1980s, Wasteland. In my opinion, the genre draws two primary types of fans. One group enjoys the bleakness, the explosions, the kill-or-be-killed Darwinism, and the over the top violence. Another group is attracted to the socio/political/environmental messages in these stories, and revels in the depiction of a world changed by the hand of humanity. As far as who I’d recommend The Summer the World Ended to, I’d say readers who like a deep character driven story with highs and lows of emotion, and a character that might have been them. I think the story appeals to teens, parents of teens, and those who might be considered ‘doomsday preppers.’ Also, I’m sure it will appeal to anyone who’s had to deal with the effects of mental illness and depression, or been uprooted from a comfortable life and thrust into an unknown world against their will. Anyone who wants to take this bumpy emotional ride with Riley, and keep their fingers crossed she gets through it with her body—and mind—intact.

5. There are several themes for Post-apocalyptic, for example: cooperation vs. competition, adaptation to vs. disappearance, trust, difficult choices etc. What themes we will find in The Summer and how could they be braided?
The story focuses more on the microcosm of Riley, her family, and how she interacts with the world around her before and after surviving the bombs. The narrative follows her close, and doesn’t so much dwell on a post-apocalyptic society as a whole. (I do hit some of those notes in a different upcoming novel.) Of the themes you mentioned above, I’d have to say difficult choices, issues of trust, and adaptation are the most prevalent.

About the author:

Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.
Hobbies and Interests:
Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it.
He is also fond of cats.

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