It was my greatest honour to interview the best-selling and award-winning author, H.W.”Buzz” Bernard. To date, he has published five books- Eyewall(2011), Plague(2012), Supercell(2013), Blizzard(2015) and Cascadia(2016).
For over three decades, he served as a weather officer in the U.S. Air force. Later, he worked as a senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel for thirteen years. His first book, Eyewall was published in 2011 and became a number-one best seller in amazon’s Kindle store.
I had a great time interacting with him. You can find him on buzzbernard.com
How did the transition from a senior meteorologist to an acclaimed author happen?
I suppose it happened pretty much like it would for almost anyone trying to become an author, or more specifically, a novelist. You put your butt in a chair, fingers on a keyboard, and start writing. Well, it’s not quite that simple. Just because you’re a good writer doesn’t mean you can bang out a commercially viable novel. You have to learn a craft. In my case that meant attending workshops, participating in critique groups, and cranking out manuscript after manuscript. It turned out to be a long slog. It took me ten years and four different manuscripts before my first novel were published.
Most of your books are thrillers based on weather phenomenon. Have you ever considered experimenting with a different genre?
If you mean “genre” in the broadest sense, No. I’m most comfortable in the thriller genre. That’s what I like to read, and that’s what I enjoy writing. If you man “genre” in a narrower sense—sub-genre, I suppose, such as weather thrillers—then I have stepped out of that arena a couple of times. PLAGUE, my second novel, was a more “traditional” thriller about weaponized Ebola being employed in a bioterrorism plot. CASCADIA, my most recent book, is more of “geo-thriller” as opposed to one dealing with meteorology. It’s set against the background of a massive earthquake and tsunami that scientists have only recently determined looms for the Pacific Northwest.
What was it like to work as a weather officer in the U.S Air Force? Could you share some of your experiences?
Being an Air Force weather officer isn’t too much different from being a meteorologist in any other organization except you wear a uniform and can occasionally be deployed into combat zones. But at least you aren’t going into such places as a combat soldier. You’re typically in a support role. One of the best experiences I had in my career was flying a mission with the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters. Although at the time I entertained no thoughts of becoming a novelist, the flight later became one of the inspirations for my debut thriller, EYEWALL.
How do you deal with writer’s block? Any tips you can provide to tackle it successfully?
To be honest, I’ve never experienced writer’s block, so I can’t comment on it. On some days the words don’t flow easily, but I just keep writing. I’ve never been completely stymied. I suppose if that ever did happen to me, I’d grab a beer and watch TV. Or maybe go to the driving range, then grab a beer.
For an aspiring writer, what do you think is the apt time to write a book? Is sufficient experience necessary before writing a book?
I think you develop a more comprehensive view of life as you grow older, but the real key is having a good story to tell. And a good story can come at any stage of life, maybe in your twenties, maybe in your seventies. But however old you are, you still must learn the craft . . . as I pointed out earlier.
What do you love the most about being an author?
I suppose it’s being god (small g) of your own little universe in which you develop your drama. You create the settings, the characters, the challenges, the suspense, the crises, and finally, the resolution. On a more practical, work-a-day plane, as an author you get to be your own boss. You set your own goals and schedules and are able to change them at will. What’s really cool, though, is that you know your boss is a really good guy.
What are the challenges you faced in getting your first book published?
The challenges are numerous: first learning the craft, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times already; then producing a professional-quality manuscript; after that, finding an agent; and finally, finding a publisher—which is really your agent’s job. All of this takes time. You need to be tenacious, thick skinned, and maybe a bag or two short of a full load.
When did you first realise that you wanted to be a writer?
Being a writer was never something I wanted to be. I just knew I could be one. My “wannabe” field was atmospheric science. Writing came in second. Many years ago I blended my love of science with my writing abilities and wrote five nonfiction trade books dealing with weather and climate. It wasn’t until I neared the end of my meteorological career that the “wannabe” bug struck again. This time it said, “How about becoming a novelist?” Me: “That sounds cool.” So off I went, never realizing—a good thing, I think—how arduous the journey would be.
Of the five books that you have published, which one is your favourite?
That’s a good question but a tough one to answer. EYEWALL, my debut novel, has been by far my best seller. So, of course, I love EYEWALL. My second novel, PLAGUE, was the first to win an award, so I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for it. My most recent books, BLIZZARD and CASCADIA, have received higher reader ratings than my other efforts, so I’m really proud that. But I think if I had to single out just one novel as my favourite, it would be SUPERCELL. Judging a book or a manuscript is an extremely subjective, personal thing. Some readers loved SUPERCELL, others, not so much. I guess it comes out on top of my list because I was able to draw on several of my personal experiences in storm chasing to work into the story. Also, I loved the diverse characters, I loved the twists and turns of the plot and the surprise at the conclusion. I talked earlier about how as a writer you get to be god of your own little world. In SUPERCELL, I was able to change the outcome of a very depressing experience I witnessed in real life and make it uplifting! A few readers actually picked up on that. I loved it.
Can we expect a new release from you soon?
No. I’m taking a break for awhile. I’ve cranked out five novels in six years, so I think I’ve earned a breather. Well, a pseudo breather. I’m going to concentrate on marketing what’s out there for a little bit. And I’ve also taken over as president of the Southeastern Writers Association. We hold a four-day workshop every June, so I’m focusing on getting everything up and running for that. By the way, if you’re interested in writing, the workshop this year will June 16th to the 20th on St. Simons Island, Georgia. Details can be found on the Southeastern Writers website: www.southeasternwriters.org.