Without another thought, without another second to spare, she threw herself to her feet and tore off running in the direction of the highway. Looking back only once to see a tsunami of death advancing on her only friend left in the world.
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
The residents of Florida have found that the world has turned to Hell and only the strong can survive. The role you once played in society no longer applies here and neither do the rules. The bonds of family and friendship can turn up in the most unlikely of places and be taken from you just as quickly. And the dead roam wild and free.
The Breadwinner, the first book in Stevie Kopas’ post-apocalyptic trilogy, gives us a glimpse into the lives of normal people in a not-so-normal world. A violent infection has broken out, turning the sick into “eaters” that devour the flesh of living, thus spreading the infection. The main characters find themselves moving farther and farther from who they were in their previous lives to come together as a group in this new life. Samson Eckhart, a wealthy, high class lawyer, begins to realize that the trivial things he and his wife valued so much really have very little meaning. He tries to hold on to what normal used to be while creating a new normal for his family and his disillusioned wife, who are living in the gated community of Franklin Woods. Veronica, a 16-year-old high school track star, finds that she has more strength in the face of disaster than she thought possible. She is a pillar of bravery for her father and older brother and an unlikely friend for 25-year-old Ben, a veteran who now resides in a restaurant. And Andrew, a police officer in Franklin Woods, must find a way to balance his relationship with his unstable girlfriend and his brother, all while making sure they aren’t eaten alive. The group begins the story as total strangers, but soon learn that their chances of survival increase as they work together, even if the group as a whole doesn’t always see eye to eye. With one common goal, make it out alive, they try to come up with a plan that will get them to the coast and away from the monsters they have been avoiding.
While zombie apocalypse novels seem to be everywhere these days, The Breadwinner really intrigued me because I enjoyed the characters so much. Kopas creates a nice variety of people that balance each other well and each offer their own uniqueness to the story. She does a wonderful job of not only shaping the lives of the characters, but also allowing us to see how the apocalypse has affected the individuals emotionally and mentally. I enjoyed seeing the world through the eyes of such a variety of people. I also enjoyed how each character brought a different type of strength to the group. Kopas avoided the all-too-cliche apocalypse “badass” character, who seem to naturally know what to do in such an event, and instead created characters that learn to survive because of their individual strengths and willingness to overcome disaster. I’m very anxious to see what will happen to the group when the second book is released!
Michael is a Mississippi boy but has been fortunate to live in Switzerland and France and other stops around the US. He has been back in Mississippi for 7 years now and is glad to be back on the home turf. Michael lives in a 135 year old home it took him three years to renovate and he is glad it’s over.
Sierra: When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
Michael: I started trying to write when I was about 29, after some years of reading that led me to try it myself. My novella, The Hands of Strangers, came out in the spring of 2011 but it was done around 2009. I started Rivers in January of 2010.
Sierra: Tell us a little bit about Rivers.
Michael: Rivers came along because I wanted to write a big hurricane story, but didn’t like the idea of using a real event for a novel. So I kept thinking about it and decided instead of writing a hurricane novel, write THE hurricane novel. Make it as big and bad and devastating and possible, and then see what happens. It was natural for me to use the Mississippi Gulf Coast as a landscape.
Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?
Michael: I don’t think much about genre or things like that. I just try to write the best story I can and it falls wherever it falls.
Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?
Michael: That’s a tough. I really like the opening chapters because I got to explore this kind of wet, apocalyptic land and see it for myself the first time. But I also liked writing the scenes where Cohen and the group are fighting their way north and dealing with crazy people, wild animals, and Mother Nature.
Sierra: Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Michael: It’s pretty much imagination though I think it’s natural for things you know or characteristics you’ve found in other people creep into your work. But I try not to use my own life or experiences or relationships as fuel for fiction. Imagining is more fun.
Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as
Michael: My biggest influences have been Hemingway and Mississippi writer Larry Brown. I read Hemingway seriously for the first time when I was living abroad and I’d been to the bullfights in Madrid, sat in the cafes in Paris, so I felt a connection to both his stories and the places. I also found that you can write directly and economically and make a strong impact on a reader. Later, when I read Larry Brown, I got the sense of what a contemporary Mississippi writer was doing and it gave me the notion that I had things of my own to explore.
Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?
Michael: I’m not sure. I have tough days like everyone else but they usually don’t last long if I stay at it.
Sierra: Is there an author that you would really like to meet?
Michael: Not one in particular but I think it would have been very cool to be in Paris in the 20s and go to Sylvia Beach’s bookstore and mill around with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce, and maybe Picasso would’ve walked in, too.
Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?
Michael: Rivers just released in September of 2013. Hopefully we’ll see an ebook release of The Hands of Strangers in a few months and in the meantime I’ve begun a new novel that I won’t say much about so as not to jinx it.
Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel or getting
it published that you would change?
Michael: No, not really. When I think about all my frustrations that came along the way, I realize that I was growing and maturing as a writer during that time and that’s what makes my work what it is.
Sierra: Do you have any advise to give to aspiring writers?
Michael: Read a lot. Write a lot. Listen to feedback from editors and others who read your work.
Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Michael: Rivers has had a great response and I’ve met so many cool people the past few months while I’ve been out and about with Rivers. I’m grateful for all the support and look forward to making more new friends along the book trail in 2014.
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
I would first like to the author, Michael Farris Smith for sending me his book Rivers!
Following years of devastating storms, the new boundary line for the United States has been drawn ninety miles north of the Gulf Coast. The government is no longer able to provide services or the protection for people living in the storm ravaged areas, leaving them to their own devices. Cohen lives an isolated existence made less lonely by a stray dog and horse and punctuated only by supply runs. Bound to his Mississippi home by the loss of his wife and unborn child, he is forced to leave his land when his supplies are stolen by a pair of young thieves. While tracking them down, he discovers a group of survivors led by a very disturbing preacher determined to give life to the area through the women he is holding captive. Cohen is faced with the task of saving the preacher’s victims, but restricted by his past and his secrets, Cohen makes his journey through the relentless landscape. The pages of this novel are filled with the deceptively simple, richly layered sentences that trace his characters’ thoughts, both past and present. While much of Rivers is true to the grim tones common in dystopian fiction, there is a thread of hope running through the novel directly connected to Smith’s brilliantly developed characters.
One of the most hauntingly distinctive aspects of the novel is its realistic setting. Though seemingly endless apocalyptic stories have been written in recent years, the depleted and divided land Smith creates does not feel far off. Rather than wandering an Earth scorched by a mysterious disease or unknown savagery, Cohen is plagued by the same disastrous storms Americans encounter today. The author has skillfully filled his violent, dangerous tale with hope and love, making it a stand out, unforgettable read.
This book is a bleak and brutal story about survival and to what ends people will go to continue to live. I would recommend this book to anyone who is not afraid to get their feet wet!