Interview with Michael Adams - Author of The Last Girl

Hey everyone!!

If you regularly visit, you’ll have seen my review a couple of weeks ago of The Last Girl by Michael Adams. This week, I was fortune enough to be able to interview Michael Adams and ask him some questions about The Last Girl.

Firstly, I love your idea of an apocalypse bought on by us as humans turning on each other instead of your stock standard apocalypse bought on by zombies, aliens or act of nature. What made you think of this?

Firstly, thank you very much! The idea of global telepathy came in a flash when I was in a restaurant in New York in 2008. There was a couple at another table who didn’t say a thing to each other all night. That made me to wonder what’d happen if suddenly everything they weren’t saying came flooding out of their minds. Then I wondered what the restaurant - and then the city and the country and the world - would look like ten seconds after everyone could read everyone else’s minds. I figured if it was a sudden event it’d destroy the world because there’d be such widespread fear and confusion and panic. I imagined it’d be pretty hard to fly a 747 or operate a nuclear power plant with your mind broadcasting all your secrets - and receiving a million other people’s inner-most thoughts.

It’s scary to think about how dependent we have become on social media, and The Last Girl takes this to the next level where people are hearing everyone else’s thoughts. There were some really poignant moments in this book that made me think about how we turn on each other a lot on the internet as it is. Is there a bigger message in your novel that you want readers to understand?

I hope readers enjoy the book as an action adventure that convincingly puts them into the boots of my main character, Danby, as she tries to survive the end of the world. That’s my primary aim.

As for themes, I guess the idea of apocalypse coming from within ourselves reflects that almost all of our troubles arise because we don’t think and act in accordance with what we supposedly believe is in our own best interests and in the best interests for us as a species.

War, poverty, disease, sexism, racism, hunger, injustice, corruption, pollution: if we got our heads right, we could end most of them. But we don’t because we’re not perfect and we don’t always think pure and selfless thoughts. Far from it. So I liked the idea that the exposure of those hypocrisies becomes the apocalyptic detonator.

The Internet has vast potential for good but it’s also a medium for people to express a lot of very negative stuff, ranging from the simply stupid to the deeply terrifying. People behave differently online. I don’t know whether anonymity allows them to be worse than normal – or whether it allows them to express their true selves. I mean, can you believe that Veronica Roth is getting death threats over Allegiant? Seriously, people.

As much as social media has the power to unite it can also distance us from each other and create these strange little reclusive mental spaces where all sorts of craziness can fester with minimal criticism.

But the big question is where will it go from here? Telepathic communication is actually likely to happen in the next twenty years or so with the development of brain-computer interface technology. What will that be like when our perception of reality comes with digital distractions inside our heads? Thoughts from friends and strangers streaming in, everything we see augmented by factoids, advice and ads and offers and invites and recommendations? That’s weird enough but what about when trolls or bullies decide to bombard your brain? They say the Internet now is where the industrial revolution was in 1850. So we ain’t seen nothing yet. The Last Girl riffs on that.

Any ideas on what the cause of The Snap was?

The Last Girl’s told in the first person so there’s no way for Danby to know for sure what caused it. All sources of official authority are as helpless as everyone else and, anyway, the media and Internet are destroyed within hours. But Danby is a clever cookie who’s always theorising about things. I like her best guess: that constant connectivity led to humanity becoming telepathic suddenly rather than evolving the ability over thousands or millions of years. It’s like prehistoric people discovering fire in the morning - and splitting the atom in the afternoon. Not something we’re ready to handle.

Like yourself, I am a huge horror movie fan, and I especially love apocalyptic themes in movies and books - and I know I am not alone! Why do you think we like hypothesising on the apocalypse so much?

I think most stories arise from “What if” questions. Apocalyptic scenarios wrap a million of these together in one sprawling and exciting package where the stakes are as high as they get. What we’re plunged into is not just the ultimate battle for survival but also a scenario that challenges every established idea you have of who you are and what makes life meaningful. Your family? They’re zombies! Your school or workplace? Rubble! Friends? Dead or scattered! Fresh water and food? Good luck with that! Judicial system? Welcome to the law of the jungle, baby! God? How could s/he do this to us?!

