Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hurricanes Happen


Many readers love the little bits of SEAL lore that are dropped all the way through SEALed With A Kiss, and frequently ask about my research.

Much credit for the authentic feel of SEALed With A Kiss goes to John Roat, and another former SEAL he introduced me to, Martin Strong. These two men gave me hours and hours of their time—without asking for anything in return.

I checked and rechecked facts. I had nightmares that some missed factoid would trip me up, and ruin the reading experience for a reader. At one point I fretted to John that I just didn’t know enough. He replied, “Stop worrying. You already know more about SEALs than most people in the Navy do.”

Because I had so much new information to keep track of in regard to SEALs, I decided to make the heroine and the setting something I could draw on my own experience for. Hence the teacher/therapist background for the heroine, Pickett, and a coastal North Carolina setting.

I also thought, “Why not have a hurricane?” I’ve been through a number of them, and I can easily make the experience authentic.

And do you know what some readers have questioned? The hurricane part. Specifically, hurricane parties. Apparently, once again, truth proved stranger than fiction.

If I ever revise SEALed With A Kiss, here’s what I will explain. Media coverage aside, the actual experience of a Category One hurricane isn’t particularly dramatic or exciting. There’s a lot of action beforehand. People scurry around boarding up, gathering supplies. But once the storm strikes, there’s no leaving the protection of the shelter. Wherever you are, whoever you’re with, you are marooned there, until it’s passed.

Sooner or later the power will go off. No reading, no listening to music, no internet. Nothing to do but watch the wind and rain. For hours. If it’s dark, there’s nothing to do at all. It’s the part of the hurricane story you won’t see on TV. Can you imagine a news anchor reporting, “Thirty-five thousand residents and tourists died last night of boredom caused by Hurricane Elvira?”

And impressive as the wind is, the real danger, as the residents of New Orleans can attest, is flooding.

Natives take all this into account. The solution is to gather on high ground before the hurricane comes ashore storm and ride it out together. Some go to the houses of relatives or friends. And, like on New Year’s Eve, many people go to hotels, to drink and carouse through the storm, and then sleep it off.

But how can they party, you ask. Aren’t they worried?

It’s like this: on the North Carolina coast hurricanes happen. Keeping oneself safe is relatively easy. Any shelter on high ground will do. As for what will happen to their property, once they’re taken whatever precautions they can, people tend to have a che sera, sera attitude.

I think I’m going to adopt the same attitude vis-à-vis research. I'll prepare all I can, and then, che sera, sera.

6 comments:

  1. Hi Mary Margret!

    Thanx for an interesting post. Having never been in a hurricane myself, I will gladly take your word for it! :-)

    Being a native Californian, I get asked about earthquakes a lot, mostly by people who don't live here or have even visited here. The que sera sera attitude pretty much sums up most Californians' view on earthquakes. And for the record, the only MAJOR earthquake I was ever in happened when I was on vacation in Hawaii!

    Go figure.

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  2. Hi Mary Margaret,
    Great post! I've lived through a couple of category 2-3 hurricanes up here in RI, both of which occurred when I was in college and oddly at home for a brief visit. So while all my friends were partying at school, I was home with mom & dad. LOL

    Research is definitely the toughest part for me, too. You worry and obsess about getting it right and then you have to take a little literary license to make things work. In my most recent MS, my heroine is a Washington DC police detective. Making the DC police department believable without overwhelming the reader was a real challenge for me. I finally decided there was no way I could accurately portray the real department, which has 3800 officers and a community policing system so complicated it boggled my mind, let alone my readers. So I created my own version of it rather than try to make it mirror the real thing. It worked out pretty well, and my cop friend who reads my romantic suspense MSs said it was a good way to do it.

    Looking forward to reading SEALED. It's next on my pile!
    Marie

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  3. I just got this book and I am looking forward to read it!

    What a fascinating post. Livng in Georgia, I haven't experienced an actual hurricane (just the storms that come from them)...we have lost power from storms so I can only imagine the boredom.

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  4. Mary Margret,
    I live in Indiana, and we get more tornadoes than hurricanes, but even I knew about hurricane parties! Those who haven't must never watch the Weather Channel!
    And yes, no power is boring, boring, boring! My youngest son has always had a fear of storms--not because of the possibility of death and destruction, but because the power goes off!
    I've read your book, and the SEAL stuff isn't overwhelming at all. No worries!
    Cheryl

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  5. Hey, Mary Margret. This was an interesting post, both for your enviable SEAL research and for your hurricane tales. Here in Missouri, we get violent thunderstorms, floods and a fair share of tornados, so I have had to sit through a few soggy power outages myself. With the right companion, the whole experience can be a lot of fun.
    Christina

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  6. Actually, what made me think of this post was the tornadoes that struck our area the other night.The NC Piedmont is prone to them in the spring.

    The roof on my new townhouse was damaged, which was the bad news, but the good news was that I still HAD a roof. Others weren't so fortunate.

    And that made me think of how I would use a tornado in a story. (Everything mekes me think of how I would use it in a story.)

    I laughed out loud about Cheryl's son who fears not death and destruction from storms, but power outages!

    Christina, you went straight to heart of why I went for the hurricane in the first place. Sitting one out with the right person can be...enlightening. :-)

    Mary Margret

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