Author: Chris Kridler
ISBN: 978-0-9849139-0-9 (paperback), 978-0-9849139-1-6 (Kindle)
Page count: 284
Price: $14.95 trade paperback; $2.99 e-book
Chris Kridler is an award-winning writer, photographer and storm chaser. As a journalist, she’s covered a variety of topics, from space shuttle missions to publishing. Chris’ photographs have appeared in several magazines and books, including the covers of The Journal of Meteorology, the book “Winderful,” and Wallace and Hobbs’ “Atmospheric Science” textbook. She was recently featured in Popular Photography. Her short film “Chasing Reality” won the best documentary award at the Melbourne Independent Filmmakers Festival in Florida in 2011. She also has been interviewed on several TV shows and on “American Variety Radio” on public radio. “Funnel Vision” is her first novel.
Tell us about your book:
Judy Hale, a Kansas photographer, chases storms in part to relive and vanquish the tornado that fractured her young life and that of her sister Shannon, a directionless coquette. Jack Andreas, a handsome, devil-may-care researcher on his way to his PhD, chases tornadoes to lose himself in their power and mystery. He also chases women, and when he and Judy cross paths, sparks fly. But Judy and Jack have dueling destinies as they interact with Shannon; a clueless newbie storm-tour operator named Brad Treat; geeky, likable chaser Robinson Marvell; and a bevy of other storm chasers as they pursue the gorgeous, violent storms of the Plains. Their stories intertwine as they chase the monster storm that forces Judy to confront her deepest fears and Jack to find the courage to face the ultimate twister. “Funnel Vision” takes you into the heart of Tornado Alley — and the hearts and minds of the adventurers who populate the nomadic, geeky, exhilarating world of storm chasing.
How long did it take to write the book?
The first draft took about a year, and it’s undergone several revisions since then.
What inspired you to write the book?
I’ve been chasing storms for more than 15 years, and I’m as fascinated by supercells, lightning and tornadoes as the characters in the novel. Like real storm chasers, they come from diverse backgrounds and motivations, and their passion for storms makes them attractive subjects for a book. I wanted to get into their heads and explore their obsessions, whether they’re chasing a tornado or pursuing one another. I also wanted to show what storm chasing is really like, and based on reviews from other chasers, I think I have.
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
I write when I can, often at night, but my routine isn’t as rigorous as I’d like. I’ve long worked in newspapers. Now I’m a freelancer, so I fit my fiction writing around my work writing articles, taking photos and shooting and editing video.
Some of my research grew out of my own experiences chasing storms – years of meeting amazing people, staying in crappy hotels, and driving thousands and thousands of miles in search of the perfect storm. I also talked to a few experts to get the details right, though the facts were subject to some invention. It was especially interesting for me to find out just how a hail-catcher van works. One of my characters has to drive the van into beastly hailstorms.
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
The story is dramatic, with generous doses of action, romance and humor, and I believe it authentically portrays the world of storm chasing. So I hope readers will be entertained and also get a good idea of what storm chasing is really like.
Where can we go to buy your book?
The book is available in paperback and e-book formats at all the major online booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Find the links to various editions at http://chriskridler.com/books
Any other links or info you’d like to share?
My blog, book information, video samples and galleries can be found at http://chriskridler.com. Sky Diary, my site of storm-chasing accounts, with a section on weather facts for kids, is at http://skydiary.com.
Excerpt from book:
As Giselle moved the car back onto the road, Jack took the video camera off the dash mount and twisted around so he could aim it out the rear driver’s side window. The dust bowl now had a distinct funnel above it, which descended from a huge, perfectly round meso at the storm’s base. He didn’t want to get too far ahead, but they were getting blasted by inflow here as the tempest sucked in warm wind and dust with it. Just another mile, he thought. The storm was moving slowly southeast, and they would need to stay ahead of it.
As they made the right, he turned forward again to get a breathtaking view out the passenger-side window. The funnel, a softly symmetrical cone, reached into the jaws of swirling dust. The tendrils from the ground and the cone seemed to kiss, then entwine into a continuous, dark funnel from cloud to ground. In this empty moonscape, it looked like a mothership beaming its crew to Earth.
He rolled down his window. “Stop here.”
They were close, and as the tornado got closer, putting them under the edge of the circulation, they weren’t even getting rain. A blinding lightning bolt hit nearby, coinciding with the snap-bang as the superheated air particles broke the speed of sound. It was a perfect, dangerous spot.
“Listen to it,” Jack whispered.
Here, in the bear’s cage, the tornado made a rushing sound. It was not like a freight train. Right now, it was not tearing apart anything except the earth. It reminded him of a waterfall he’d heard in the Appalachians, only more eerie. Shhhhhhhhh, it said. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
It was hypnotic.
“It’s so quiet,” said Giselle, looking out Jack’s window but still gripping the steering wheel tightly with both hands, ready to bolt.
“It’s only air and water,” Jack said. “Air and water and earth. Here, pull up in that side road on the left and turn around, so we’re facing it. We’ll still be able to get out in a hurry.”
“Good,” Giselle said. She drove forward and got the car turned around so that it, and she, confronted the full, fearsome tableau. “My god. Shouldn’t we get out of here?”
“Wait for it,” Jack said, feeling a rush of confidence and satisfaction. He put the video camera back in the dash mount and grabbed his Nikon to snap some stills. The dark cone had expanded into a rotating cylinder, with a fringe of cloud spinning around its crown, just below the round, black storm base from which the tornado hung. Beyond the curve of the mesocyclone was the orange light of the setting sun. Numbers spilled across the screen of the laptop set between them. “We’re getting great data,” he said.
A few cars whizzed by them, one from the mobile mesonet, and a mobile radar truck, too. Now, no one was as close as they were. Malik’s voice came over the radio. “FC for Probe 3. Jack, don’t do anything stupid, unless you absolutely have to.”
Jack grinned. A half-mile away, the tornado started to cross the highway they’d abandoned. A few thin trees along the margin were ripped out of the ground, spun about and tossed several yards. The rushing sound was more complex, now, as the twister began to chew through vegetation and road signs, but the ceremonial hurling of debris almost seemed to happen in slow motion. At the tornado’s base, however, it was clear that its motion was not slow. Dust was sucked in at a dizzying rate, and before the densest part of the funnel even reached the trees, winds wrenched them into the air at speeds Jack put near 200 miles per hour.
“Christ,” Jack said. “I didn’t even notice that cellular tower there before. Move. Move. Move.”