H. W. “Buzz” Bernard is a writer and retired meteorologist. His debut novel, Eyewall, which one reviewer called a “perfect summer read,” was released in May 2011 and went on to become a best-seller in Amazon’s Kindle Store.
His second novel, Plague, came out in September 2012.
He’s currently at work on his third novel, Supercell.
Before retiring, Buzz worked at The Weather Channel in Atlanta, Georgia, as a senior meteorologist for 13 years. Prior to that, he served as a weather officer in the U.S. Air Force for over three decades. He attained the rank of colonel and received, among other awards, the Legion of Merit.
His “airborne” experiences include a mission with the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters, air drops over the Arctic Ocean and Turkey, and a stint as a weather officer aboard a Tactical Air Command airborne command post (C-135).
In the past, he’s provided field support to forest fire fighting operations in the Pacific Northwest, spent a summer working on Alaska’s arctic slope, and served two tours in Vietnam. Various other jobs, both civilian and military, have taken him to Germany, Saudi Arabia and Panama.
He’s a native Oregonian and attended the University of Washington in Seattle where he earned a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science; he also studied creative writing.
He and his wife Christina live in Roswell, Georgia, along with their fuzzy and sometimes overactive Shih-Tzu, Stormy.
I think because the topics the novel addresses, Ebola and bio-weapons, both fascinated and terrified me. Novelists, especially thriller writers, are always searching for scary themes. I don’t think there are many more terrifying things than weaponized Ebola–no vaccine, no cure, no hope. The stakes in Plague are pretty darn high.
What was the experience like writing Plague?
It turned out to be a lot more work than I initially thought. The novel required a lot of research and a lot of rewrites. Research because I like to say I write science fact not science fiction, although I push the factual envelope to the extremes. Well, okay, I probably rupture it. Rewrites, because writing fiction is a craft, and I wanted to make certain the suspense kept inexorably tightening until there was no way for my hero to succeed. Of course, I had to find a way. Then again, at the very end of the book, you may wonder whether he did or didn’t.
How did you come up with the title?
Umm, I didn’t. It was a title by desperate committee. My working title was The Koltsovo Legacy. The general reaction to that of folks I mentioned it to was What? Not the reaction you want. So my publisher, editor, agent and I went through many iterations until we landed on Plague . . . not original, but not terrible. And people don’t say What? when they hear it.
Can you tell us more about your main character, Richard Wainwright?
Sure. Richard is a former high-profile and very successful CEO who has largely withdrawn from life, both professionally and socially, following the premature death of his wife. But after reluctantly accepting a position as a temporary CEO at a biotech company, he discovers new (and deadly) challenges and even more surprisingly manages to rekindle an old love interest. Here’s something else about Richard: The inspiration for his professional background was drawn from a real-life CEO, an old high school friend of mine. You can read more about it in the Author’s Note at the end of the book.
What are his strengths and what are his weaknesses?
They are probably one in the same. He’s a hands-on manager and very determined to get his way. Those traits help him uncover a horrific plot to release weaponized Ebola, but at the same time sign his death warrant.
Are there any supporting characters we need to know about?
Two of my favorites are Dr. Dwight Butler and Rev. Marty De la Serna. Dr. Butler is a free-spirited CDC virologist who is very accomplished at what he does and simultaneously an endless source of aggravation to his boss. Rev. De la Serna is a female Methodist minister who is true to her vows, but at the same time given to an overly-rich fantasy life that ends up putting her and Richard in extreme jeopardy . . . as if they weren’t already in enough trouble.
Can you open to page 25 and tell us what’s happening?
Richard is just ending his first day as CEO pro tem of BioDawn International, an innovative and very successful biotech company in Atlanta, Georgia. He’s trying to get his arms around what the firm does. He hasn’t yet realized there’s something very ominous going on there.
What about page 65?
It’s the last page of an extended scene that takes place in Siberia at the Koltsovo Institute of Molecular Biology (a real place) during the latter stages of the Cold War. This is where the antagonist, Alnour Barashi, honed his trade; the institute was commonly known as a “factory of death.”
Here’s brief excerpt:
Barashi’s Russian mentor says:
“‘Fortunately, for humans [Ebola] can’t be transmitted through the air. At least that’s never been observed outside a laboratory setting.’
‘But if it could be?’ Barashi asked.
‘You mean like the common cold?’
‘Then the world wouldn’t have to worry about overpopulation any longer.’”
Now that Plague has been published, what’s your next project?
It’s a novel called Supercell, as in supercell thunderstorm. It’s a drama set against a background of tornado chasing on the Great Plains. And yes, I went tornado chasing this past spring just to make sure the novel would ring with authenticity.
Do you have anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
I think they’ll enjoy Plague. There are twists and turns in the novel that even I didn’t see coming until, well, I got there.