If you come closer I'll tell you a secret . . . The Walking Dead is NOT about zombies.
There are certainly zombies on the show. Lots of zombies. And they seem to get grosser with every passing season as their humanity continues to rot away. . . but that's not what the show's about. Not even close.
The zombies are there as a backdrop. They're part of the setting. They are the blank canvas upon which the real story of The Walking Dead can unfold. The zombies are a MacGuffin.
For the uninitiated, a MacGuffin is that most-paradoxical item in all of literature. A term popularized by none other than Alfred Hitchcock, the MacGuffin is both essential to the plot and completely irrelevant. It is the Maltese Falcon, the mistaken identity in North by Northwest, the plans for the Death Star hidden in R2-D2.
It's the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, the Sankara Stones, and even (regrettably) the Crystal Skull. Take any of those treasures away and you're still left with Indiana Jones.
In The Walking Dead it's zombies. In ANOM: Awakening it's genetic anomalies with super-human powers.
So what is The Walking Dead really about if not zombies . . . ?
It's a story about relationship.
Minor Spoilers ahead for The Walking Dead season 4
I'm a big fan of The Walking Dead but the latter half of season 4 is hands-down my favorite. In the final episode of the first half of season 4 (episode 8 titled "Too Far Gone") the relative safety of the prison is shattered and our rag-tag band of fearless survivors are scattered to the wind.
Thankfully, in episode 9 titled, appropriately enough, "After" the survivors start to find each other again. They form up in groups of two or three, and the rest of the season is spent with these smaller groups trying to reconnect and find each other.
But in these imperfect relationships - the survivors are thrown together out of circumstance rather than their choice - character is revealed. Those relationships are the universal truth in the series - the reality that everyone can understand. It's family, and friends, and strangers, and enemies . . . all thrown into stark relief BECAUSE OF the MacGuffin (in this case the zombies).
By the time the season ends at Terminus, we all understand what Rick means when he says, "They're fucking with the wrong people." That line is powerful because (thanks to the events and relationships revealed over the course of season 4) the viewers understand exactly what kind of people Rick and his group are.
How does that apply to my novel ANOM: Awakening?
Just like The Walking Dead, my book is about character and human relationship. It's about intentionally choosing the kind of people we want to be, and it's about everything that can get in the way of those choices. That's the universal truth, and just like in The Walking Dead it's revealed through the MacGuffin.
So is it a book about superheroes? Yes! But hopefully it's so much more. Hopefully it's a book about relationship, because strong relationships make strong stories. The MacGuffins just get you started.