This week I'd like to share the inspiration behind the Solar Storm series.
It was kind of a two part story. I'm an amateur astronomer, in that I enjoy dragging my telescope out under the night sky and observing the stars, galaxies, planets, and the Moon. I get a special thrill out of being outside by myself and witnessing the grand dance of the heavenly bodies in the tranquility of the ink-dark night. It's refreshing and humbling. I don't hear the yelling and arguing inherent with 3 kids entering or about to enter their teenage years. I don't have the hustle and bustle of running the household or the dogs or my writing—everything just melts away when you're outside in the dark, surrounded by the buzzing insects, the bats flapping silently overhead, and above all, the glittering jewels of the sky.
So I read the various astronomy magazines, and in one issue, someone wrote an article about the 1859 Carrington event (I mentioned it in another blog post which you can read here). It was the biggest and most well-known solar storm (also the first recorded) in human history. Auroras as far south as Cuba, telegraph lines igniting stations around the world, wonders never before seen or since, cats and dogs living together...total anarchy.
Then, I happened across an article (also mentioned in my previous post) about how in 2012 we missed the mother of all solar storms by a mere 9 days. A little over a week sooner and human civilization as we know it would have ended. Period, full stop, end of story. I wouldn't be here writing this post, you wouldn't be reading it, everything we know would be gone.
And that got me thinking.
What if we hadn't missed that big solar storm (which, by the way, no one really talked about until after we'd missed it...which got me thinking about all kinds of reasons why no one had talked about it? And that led me to add the extra chapters about the government agents in the beginning of the books. What would have really happened had the storm hit us dead on? Besides all the worst parts of the Bible, I was really curious to explore what might happen, but not from the typical middle-aged white alpha-male ex-soldier superhero character.
I decided to switch things up and came up with Jay, the son of a midwest farmer and a translator from India. He didn't follow either of his parents' career paths and became a librarian. And honestly, if you don't have a super soldier with you at the end of the world, who would you want in your group (besides a doctor)? You'd want someone with knowledge. They say knowledge is power...well, when there is no power, I figured knowledge would be akin to god-mode. Think about it...a librarian knows what's in their library, and if they haven't read every book in the catalog, they know how to find anything they might want—quickly.
So when the lights go out—forever—someone in charge of a library, the only ready access to information we'll ever have again (since the internet would be just a campfire story in about a generation or so) would be in pretty high demand and equally as useful. Thus Jay became a main character. Because he didn't have the military or survival skills so overwhelmingly prevalent in other post-apoc novels, I got to have fun figuring out unique ways for him to survive, and a little comedy along the way.
From there, I decided to flip the tables even more and make his wife, Kate, the real breadwinner of the family as a former Air Force pilot now flying airliners. A librarian likely wouldn't have many action scenes, but combat pilots are at least taught how to survive if their plane goes down behind enemy lines (SERE training: Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape), and Kate would have a lot of opportunity to put her skills to the test on her trip from California to Illinois.
From there, the ideas just started popping like fireworks. Which is how I write—I'm not a true plotter, nor am I a true discovery writer. I don't sit down and write long detailed novel-length outlines and follow them meticulously—that takes all the fun out of writing. I like to see where my characters take me. On the other hand, nor do I just sit down willy-nilly and throw my hands in the air and wait for inspiration. That, to me, is the definition of stress.
I prefer to come up with an idea, a nugget of a story, flesh it out a bit, write down a skeleton of an outline (major plot points and scenes I want to include...somehow), then populate it with characters, given them the reins and see where we end up. When I plot a novel, I don't stick to the details too much, because the end of a particular book that I plotted out rarely is what actually happens...instead, that ending usually becomes the beginning of the next plotted book. To me a plot is a road map, an atlas of the story, if you will, and nothing more. It's not a script or a contract, it doesn't have to be adhered to in a strict manner.
And that's why Solar Storm ended up starting out a straight up rescue/journey story set in the apocalypse, and morphed into a "save the people we can and think about rebuilding the country" story by the end of Book 5.
If you want to know more about the series, it's available on Amazon and anywhere eBooks are sold!
As always my friends, keep your heads down and your powder dry, for we live in interesting times.