When seventeen year old Liv Larson and her brother are sent to separate foster homes, shegives up on her old life, her old friends, and her faith in God. The only bright spot in Liv’s new life is her energetic and obnoxious foster-sister, Riley. When Riley convinces her to come to the rooftop party to view Icarus, the up-coming solar flare, Liv has no idea she’s being set up to meet the sexy and mysterious, Zander James. Despite her resistance, Liv finds herself drawn to Zander, and for the first time in months her troubles take a back seat…that is until what should have been a small flare, erupts into a full blown solar storm.
Now, Liv and her rag-tag group of not-quite friends must find a way to survive the sweltering heat, lingering radiation, and the mysterious virus that appears to have found an ideal host among their ranks. Alliances will be formed, and battle lines will be drawn.
Together, Liv and her new friends set out on a perilous journey to save their loved ones, find answers, and reach salvation.
But, something sinister awaits them in the dark—and it’s undeniably connected to Liv.
Soon, Liv and the others realize they may be more connected than they thought, and the truth may be too much to handle. Will Liv be able to keep her promise and reunite with her brother? Will her brave determination be enough to save them all from a rogue government, a terrifying virus, and the things that go bump in the night?
…Or was Icarus, indeed, the KILLSHOT.
- Killshot is set in the wake of a natural disaster. There are tons of YA dystopian books out there right now, what sets Killshot apart?
Many books in the dystopian genre are focused on the “after,” but in Killshot, the reader gets to feel the end, from the beginning. You are a witness the descent of mankind and the chaotic destruction that comes with getting your hands dirty. You do not have the luxury of playing audience to a watered-down version of that truth that has been twisted to suit the needs of an overbearing society.
In Killshot, you are a survivor, and as such, you are forced to ask yourself some very difficult questions.
“Am I strong enough to do what needs to be done? What lengths would I go to in order to survive…would I be willing to kill?”
The absoluteness of the reality before you, without the filter of hindsight forces you to create your own truth. Confusion, danger, and even love, force you to make a choice. Will you stay true to yourself or will you give in and become a monster?
- What inspired this story?
Killshot was actually inspired by a reoccurring nightmare I have had since I was a child. Strangely enough, the more I had the dream, the less I was afraid of it. The whole thing intrigued me. The struggles I faced in that dream have always morphed over time. Sometimes there were monsters chasing me, sometimes it was my own kind, but the basic core of the dream never changed. There was always fire, and I was always running, but I was never alone. I always had a small group of friends and loved ones by my side.
And, somehow, I always knew I was not just running away from something scary, but towards something AMAZING, though, to this day, I have yet to reach it.
- The science and survivalist techniques in the book are precise, did you do substantial research for these sections? Everything feels so real. Or is this this from personal experience?
Absolutely! I am not shy about admitting that as a right-brainer I loathe research, but I also realize that it is a necessary evil. It was important to me that each of the horrors my characters faced in the book were fueled by reality. After all, it is from the seeds of reality, that our true fears bloom.
The destructive capacity of a solar storm, as it turns out, is boundless, and absolute. However, there is so little visibility (as opposed to, say, a tornado, earthquakes, etc.), so I had to do some major digging to inject the sense of realism I demanded. The aftermath of Solar Storm Icarus is a culmination of weeks of research, worst-case scenarios, and creative choreography.
As for the “leech virus,” I decided to take a new approach, not only to how the victims were exposed, but in how they manifested the disease, itself. This required massive amounts of research on virology, parasites, and various pathogens (thank you, CDC). I was determined to create the “perfect” monsters for Killshot. Some of them just happened to be microscopic.
Much of the “survivalist” information is a combination of research, and personal experience. My husband and I went on a “survivor-cation” this past summer with our two oldest boys, and I have to admit, it was quite an eye-opening experience. Everything we do, from communication to using the toilet, is made infinitely more difficult when technology is removed from the equation.
- The creatures in Killshot are identified as 4 variations. I appreciated that you did not go for the traditional zombies or aliens but something a little more unique. Can you talk about these distinctions?
You are correct. While there are four different manifestations of the virus, it is important to understand that none of them are zombies. A zombie is a reanimated corpse, fueled by a single, primal need to ingest flesh.
My creatures are neither dead, nor strictly primal. They are violent, but consciously so. They are organized, instinctual, and like us, they thrive in packs, rather than alone. The creatures are not a decrepit reanimation of what was…they are an evolutionary metamorphosis of what will be. As with any mutation, some are visible and obvious; outwardly terrifying. Others are more subtle, and in some cases, this makes them more dangerous.
Monsters have always represented the dark side of human nature, helping us to neatly categorize the world into light and dark. My creatures challenge the notion that we are good or bad, predator or prey, enemy or ally. They make you realize that perhaps it is possible for the light of humanity to have a shadow.
- Friendships are huge in this story. They make or break the characters, helping them cope and giving them something to fight for. While there is romance, what made you decide to focus on the love of friends and family over romantic love?
I have always felt that true friendship is the most honest form of love…Our friends are the families we choose for ourselves in life. I think in times of turmoil, when the world makes the least amount of sense, we are forced to rethink our definition of family. While blood ties are important, it is the ones who are there for us in the hardest of times, because they choose to be that provide us strength in our times of weakness. I believe that true friendship is what teaches us how to love in the first place, and allows us to willingly give our hearts to another person…a person that so often starts off as a friend.
- Do you have any advice for aspiring authors out there?
