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Abby Niles | What I Learned by Writing WINNING LOVE

August 26, 2014

Abby NilesWINNING LOVEWeather has always fascinated me. I am one of those people who will actually sit and watch The Weather Channel—and not just for the local on the eights. They have some seriously killer programs that cover a wide range of weather phenomenon from hurricanes to blizzards to hailstorms. But my favorite shows are the ones about tornadoes. I don’t have an explanation as to why I find these the most engrossing. If I had to come up with one, I would blame the movie Twister.

After seeing the movie in 1996, I devoured anything about tornadoes and storm chasers. Almost twenty years later, I still devour the subject. Any documentary, movie, or live coverage will keep me in front of the television for hours. I will re-watch programs I’ve seen multiple times without batting an eyelash.

Because of this, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on the subject. I mean, almost twenty years of fascination I had to know something, right?

I didn’t know diddly squat.

I understand now why, even though I’ve wanted to write a storm chaser character for years, I haven’t. I wasn’t ready. Deep down I knew this would be one of the most difficult books I would ever write…and it was. Both from the scientific and emotional standpoint.

About a week after I started my research for WINNING LOVE, I was sitting on my couch, surrounded by notes, just staring at my inked chicken scratch in complete panic. My mind was overwhelmed with so much information, I couldn’t make sense of anything. Rear flank updraft, inflow bands, dry-lines, bow echoes, directional shear, inversion, radial velocity—what language was this? AND that is not counting the chaser slang I’d come across as well. To say the least, I had a lot of what-have-I-done moments while writing this book. There is a lot of freaking science that goes into storm chasing. So if you think you can just go out there and chase a storm cloud…think again.

After I finally had my head wrapped around the science part and realized I did not have to have a PhD to write this book, thanks to a huge part to an actual meteorologist/storm chaser I interviewed who explained things in a Weather for Dummies way, I was like, “Okay. I got this.”

Then I had to tackle the actual tornado. Not how it forms, or how chasers target their location, but the destructive side. And I received another mental blow. I had no idea how to describe a tornado event.

You see, I’ve never experienced a tornado. Of course, from the things I’ve watched, I knew the level of destruction one was capable of. I’d listened to the news reporter’s interviewing the survivors and their detailed accounts of what happened. I’d even watched the home videos the news stations replay over and over again. But having not lived through one myself, my mind was completely devoid of descriptive words.

It was the first time ever I was intimidated by a subject. It wasn’t the first time I’d written from a standpoint of inexperience. I’ve sure as hell have never stepped inside a cage and fought, but I know how to write a knockout cage fight. This was different though. There is so many people who have experienced these terrifying moments and I didn’t want to disrespect that by glossing over it.

So I went to YouTube and immersed myself in home videos—lots of home videos. Most of these videos I’d seen before. Felt horror and sadness while I watched them. You would have be dead inside not to. But let me tell you something, when you take these same videos and you listen to them over and over again, listening to the waiting, the terror, the destruction, the realization that everything they knew is gone and then try to recreate that through words…

It affects you on many levels. This will be a book that will stay with me for a very, very long time.

Which is why I will be donating 10% of my release week author royalties to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief. This organization responds to over 70,000 disasters each year and offers food, supplies and shelter. I wanted to find a way to give back, and I couldn’t think of a better way to do so than to donate a portion of my earnings from WINNING LOVE.

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