It’s frightening but there’s also a freedom that goes with all of that. Parents, teachers, bosses – they’re no longer telling you what to do. You can walk in the middle of the road, take what you want from the shopping mall. It’s a fantasy that liberates us from our everyday lives.

Apocalyptic stories also let us to indulge the fantasy that we’re exceptional. Most people die – but we survive… if only vicariously though the main characters. And we get to test ourselves against their choices as the story progresses. Would I take the car? Hole up in the basement? Head for the mountains? Apocalyptic stories also let us fantasise about what comes next – how we become part of the new world order… or resist it.

Speaking of apocalyptic theories, I know you’re the type of man with a plan - Zombie apocalypse has hit, and they’re coming after us. What do you do?

I live in the Blue Mountains: small population, helluva lot of wilderness. I’d grab the family, food and first aid and get as far from people as possible. Once I’d MacGuyered up one hundred possum snares, cleared a few acres of land and planted crops and set up all sorts of spiky anti-zombie traps, I’d try to view it as a chance to catch up on reading all those big books I’ve been meaning to get to for years now.

Our protagonist Danby is a resilient, independent, smart-witted, likeable character. When thinking of this novel initially, what was the thought process in relation to making the lead character a female instead of a male, and how difficult was it for you to write from the perspective of a teenage girl?

The first scene I thought of was Christmas morning, dysfunctional family, everybody trying to put on their best faces – and a cynical teenage girl trying to deal with the lot of them when – bam! - the telepathy starts. Writing from the perspective of a teenage girl presented a challenge and an opportunity: while I could draw on universal emotions she could never have my adult male voice. I couldn’t fall back only on what I knew. I’d have to make her up, let her dictate where her story went. I do have vivid memories of my teenage emotional life so I drew on those feelings. I also recalled the teenage girls I knew then, listened to teenagers conversations around me on the train and tried to place myself into Danby’s head and heart. She was a combination of recollection, observation and imagination.

What do you find to be the hardest thing about writing?

Finding the time. I have a full-time job, do a lot of freelance work, have a partner and child and family and friends. My curse – and blessing – is a ridiculously long daily train commute that I can use to write. That said: the dream is to write full time fiction full time.

You make reference of George Orwell’s 1984 in this novel. Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

1984 was a teenage favourite – which is one of the reasons I gave it to Danby and her friends to read. As for favourite authors, I have a lot. Stephen King spins great yarns with terrific characters. Kurt Vonnegut’s all about the spin-out concept served up with smart humour. Jonathan Franzen’s delivers gorgeously funny language and big ideas of who we are now. Vladimir Nabokov makes words his beautiful playground puzzle. Others who come to mind include Michael Connelly, Philip K. Dick, Chuck Palahniuk. I adored Gillian Flynn’s books recently, too. I take different things from different books and authors. The last three books I read were Aussie debuts: The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion; Every Breath, by Ellie Marney; and just_a_girl by Kirsten Krauth. All very different but they all did the thing that counts the most: swept me up and made me savour each page while wanting to get to the next one so I could find out what happened.

Can you tell us when the sequel, The Last Shot is going to be released?

It’s out in March next year. It picks up right where The Last Girl leaves off. I like to think of it as my Empire Strikes Back. The trick will be to make the third book, The Last Shot, be a little more satisfying than Return Of The Jedi. No Ewoks, promise.

Michael AdamsAbout Michael Adams:

Michael Adams has been a restaurant dishwasher, television host, ice-cream scooper, toilet scrubber, magazine journalist, ecohouse lab rat, film reviewer, social media curator, telemarketing jerk, reality TV scribe and B-movie zombie. This one time, he watched bad movies at the rate of one per day for an entire year and wrote a book about the traumatic experience, which is called Showgirls, Teen Wolves and Astro Zombies. Michael lives in the Blue Mountains, NSW, with his partner, daughter, one dog, two cats and an average of three supersized spiders. The Last Girl is his first novel.



Huge thank you to both Allen & Unwin Australia for arranging this interview and for Michael for taking the time to talk with us!

What do you think?

  • Great interview Melissa! I like the concept of this novel and I have it on my shelf to read. The idea reminds me of a show I watched one season of that got cancelled called Flash Forward. Can’t wait to read this book!

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