Review: The Stormchasers

I know many of you have been waiting for me to post this review, so much so that I will host a book giveaway with my copy (with the move next week I am trying to declutter one more time).

Giveaway: If you are interested in reading The Stormchaser's, leave a comment with your email address.  It's that simple.  I will pick a winner on Thursday evening (I need to get the book in the mail before Monday).  Good Luck!  Congratulations to Joanna, winner of this book giveaway.

Synopsis:  As a teenager, Karena Jorge had always been the one to look out for her twin brother Charles, who suffers from bipolar disorder. But as Charles begins to refuse medication and his manic tendencies worsen, Karena finds herself caught between her loyalty to her brother and her fear for his life. Always obsessed with the weather-enraptured by its magical unpredictability that seemed to mirror his own impulses- Charles starts chasing storms, and his behavior grows increasingly erratic . . . until a terrifying storm chase with Karena ends with deadly consequences, tearing the twins apart and changing both of their lives forever.

Two decades later, Karena gets a call from a psychiatric ward in Wichita, Kansas, to come pick up her brother, whom she hasn't seen or spoken to for twenty years. She soon discovers that Charles has lied to the doctors, taken medication that could make him dangerously manic, and disappeared again. Having exhausted every resource to try and track him down, Karena realizes she has only one last chance of finding him: the storms. Wherever the tornadoes are, that's where he'll be. Karena joins a team of professional stormchasers-passionate adventurers who will transform her life and give her a chance at love and redemption- and embarks on an odyssey to find her brother before he reveals the violent secret from their past and does more damage to himself . . . or to someone else.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - How can I not like a book set in the Twin Cities.  I grew up in Bloomington and lived in Wayzata before moving to Omaha.  I used to watch Belinda Jensen on KARE11 Saturday mornings (loved that show).  If you haven't read this book yet, she's our local media personality (weather and so much more).  The author made sure to include the small things that make us who we are, for example we say Pop instead of Soda which I enjoyed seeing in print (she did her research).

I enjoyed reading about Karena's need to find her twin and emptiness felt by his absence.  In addition to the twin storyline, there is a love interest in the book and the reader will walk away feeling educated about the need for some to follow weather so closely and the desire to be in the storm.

This is a great summer read - we had a night of bad storms and tornados as I was reading the book (this added to my experience).

Source: Review Copy

Author Q&A
Tell us a little about yourself: I've wanted to be a writer since I was a very little girl--I've never wanted to be anything else. My dad was a writer, a broadcast journalist for the network morning shows. Once Walter Cronkite came to our house for dinner, returning my stuffed dog, Henry, whom I'd left in the newsroom. I love rootbeer floats and thunderstorms. If I don't read for at least an hour a day, I get cranky. I live in Boston with my black Lab, Woodrow, a.k.a. King of the Universe.

What was it like getting your first novel published?  Getting THOSE WHO SAVE US published was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream--but actually my first novel, which I wrote and shopped when I was 11, was about my crush on my 7th grade Social Studies teacher. It received some very nice comments from editors but nobody appeared on my doorstep with a giant check, a la Publisher's Weekly. I was puzzled but undaunted. For the next couple of decades, I wrote and submitted short stories, had some stories published, had infinitely more rejected, wrote and submitted more stories, and worked in food service to support my expensive writing habit. For every story or novel excerpt I had rejected, I'd send out ten more. While I was writing THOSE WHO SAVE US, I worried that I had become somebody who sat in a room all day and played with imaginary people, whereas my friends were getting married, buying houses, having children, buying second houses, buying wine refrigerators for the basements of those houses. I had to get THOSE WHO SAVE US published or, I told my mom, I'd move to Nebraska to be a truck stop waitress. I stalked around in an old, long black coat, pretty much what I could afford, feeling like a literary Darth Vadar. So when THOSE WHO SAVE US got an agent--and my agent is superb, the best in the universe--and my agent sold the book about six weeks later to Harcourt, it is fair to say it validated my whole existence. It is still a miracle I give thanks for daily.

What is your writing schedule like?  I’m a crop-rotation writer; my writer’s life occurs in seasons. There’s the season of rest, when I don’t write much of anything except journaling and correspondence, and this is typically when I am miserable to live with because I always feel I should be writing. But in my wiser moments I remember this fallow-feeling period is actually very productive and necessary, because it overlaps with the information-gathering season: I’m traveling to research, I’m forming and discarding and considering ideas. Then there is writing season, when I’m actively working on a project; I go into lockdown, immerse totally, write and talk about and think writing 24/7. For instance, while I was writing THE STORMCHASERS, I moved to a motel in the small town the book is set in, lived there for two months with my black Lab Woodrow, so I could write without distraction until the novel was done. In order to write, I need strong coffee, Ultra-Fine black Sharpies, canvas-covered notebooks from Borders to write longhand in, my MacBook Air to write the scenes, and Woodrow for ruminating walks. Finally, when all the writing and revising is done, it’s promotion season, as it is now. This is the delightful time when I get to go out on the road to bookstores, book clubs and events to meet the readers who have been so wonderful and supportive to me and my books. I very, very much hope everyone will come out and let me introduce them to THE STORMCHASERS, and I hope they will love my second baby as much as I do.

When you start writing, how much of the story do you have mapped out and how much is organic?  It's a combination. I can't imagine setting out on a journey the size of a novel without a map, and because I like to make sure I know what the book is about and the scenes in it are expressing that thematic point, I always, always have an outline. I insist on this for my students at Grub Street Writers as well--99.9% of problems with novels are structural. Sometimes people resist outlines, saying they hamper the creative process, they feel constraining, etc. But in fact outlines are fluid; they change as the book changes. For THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS, I had at least 11 outlines each! And they don't have to be the scary essay outlines you remember from middle school or laundry lists of scenes. To me the architecture of a book is its own creative process. One student I had clipped index cards to a clothesline across her study and moved scenes around. For THE STORMCHASERS, my later outlines were storyboards, like board games, complete with illustrations.

That said, when I am finding my way into a novel--and all the way along--I am writing the scenes as they come to me, then plugging in the ones that fit. I started out writing as a short story writer, and I still love the form, so to me a good novel chapter should be like a short story: it should have its own internal structure, beginning, middle, and not-necessarily-resolved end. A lot of the scenes I write don't make the cut. I have 800 pages of dead darlings on the shelves in my study! But some of the earliest scenes are most heartfelt, and they make it into the novel verbatim.

What are you reading now?  Sue Miller's THE LAKE SHORE LIMITED.

If you could interview anyone, who would if be and why? What would you like to ask them?   Because it is not my natural metier and therefore challenging for me, I save interviewing people for when I am researching--though I then love asking questions. The last person I interviewed was Belinda Jensen, the KARE-11 meteorologist in Minneapolis, who let me tail her around her studio/ newsroom for STORMCHASERS. I asked her if she ever got death threats when the weather was bad, and she said calmly, "All the time.