Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Weather Report

I, too, have heard that one should never begin a book with a weather report, and am always conscious of that bit of writerly folk wisdom every time I do it.   I have managed to include a weather report of some sort in the beginnings of all four books I’ve written thus far.  In fact, weather plays an important role in all my writing.

It would seem unnatural to me if it didn’t.  I grew up in Oklahoma, a place where the state of the weather looms large in everyone's life, every day of every year.   This is smack in the middle of the Great Plains, where, as the old saw goes, there’s nothing to stop the wind between the Gulf of Mexico and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence.  Oklahomans enjoy and/or suffer through every sort of weather known to nature, and in short order, too.  A February day of 15 degrees Fahrenheit and 3 inches of ice can be followed by a day of 70 and sunshine.  Weather moves through fast and furious, and this is why there are so many violent storms.

How could one write about people who live in such a place, whose lives are lived mostly outdoors, as well, and not write about the weather?  The characters are certainly aware of it.

I decide what season it will be before I begin to write an Alafair Tucker book, for the atmosphere will influence the plot - snow to hide a body, a dust devil to lead Alafair to rescue her daughter from a killer, a spring breeze to shower apple blossoms over young lovers.  

Until I moved out here to Southern Arizona some 25 years ago, where there is no weather other than warm and extra-hot*, I didn’t realize that I had spent thirty-some years of my life in a state of tension and hyper-vigilance.  When I began to realize that I didn’t have to check for some life-threatening atmospheric phenomenon every single morning upon arising, I swear to God that the muscles in my shoulders relaxed for the first time in my adult life. 

Now, I can’t finish this post without mentioning two things : First, I had a great St Patrick’s day with Vicki and Debby as they passed through my bailiwick on their Extra Mighty-Big Book Tour.  I met up with them at Tempe Public Library in the afternoon, after which we drove north to Scottsdale and ate supper together on the patio at Frank and Lupe’s New Mexican restaurant.  We partook of fish tacos and happy hour, and finished in a nicely buzzed state just in time to go to Poisoned Pen Bookstore for their gig at 7:00.  A lovely time was had by all.

Second, my Murder workshop on Sunday for the Tucson Festival of Books went swimmingly.  The room was packed.  I won’t go into detail here, since I begin to wax long, but suffice it to say that I was so happy to get out of the house, and Don did fine on his own for the day.   I wrote a bit more about the day, the trip with my friend Nan, and my conversation with Nancy Turner, on my own web site, if you want to know more, Dear Reader.  Perhaps I’ll go into my brilliant insights on mystery writing in a future post.


*Yes, I know all about rattling Arizona monsoon storms, flash floods, and dust storms that would choke a horse, not to mention the 115 degree summer days.  I have lived here for 25 years, after all.  Those are indeed scary and dangerous.  The relentless heat ain’t no fun, though the rest of the year is heaven, and as they say out here, you don’t have to shovel sunshine. The others are relatively rare and often rather beautiful.  Not like the malevolent threat of a Great Plains event that tracks you, hunts you out, and then tries to come into your house to kill you.


Charles benoit said...

I have to admit, I never could understand how people could live in Oklahoma. Weather-related disasters in OK are a staple of the news. Sure, we get blizzards up here in Rochester, but - at worst - it's a hassle and I don't recall ever hearing of anyone losing their house in a blizzard. You Oklahomans are made of sterner stuff. Either that or you're just plain stubborn.

Donis Casey said...

You notice that I don't live in Oklahoma any more. I only go there to visit my much tougher relatives.

文章 said...