Behind the Scenes

The idea for EYEWALL was born of a real event.  In 1989, a NOAA Hurricane Hunter was trapped briefly in the eye of Hurricane Hugo.  The WP-3D Orion lost an engine during a low-level penetration of the storm’s eyewall, but was able to fly to safety after only a brief imprisonment.

I chose, however, to use the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters as the focus for my novel rather than NOAA’s for several reasons.  One was purely partisan: I’m a retired Air Force officer and once flew a mission with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, the Hurricane Hunters.

Another was the fact that while I was on active duty I spent a good deal of time riding around in C-130s, the aircraft now used by the Air Force to stalk hurricanes.  I’m familiar with all the whining, grinding and shimmying that goes on in the venerable old airplane.

I also had access to a former C-130 pilot (and retired Delta captain), Mike Klindt, two houses down the street from me.  I peppered him–-a patient man, fortunately-–with numerous questions about flying.

But there were other reasons.  At The Weather Channel, I worked with an Air Force Reservist, Nicole Mitchell, who’s an airborne meteorologist with the Hurricane Hunters.  I think I wore her out with questions about flying through hurricanes.  Still, she was kind enough to arrange a chance for me to prowl around inside the new J-model WC-130 and introduce me to Lt. Kevin Olson, a Hurricane Hunter pilot.

A good friend of mine, and former Weather Channel employee, Dr. Steve Lyons, is one of the foremost hurricane experts in the world.  Steve knows more about the mechanics of hurricanes and storm surges than anyone I know.  He helped me immensely with Eyewall’s meteorological details, even to the extent of calculating a storm surge for the novel’s fictional Hurricane Janet.

Both Nicole and Steve served as inspirations for characters in my book.  Having a female weather officer as part of the Hurricane Hunter’s crew opened up a lot of possibilities to me as an author, but Nicole was concerned people would think the character was her.  No, no and no.  If anything, Nicole is a responsible, mature antithesis to female officer portrayed in Eyewall.

Steve’s astounding knowledge of hurricanes was an absolute must for the book.  So I packed his wisdom into a character that otherwise bears no resemblance to Steve.

The plot for Eyewall rolled around in my mind for many months–-and through at least one false start–-before it came to fruition.  I finally ended up with characters not only in conflict with a catastrophic hurricane but, in many cases, with each other.

There’s sex, duplicity, despair, alligators, a baby and even a hint of romance all crammed into a tale that covers less than twenty-four hours.

But what a twenty-four hours!