Karis Hylen has been through the New York City dating wringer. After years of failed relationships, she abandons her social life and whittles her days down to work and spending time with her dog, Zeke. Her self-imposed exile ends up saving her life when an untreatable virus sweeps the East Coast, killing millions.
Alone in her apartment building, Karis survives with only Zeke, phone calls to her mom, and conversations with two young girls living across the courtyard. With the city in a state of martial law, violence and the smell of rotting corpses surround her every day. But her biggest enemy is her own mind. As cabin fever sets in, vivid hallucinations make her question her sanity.
In addition to her dwindling food and water stash, Karis must now struggle to keep her mind in check. When a mysterious man enters the scene, she hopes she can convince him to help her make it to the quarantine border. With the world crumbling around her, Karis discovers her inner strength but may find that she needs people after all.
The Big Thrill caught up to author Nicole Mabry and had a chance to gain some insight into the creation of her thriller, PAST THIS POINT:
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
I had no idea that most people who don’t live in California think the term “the Bay Area” only referred to San Francisco areas. The truth is that the Bay Area incorporates an almost 7000-square-mile area. It also surprised me that two young girls made their way into my book and I hadn’t intended that. These two girls became most readers’ favorite characters and inspired much of the emotion I was hoping to evoke in my novel.
Without spoilers, are there any genre conventions you wanted to upend or challenge with this book?
I wrote an apocalyptic women’s fiction novel. The hardest part was finding a publisher willing to take on this under-represented genre. I kept hearing over and over that women don’t care about the apocalypse. Which I found quite puzzling since shows like The Walking Dead have a huge female fan base. In books, it’s primarily written in YA or from the male perspective. I was excited to chart less-traveled territory and tell this story from the woman’s perspective.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope my book speaks to many women who have gone through the dating rigamarole and come out the other side still single and a bit jaded. There is a stigma placed on women who are still single in their thirties and forties that it must be their fault if they haven’t found love. What this stigma fails to incorporate is that not everyone is lucky in love, even if they put in an insane amount of effort into that area of their lives. At some point, I hope it will be more accepted to live a fulfilling single life. I hope my readers take hope away from this book, that even at later stages in life, you can still find love if that’s what you want. And that tenacity in difficult, and even dangerous times will always serve you well.
What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?
The biggest challenge was the fact that my character is alone in an apartment building for months where very little happens. It took months to figure out how to make those pages interesting with not a lot of action. The biggest opportunity for me was to take a genre that is primarily represented by YA and male perspectives, and show the female struggle during a dangerous time. I hoped to show that the female experience is just as intriguing as any other experience. Women are strong and resourceful and I strove to show that in my novel.
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
Margaret Atwood. Her books definitely have paved the way for what I’m trying to do with my book. Her writing is so eloquent and evocative. As a reader, I like the action of a book, and generally just skim through long descriptions. But in her books, I gobbled up every word. I strive to be that type of writer. I also loved Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars. It was such an interesting take on a post-apocalyptic world. The writing was different than what I’m used to in this genre and after I allowed myself to be swept up in his writing style, it blew me away.
Nicole Mabry spends her days at NBCUniversal as the Senior Manager of Photography Post Production. Her nights are reserved for writing novels. At the age of seven, she read The Boxcar Children, sparking a passion for reading and writing early on. Nicole grew up in the Bay Area in Northern California and went to college at UCLA for Art History. During a vacation, she fell in love with New York City and has lived in Queens for the past 16 years. On weekends you can find her with a camera in hand and her dog, Jackson, by her side. Nicole is an animal lover and horror movie junkie.
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.