A Conversation with Hurricane Hunter 'Buzz' Bernard

H. W. “Buzz” Bernard is the author of five nonfiction books on weather and climate. Eyewall is his first novel. He’s won numerous awards over the past decade as both a fiction and nonfiction writer.

Buzz is a veteran meteorologist having spent 13 years as a senior meteorologist with The Weather Channel, and 33 years as a weather officer in the U. S. Air Force.

His background as a meteorologist informs Eyewall. He’s had first-hand experience with hurricanes, having penetrated the eyewall of Hurricane Felix in 1995 with the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters. The mission he went on wasn’t nearly as exciting–or as terrifying–as the one described in Eyewall, but he did get an up-close and personal look at how the job is done. At The Weather Channel, he worked closely with some of the most highly regarded hurricane forecasters in the business.

Besides his trip with the Hurricane Hunters, he’s flown air drops over the Arctic Ocean and Turkey, and was a weather officer aboard a Tactical Air Command airborne command post (C-135). Additionally, 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, took him to Germany, Saudi Arabia and Panama.

He’s a native Oregonian and attended the University of Washington in Seattle where he earned a degree in atmospheric science and also studied creative writing.

After leaving active duty with the Air Force, he spent twenty years in New England, but now lives in The New South. Along with his wife, Christina, he calls Roswell, Georgia, near Atlanta, home.

You can visit his website at www.buzzbernard.com or visit Eyewall’s official Facebook fan page here!

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Buzz. Can you tell us how long you’ve been writing and how your journey led to writing your latest book, Eyewall?

I began writing short stories in high school. I took some creative writing courses in college, but was focused on getting a degree in atmospheric science. Between 1979 and 1993, I wrote five nonfiction books about weather and climate, but didn't pursue becoming a novelist until 2000. Eyewall is the product of 10 years of effort and four different manuscripts.

Can you tell us how you chose your title?

Eyewall refers to the ring of towering thunderstorms and squalls surrounding the eye of a mature hurricane. In the book, it also serves as a metaphor for the situation the protagonist finds himself in in his marriage.

Why did you believe your book should be published?

After the manuscript won first place in a novel competition sponsored by the Southeastern Writers Association, I was encouraged by a number of professional writers to "go for it." Going for it turned out to be not that easy, but I was determined to hang on until I could signal "touchdown!" I believed I had a unique story that was suspenseful and exciting--worthy of publication.

We all know that publishers can’t do all of the publicity and that some lies on the author. What has your publisher done so far to publicize the book and what have you done?

Belle Bridge Books (an imprint of BelleBooks) has been wonderful. They developed a book trailer for Eyewall, created posters and brochures, sent out an e-blast to Georgia media and secured reviews using NetGalley. My agent, Jeanie Pantelakis, set up book signings for me in and around St. Simons Island, a key setting in the novel.

On my part, I signed up with Pump Up Your Book to do a virtual book tour, set up a launch party/book signing with a newly opened independent book store in the Atlanta area, encouraged readers to post reviews on Amazon and got some nice PR from the Atlanta Writers Club.

What book on the market can it compare to? How is it different? What makes your book special?

Nothing really compares with Eyewall. It's sort of a cross between Sebastian Junger's great nonfiction work The Perfect Storm and the movie Twister. Eyewall is not science-fiction. I went to great pains to make certain everything that happens in the book is based on fact. I even had Dr. Steve Lyons, the former hurricane expert at The Weather Channel, run a storm surge model for my fictional hurricane, Janet.

Open to a random page in your book. Can you tell us what is happening?

Page 84. One of the book's protagonists, an outspoken TV network hurricane forecaster, is having a frenzied conversation with a friend who works at the National Hurricane Center. The TV forecaster has been abruptly fired from his job for issuing an unauthorized warning of the impending storm and is about to be escorted out of the studio by police. He's seeking data from the Hurricane Hunters that will validate his warning, but it hasn't yet arrived.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Yes, my agent has my next manuscript, a more traditional thriller called The Koltsovo Legacy, about bioterrorism.

Thank you for your interview, Buzz. Do you have any final words?

Sure. If you enjoy thrillers, especially ones with suspense and action--and even a little romance--check out Eyewall. As a friend of mine said: If Jaws made you afraid to go in the ocean, Eyewall will make you afraid to go to the beach in the first place.

Hmmm. Maybe I shouldn't tout it as a great beach-read.

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