The author of The Girls Guide to the Apocalypse shares with us her thoughts on survival skills, comedy, and Chuck Norris.
We’d all like to think that on the day when the world comes crashing down we’ll be the brave and resourceful ones. It’s as if this collected survival knowledge we’ve acquired from watching hundreds of hours of disaster movies will suddenly turn on a heroic chip in our brain. But even as we envision ourselves turning into these bold protagonists who can fend off the worst, armed only with a scrunchie and our library card, we still like to imagine that during this critical moment our crush will realize that we’re their soulmate. It’s while they help us find a water source when they’ll declare their love for us. Well, that is, after they can explain why they’ve blocked us on Facebook.
When I first heard of Daphne Lamb’s The Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse, I thought, "Wait, is this another dystopian, post-apocalyptic tale where a protagonist with no social skills suddenly turns into a ninja, while also getting entangled in a love triangle between two immortal warriors or whatever?" Luckily that wasn’t the case. In fact, this comedic story is more about what happens when the worst happens and you’re still in the relationship you don’t want to be in, working at the place you hate, and pretty much realizing that you have no idea what to do. We recently had the chance to talk with Daphne about surviving the end of the world, writing comedy, and Chuck Norris.
“Writing the book was a lot of fun, it all started with the title. I did a project for Habitat for Humanity where I learned very quickly that I have no actual survival skills and that was a little frightening. Unfortunately, I’ve clearly not taken that message very seriously, because I still don’t have a lot.”
In the novel, Verdell and group of her office co-workers, as well as the boyfriend she keeps trying to shake off, find themselves having to band together after a mutant outbreak. It was because of this that I asked the author how she thinks she’d do during the end of the world.
“I don’t know if I would do very well. I have an earthquake kit in my car and it’s 10 years old. Five years ago I got a notice from the company saying I should probably refresh it and I was like maybe.”
What made me laugh and relate to the story was the fact that it isn’t a whirlwind romance, like many other disaster books and movies out there. In fact, just because she doesn’t push her awkward partner off a cliff doesn’t mean Verdell discovers she’s head over heels in love after having to endure the craziest of circumstances.
“I’ve read a lot of books and watched movies where there’s a romance plot that is tacked on. It’s as if we won’t believe the sincerity of a character unless we see them fall in love. Because that’s supposed to be when we’re most vulnerable, which strikes me as unrealistic. At the time that I was writing it, I wasn’t married yet. I had dated other people and I actually based the character off an ex-boyfriend. I was just thinking if things were to happen what would be the chances of your soulmate surviving with you versus someone you’d really rather not be with. Yet you’d probably feel more like, we’re stuck in this together. It’s a terrible thing to say because I believe in love. I think great things happen through love, whether romantic or otherwise. I kind of wanted to put a different spin on things where it’s not love that saves the day. Or at least not that kind of love that saves the day. It’s a different kind and it’s you know banding together with people who do actually believe in things.”
As I look at different write-ups and reviews on the book, I found it curious that there seemed to be a lot of people who did not seem to get that the story is a parody. What I found interesting was that they seemed to be expecting a YA novel with smoldering teenage protagonists or some dystopian work of fiction where the always-handsome scientists turns out to be a rock climbing champion or something. Because of this I ended up asking Daphne about her love of eighties sci-fi action movies, back in the day when we weren’t pretending to ask for realness from a film about explosions and CGI. The topic suddenly changed to why these characters and movies can become our shelter from the true ugliness of real life.
“We always want to seem like we’re so cultured and have the best taste possible. A lot of times, and I’m guilty of this too, we’ll say 'Oh yeah, The Revenant, what a brilliant movie.' And it’s one of those things where it’s like, yeah The Revenant was good, but anything by Chuck Norris is far more entertaining. I saw The Revenant once in theaters. But anything by Jean Claude Van Damme, I’ve seen multiple times. There’s something about those movies that are so goofy, over-the-top, and cartoonish. To me that’s much more redeeming than watching Leonardo DiCaprio burn himself with a poker. It was a glorious age of filmmaking that is sort of passé apart from movies like The Fast and the Furious, which I have issues with. But it’s just so heartwarming to see. There’s something glorious about people who got together and said Chuck Norris walks in this den of drug dealers, punches them all in the face, and then walks away. Deep down we all have this super version of ourselves that we’d like to be that we all fall short of. And it’s inspiring in a way to think that maybe I could do justice in one fell swoop and have this great quip.”
Daphne even shared one of her favorite moments from these kinds of outrageous movies we rarely get to see nowadays.
“There’s this movie called They Live. The only reason I bring it up is because it has the best liner every written, because it’s so terrible and cheesy. The main character walks in, he’s got a gun and he’s going mow down all the bad guys. Just before he does, he says, I’ve come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I’m all out of gum. It’s a terrible line but the funniest thing I’ve ever heard someone say out of all seriousness. I wish there was a moment where I could say something like that and there probably never will be. Things like that I find very inspiring because they’re so goofy yet so sincere at the same time.”
So, if we’re being honest with ourselves, who would we want by our side when the end is near? Would we prefer romance to survival? Or, is it possible that a good sense of self-deprecating humor and an openness to be ready for whatever might come at us, be our best weapon?