Please welcome my special guest, thriller author H.W. “Buzz” Bernard. Buzz is here today to talk about his latest release, Plague. He is a writer and retired meteorologist. His debut novel, Eyewall, which one reviewer called a “perfect summer read,” was released in May 2011 and went on to become a best-seller in Amazon’s Kindle Store.
His second novel, Plague, came out in September 2012 and he’s currently at work on his third novel, Supercell.
Before retiring, Buzz worked at The Weather Channel in Atlanta, Georgia, as a senior meteorologist for 13 years. Prior to that, he served as a weather officer in the U.S. Air Force for over three decades. He attained the rank of colonel and received, among other awards, the Legion of Merit.
His “airborne” experiences include a mission with the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters, air drops over the Arctic Ocean and Turkey, and a stint as a weather officer aboard a Tactical Air Command airborne command post (C-135).
In the past, he’s provided field support to forest fire fighting operations in the Pacific Northwest, spent a summer working on Alaska’s arctic slope, and served two tours in Vietnam. Various other jobs, both civilian and military, have taken him to Germany, Saudi Arabia and Panama.
He’s a native Oregonian and attended the University of Washington in Seattle where he earned a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science; he also studied creative writing.
He and his wife Christina live in Roswell, Georgia, along with their fuzzy and sometimes overactive Shih-Tzu, Stormy.
You can visit his website at www.buzzbernard.com.
It is a pleasure to have him here with us today!
Thanks for this interview, Buzz. What an exciting background to have worked as a meteorologist which is to me the perfect background for the books you write. Can you tell us how you got into meteorology?
Buzz: Most people I know who got into meteorology did so because of a “seminal” moment–they experienced a hurricane, witnessed a devastating tornado, or went through an historic blizzard. We didn’t have those in the Pacific Northwest where I grew up. I think my interest in weather just sprang from wanting to know why conditions changed–why did thermometer readings go up and down? why were some winters snowy, others not? how come we never got hurricanes in Oregon?
Would you say being a weatherman was your passion? Is it okay to call it weatherman? Or would you prefer meteorologist?
Buzz: To most people, I’m a weatherman. Sometimes meteorologist can be a tough word to pronounce. In the Air Force, pilots called me a “weather guesser” or “Stormy.” I suppose if I wanted to be technical–and I don’t–my degree is in atmospheric science. And yes, meteorology was and is a real passion. But so is writing. Weather just got there first, probably when I was about 8 or 9 years old.
Before that, you were a hurricane hunter which the word “hurricane” scares the beejeebies out of me since I barely survived Hurricane Sandy in November. Did flying in the middle of a hurricane scare you?
Buzz: I wasn’t a Hurricane Hunter per se, I just flew one mission with the real Hurricane Hunters when I was in the Air Force because I wanted to see how they went about their business. What they do is pretty routine. Inherently dangerous, yes, but routine because they fully understand the dynamics of hurricanes, fly an exceptionally durable aircraft and are very well trained. So, no, I wasn’t scared, just fascinated. Believe me, being on the ground in a hurricane with flying debris, flooding and storm surge is much hairier than tootling around in one at 10,000 feet in a WC-130.
I imagine things are a lot calmer now, lol. So when did you get the writing bug?
Buzz: Probably not long after I got the weather bug. I started writing short stories in high school, where I got some minor recognition, and was sports editor for the school newspaper. Along with my atmospheric science courses, I took some classes in creative writing at the University of Washington in Seattle. Kinda weird, because I don’t think there were any other science majors in those classes. It was intimidating.
I want to talk about your latest release, Plague. My goodness, the premise just scares the daylights out of you and I think because it could actually happen. Let me give the folks a rundown of what it’s about:
“Deep in the secret recesses of a Cold War lab, the Russians created tons of deadly bio-weapons. Now, decades later, a protege of that Russian research is about to release weaponized Ebola into the heart of the South’s most iconic city: Atlanta, where the symbols of American “decadence” range from a happily diverse population to the Coca-Cola museum and CNN headquarters.
A preliminary test of the horrifying virus demonstrates the unspeakable suffering of its victims–and alerts the Centers for Disease Control that a terrible pandemic is in the making. CDC Virologist Dr. Dwight Butler begins a frantic effort to track down the source of the virus before it’s too late.
For new BioDawn CEO Richard Wainwright, it quickly becomes clear that the “accidental” plane crash that killed the pharmaceutical company’s entire executive hierarchy may have some connection to the evolving threat. Suddenly, Richard is being stalked by a hit woman. He and Butler join forces to find the lone terrorist at the center of a plan that could unleash the Black Plague of the 21st century.”
See what I mean? Buzz, how did you come up with the idea to write this?
Buzz: I was inspired by a nonfiction book, Richard Preston’s Hot Zone, a best seller in the mid-1990s. As I read the book, I became fascinated by the Ebola virus and scared to death at the thought there could be an airborne version of it. Novelists, thriller writers in particular, love things that frighten folks. So, I began thinking about how I could craft a story that, as you put it, would “scare the daylights” out of people.
I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Danielle Childers of BelleBooks who is the publisher you chose (or they chose you?) to publish your book. Nice lady. ;o) Can you tell us why you chose to put your book in the hands of BelleBooks?
Buzz: I let my literary agent handle that. BelleBooks did a great job on Eyewall, so I knew they’d do the same thing for Plague. While BelleBooks isn’t a big NY house, they’ve grown into sort of a “mid-major” with a great reputation. They’ve kept abreast of the huge changes in the publishing industry and have been able to leverage those changes in their favor . . . and mine. Overall, BelleBooks has been a pleasure to work with.
I’m really impressed with their book covers. Take us through the process of getting a cover for Plague. Were you allowed any input?
Buzz: I don’t have any artistic ability at all, but I’ve been able to come up with vague concepts that the president of BelleBooks, Debra Dixon, takes and creates super covers. I guess she’s what you would call a real “hands on” CEO.
I understand you have another book that will be released soon. What’s the title on this one and what’s it about?
Buzz: I’m still working on it and have it targeted for release in early 2014 with the start of tornado season, since it’s set against a background of tornado chasing on the Great Plains. The title is Supercell, as in supercell thunderstorm. And yes, I went on a tornado chase last spring just to see how chasers went about their business.
Okay Buzz I won’t keep you, but can you give a little bit of advice to those who hate hurricanes? I know it has nothing to do with your book (although it fits well with your first book, Eyewall!) and I’m sorry about that but they scare the beejeebies out of me!
Buzz: Hmmm. Well, you could move to Kansas. Or Oregon. Seriously, have your hurricane evacuation plan well rehearsed (route, destination, what you’re going to take, etc.) and get out fast if and when the order comes to move.
All I know is that I read a report saying this century had the most hurricanes E-VER and the future looks like because of global warming and all that good stuff, we may be in for a rough time with hurricanes. Do you agree with that? Please give me good news?
Buzz: Okay, there’s good news and there’s bad news. Good news first. Nothing is cast in concrete, but there may be fewer hurricanes in a warming world. Trouble is, total numbers really mean nothing to an individual living at a particular spot along a coastline. All he or she (or you) cares about is the one heading their way. And this is where the bad news comes in. While the absolute number of hurricanes might drop in a warmer climate, the ones that do develop could be more violent. Bummer, huh?
Okay, I’m really going to let you go but it has been so much fun. I thank you for this interview and please folks, check out his book, Plague (if you dare!) and join him on his blog tour happening here. Good luck Buzz and keep writing!