Post-apocalyptic stories are a trend in popular fiction these days.
Yet author David Sosnowski believes his latest novel “Happy Doomsday” – which was released Aug. 1 – stands out in this crowded genre.
“I hope that it earns the ‘happy’ in its title by showing that even in the worst imaginable circumstances, there’s an upside and reason for hope,” said Sosnowski, 59, of Taylor, an alumnus of the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
“Given a lot of the doom-and-gloom and knee jerk negativity one sees, especially on highly polarized social media, I think sending a counter message is worthwhile.”
The plot of “Happy Doomsday” is as follows: In the blink of an eye, the world changes. In the wake of the inexplicable purge that takes out the majority of humanity, only a handful of misfits remains: teenagers Dev “Wizard of Odd” Brinkman, Goth girl Lucy Abernathy, and Twinkie-loving quarterback Marcus Haddad. As it life at 16 isn’t confusing enough, throw in the challenges of post-apocalyptic subsistence, a case of survivor’s guilt turned up to 7 billion, and the unenviable task of rebuilding humankind.
“It’s definitely a mash-up of young adult, some horror, some science-fiction, and a lot of satire and humor,” Sosnowski said.
The author spoke about the genesis of the three main characters.
Dev Brinkman: “Dev is based on a few kids I knew growing up who were on the autism spectrum, leaning heavily toward Asperger’s. One did exactly what Dev does, turning himself into a total expert in one particular area – trees, airplanes, trains – and then that would be all he’d talk about for a year. I also did a lot of research into Asperger’s, reading Oliver Sacks and Temple Grandin and others on both sides of the syndrome (i.e., both studying it and having it).”
Lucy Abernathy: “Lucy was inspired by one of my best friends, Mark Schemanske (to whom this book is dedicated), who passed while I was working on the manuscript. He was really big into the Atlanta horror scene and the last time I saw him in person was at a Days of the Dead convention (in Indianapolis).”
Marcus Haddad: “Marcus was inspired by several Muslim students I had while teaching at (UM-Dearborn) and Wayne State University. Many were first-generation Americans whose parents had emigrated to the (United States) from the Middle East and were going through a lot of the ‘clash of cultures’ stuff that Marcus experiences.”
Between “Vamped” (his second novel that debuted in 2005) and “Happy Doomsday” (his third), Sosnowski penned two complete novels that haven’t sold.
“The 2008 recession turned everything upside down and I had the bad luck of having just finished a novel (still unpublished) just before what has become known as ‘Black Wednesday’ in the publishing world,” he said. “That was a Wednesday after the election in early November 2008, when several major publishers announced layoffs, closed imprints, and a freeze on acquiring new manuscripts. … I wrote two complete novels that editors liked, but didn’t buy because the industry was only looking for sure things at the time.”
He noticed one of the few growth areas in publishing was YA. Learning that the New York Public Library categorized “Vamped” as YA surprised Sosnowski, but also opened up the possibilities, researching the genre and inspiring him to write “Happy Doomsday.”
“As a general matter, I like taking a well-established genre and then figuring out a way to flip it,” he said. “So I starting thinking about an anti-dystopia – not a utopia, per se, but an apocalyptic world that wasn’t actually all that bad for the people who survived. And that’s when the title ‘Happy Doomsday’ popped into my head. The book really started from that title and an almost immediate tagline that followed: ‘For some people, the end of the world isn’t exactly the end of the world …’”