By Bonnie McCune
Disasters crowd my fiction. In my most recent novel, Never Retreat, a massive flash flood threatens not only the heroine and hero but also an entire group from their office, up in the mountains on a corporate retreat. In other works, one heroine faces a major crisis—a malfunctioning hot water heater that floods her apartment and threatens explosion. In another, the heroine and her family are caught in an extreme winter blizzard with no heat or lights. In still another, a forest fire spreads more heat and danger than the love story.
As the writer, I ask myself why I’m obsessed with disasters. I didn’t realize I relied heavily on terrible events occurring in my books until the fourth manuscript. That’s when I began wondering if something deeper than simply action for the plot underlay my manuscripts.
Two reasons occur to me. The first was writing itself. A disaster allows me, the writer, to compress action into a short time to keep the story moving. It encourages characters to act their best, or worst, to reveal their personalities. The manner in which crises occur--random and uncontrolled--provides challenges readers can relate to as well as experiences characters learn from. And like humans, fictional characters learn waaaay more from struggles and failures than they do easy successes.
Still in many novels, characters don’t struggle to meet physical challenges. They may fall in or out of love, seek jobs or get fired, have misunderstandings with families or boyfriends. But they don’t walk a tightrope over death. What does my obsession with disaster reveal about me?
That I’m a fraidy-cat. Anything and everything scares me. Example: in the middle of the night yesterday, I woke when the furnace turned on. A strange new noise accompanied the forced air. I immediately thought the equipment was going to explode.
When I take road trips, I worry not only about the car breaking down but also over the possible appearance of a murderer. (By the way, this scene appears in my third book along with the wildfire.) A rash on my kid’s arm is probably Lyme disease. A recently discovered error on my taxes means the IRS will charge me with fraud.
So I have a whole load of fears. What do I do about them? I write about people who take steps to control their anxiety. I’ve learned that doing something, almost anything, positive enables me to restrain real as well as imaginary fears. Witness the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Thousands, millions around the globe helped settle their souls by carrying “Je suis Charlie” signs, a positive action in the face of terrible possibilities.
Another way to look at disaster is to view it as an opportunity. On the personal level, I try to practice what Catherine the Great preached: “I beg you take courage; the brave soul can mend even disaster.” My characters do the same. A disaster allows them to stretch, grow, learn about themselves and others.
Including disasters in my work also provides an excuse for me to burrow for information on fascinating topics. What other reason could justify spending hours delving into transcripts from people who have battled fires or floods? Or calling up total strangers to ask personal questions?
I don’t carry a list of disasters to wrap into forthcoming books. I’ve never been near a hurricane, a tsunami, or a bank holdup. So I don’t know how long I’ll be including crises like these in my work. But for now, they enable me to grow as a person as well as a writer.
(Bonnie McCune’s most recent novel is Never Retreat, Imajin Books, 2018. 978-1-77223-350-6 Kindle ebook; 978-1-77223-351-3 Trade paperback; http://getBook.at/NeverRetreat or https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079SY632Z Reach her at www.BonnieMcCune.com, Bonnie@BonnieMcCune.com, twitter.com/bonniemccune, facebook.com/authorBonnieMcCune, www.linkedin.com/in/BonnieMcCune.)
Years ago, Ramona (‘Raye”) Soto faced harsh reality when a roving con man knocked her up. Now at thirty-something she’s concentrating on her career in a major telecommunications firm and funding college for her teenage son. Enter Desmond Emmett—a fast talker and smooth operator. New to the office, the ex-serviceman possesses every negative quality for a guy Raye should avoid.
Thrown together at a corporate retreat in the wilderness, the reluctant duo struggles to complete management’s extreme mental and physical tests for a huge reward. But only one can win the prize, and Des needs the money to underwrite medical treatments for his adored younger sister.
See-sawing between attraction and antagonism, the mismatched couple, Raye and Des, face their biggest challenge: learning the meaning of true partnership. When a massive flash flood sweeps down the rocky canyon and threatens their love and survival, they must put aside their difference to rescue their colleagues—and their future as a couple.
Bonnie McCune has been writing since age ten, when she submitted a poem about rain rushing down the gutter to the Saturday Evening Post (it was rejected). Her interest in the written word facilitated her career in nonprofits where she concentrated on public and community relations and marketing. She’s worked for libraries, directed a small arts organization, and managed Denver's beautification program.
Simultaneously, she’s been a free lance writer with articles in local, regional, and specialty publications. Her civic involvement includes grass-roots organizations, political campaigns, writers' and arts' groups, and children's literacy. For years, she entered recipe contests and was a finalist once in the Pillsbury Bake Off. A special love is live theater. Had she been nine inches taller and thirty pounds lighter, she might have been an actress
Her true passion is fiction, and her stories have won several awards. Never Retreat is her third novel and her fifth book of fiction. She and her husband have two adult children, and three grandchildren. For reasons unknown (an unacknowledged optimism?), she believes one person can make a difference in this world. Visit her at www.BonnieMcCune.com, where you also can read her blog “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives.”
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