I know it sounds obvious, but of all the advice I got when I was getting started was to just sit down, put pen to paper (or fingertips to keys) and write (thank you Meredith Wild). Don’t listen to the nay-sayers, don’t feel the need to explain yourself, and don’t try to be perfect. It doesn’t all have to make sense in the beginning. In fact much if it likely won’t. Some of the best ideas were born during a “brain vomit” session where I rambled incoherently into a notebook.
Always keep your eyes open.
I get inspiration from just about anywhere, and I don’t always have the option to stop what I am doing, and write it down. Still, I am not willing to walk away from any idea that may fuel my story, so I have learned to get creative. I use the voice-to-text feature on my cell phone, spout off those crazy ideas as they come to me, then send myself a text message. It’s really fun to open up the conversation I had with myself, and the end of the day, and read through the mental mayhem!
- Have you always wanted to write? What are some of your favorite books and/or authors?
Yes, in addition to my art, writing has always been a passion of mine. In college, my friends thought I was crazy because I actually enjoyed writing papers. It wasn’t even that I was excited by eight, double-spaced pages on the legitimacy of global warming, it was more about the catharsis of getting the words out. It was about seeing them merge together to form a cohesive thing.
I suppose it is about power, when I think about it. For me, writing has always been akin to creating life, and there is no greater power than that.
I am a voracious reader- always have been, really. At the moment I have cut down to only 2-3 books a week (in addition to the two I am currently writing). While I couldn’t possibly pick just one, I will say there were several that inspired me to write…
Elle Casey’s Apocalypsis series is, thus far, my favorite indie dystopian of all time. Not only was it an amazing read, but it shed light on the whole Indie Author world for me. The story was gritty, and relatable, and rekindled my love of reading. From there, I got hooked on the Black Daggar Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward, and from there, it has snowballed. My husband says I need a twelve-step program.
- What inspires your writing?
Movies, conversations with strangers, the laughter of a child, or a tree struck by lightning in the middle of a corn field. Put simply…everything! There is beauty, terror, humor, and mystery all around us, provided we are willing to see it.
- What is your writing process? Do you have any fun quirks or habits?
For sure…I am visual, perhaps to a fault. So much of what I do revolves around imagery. My goal when I write, is for the story to play out like a movie in the reader’s mind with such alacrity that it would require a level of special effects not currently possible!
I sometimes spend hours searching online for the perfect picture of what a character looks like in my head. Each of them have a permanent home on my bulletin board over my desk, so I can talk to them if I need to. Sometimes, looking into Liv’s eyes, or staring at Zander’s quirky grin helps me figure out how they would react in a situation. Seeing Falisha’s feisty grin reminds me of her unbending strength in adversity. Having them there with me, helps me stay connected to my characters. It may sounds strange, but to me, even though these kids are “fictional,” they are still just as flawed as the rest of us human beings; they each have hopes, fears, and a story to tell. It’s my job to make their voices heard.
Whenever possible, I try to physically experience what my characters go through. In the scene where Liv goes on her little suicide mission, I went to the high school, and physically walked her route myself, over and over again, taking pictures as I went. Needless to say, that drew some attention from the neighbors, but thankfully no one called the cops. *Laughs and shakes head
- What in your opinion, do you think makes the dystopian genre so compelling?
Dystopias personify courage and the living, breathing struggles that are already seeded in the minds of today’s youth. Think about it…when you are young, you are constantly at odds with your world. Friendships are always in jeopardy, your desire for freedom is ever at odds with your longing for safety and comfort, and you are finally (and often, reluctantly) being thrust from the softness of childhood, into the harsh and unbending world of reality. You are at a crossroads, of sorts, and one wrong turn, one wrong decision, could mean disaster. So much that happens during this time in our lives feels out of our control. And yet…there is something so exciting, and mystical about the idea of overcoming those fears, of rising above the dangers, to become something more- something greater, than anyone(especially ourselves) ever dreamed possible.
There is just something so timeless about that struggle. We, all of us, experience it over and over throughout our lives, and that lends itself to the genres relatability. I have gotten messages from readers ranging from ten on up to their late sixties, and all of them had one thing in common. They all felt like they were there.
They saw themselves as part of that rag-tag group of kids, struggling to survive, fighting for answers, and trying to figure out where they fit in. Each of them felt like they were searching for something greater, and were willing to lay it all on the line to reach it, without knowing what it was. That, to me, is the very definition of courage.
Killshot is the action-packed, post-apocalyptic thrill ride you’ve been searching for. It’s gritty, violent, and full of enough gore and suspense to keep you on your toes. A heart-stopping journey into a dangerous new world that takes on dystopian without going zombie, Killshot blends science fiction with natural disaster and astronomically bad luck.
For more of this review click here: Killshot Review
Aria Michaels lives in a small town in Illinois with her loving, patient husband and her six (yes, SIX) energetic boys. Always the creative type, Aria fed off the encouragement of her mother, and started writing and illustrating her own stories at a very young age. Aria’s passion for creation and love of the human spirit followed her to the university level where she graduated with an Associates Degree in Fine Arts, and a Bachelors Degree in Communications, with a minor in psychology.
After years of juggling parenthood with her a career in higher education, the universe finally called Aria back to her original passion…writing. When she isn’t glued to her computer, or painting her next masterpiece, Aria can be found playing in the dirt with her kids, snuggling up to a good zombie flick with her husband, or sipping a glass of wine by the fire with friends.