Last week, The New Yorker published a no-holds barred article describing what could happen if the “Really Big One” hit the Cascadia subduction zone in the Pacific Northwest. It is scary stuff, especially since this is where I live and unless I get to higher ground very quickly, my home and everything else would be swept out to sea in a massive tsunami.
With current media attention focusing on a major quake in the PNW, it seems appropriate to kick off Backdoor Survival Prepper Book Festival 9 with a fictionalized tale of what what happens when the big one hits.
Today I share an interview with J. A. Charnov, the author of Cascadia’s Curse. In addition, I have five copies of the eBook up from grabs in an author giveaway.
Enjoy the interview then be sure to check in below to learn about the giveaway.
An Interview with J. A. Charnov, Author of Cascadia’s Curse
Tell me about your book. What is it about?
“Cascadia’s Curse” is a contemporary thriller set in an isolated, rural area on the Oregon coast. The action revolves around several characters who must cope with a devastating, widespread natural disaster that actually occurs, on average, every few hundred years in the Pacific Northwest.
It’s been 315 years since the last occurrence, and it could happen again anytime with no warning—perhaps as you are reading this, or next month, or fifty years from now. But it will happen. Many experts believe that it is overdue.
What type of research did you have to do while writing your book?
It was very important to me to get the science right as I worked on the novel. I’ve been a “geology nerd” my entire life, and already knew a great deal about earthquakes, tsunamis, etc., but I read as much recent information as I could on the subject. I also contacted several scientists, researchers, and others to make sure that the events portrayed in the novel would fall squarely within the realm of possibility, and better yet probability.
I was very pleasantly surprised when all of them were eager to help me, and they are all gratefully acknowledged at the end of the book.
How long did it take to write?
From the initial idea and the very first words appearing on the computer screen to the day of publication, the project took about 16 months, working at least three or four hours per day, six days per week, even though I’m a fast writer.
I’ve been a freelance technical writer and editor for many years on very tight deadlines for various clients, and have also written and published two nonfiction books on entirely different topics, both now out of print. All of that experience served me well while crafting the novel.
Every book, fiction and non-fiction, includes a message. What message do you hope my readers will take with them after reading your book?
My two major goals were to entertain with a great story and to educate without being preachy. Based on the reviews the novel has received so far, I think I have managed to meet those goals. For example, the final line in one reviewer’s post reads: “Also has me thinking about whether we are prepared enough as I look out my bedroom window at the rolling central coast breakers and at the go-bag sitting by the door.”
I lived and worked on the central Oregon coast, part time, for several years, and during that period most people were completely unprepared for the inevitable events that will occur when the Cascadia Subduction Zone ruptures. Officials were just beginning to make residents and visitors aware of the potential dangers by holding community meetings and organizing periodic “tsunami drills.”
Before word spread about the dangers and awareness grew, many friends and neighbors used to think I was very odd (or actually quite crazy) for keeping my Subaru as full as I could of non-perishable food, water, and basic survival gear. As someone with a lifelong physical challenge, I knew that I could never carry everything I needed uphill to higher ground fast enough if the worst happened (just like two of my main characters in the novel). So, I prepared as best I could to be able to drive to a safer place if necessary and also use my car as a shelter, especially if bad weather accompanied the disaster.
During my time on the coast I evacuated twice in response to official tsunami warnings, both of which fortunately turned out to be false alarms. But I was very glad that I had been reasonably prepared, anyway.
Of course, after the horrific earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004 that killed so many people, no one thought I was odd anymore. And since the devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, much greater efforts have been and are still being made to better educate and prepare people for the disaster that will be very similar to both the Indian Ocean and Japan events.
There is always pushback, however, as the Pacific Northwest has a peculiar problem that impacts those efforts. During the past 50 years, most coastal areas have gone from having nearly entirely natural resource-based economies (mostly logging and fishing) to primarily tourist-based economies. It is a very delicate balancing act to try to educate and prepare people who live and visit there without scaring away the tourists, retirees, and second-home owners at the same time.
I suppose that the overall message of my novel is that for this particular and inevitable disaster most people and communities in the coastal Pacific Northwest are still woefully underprepared or completely unprepared. It is very likely that whoever is there when the worst happens will have to survive without outside help not just for days, but for weeks and perhaps even months—especially in already isolated, rural areas. So, that reviewer mentioned above was wise to reevaluate her preparedness, in that her “go bag” next to the door is probably inadequate, to say the least.
As an author in the survival, prepping and/or homesteading niche, what are you personally preparing for?
Now I live in an area where volcanic eruptions and forest fires are the greatest potential natural disasters, with fires being number one at this time because of the severe drought. My Subaru is still full of necessities in case I have to leave in a hurry.
What would be your first prep-step if you were just getting started?
One of the things not discussed enough is the need to become and stay as physically healthy and fit as possible. So, my first prep-step if I were just beginning to think about it would be to take a good, hard look at my overall health and my lifestyle, decide what I needed to do to get and stay as well and strong as I possibly could, and then do it.
All the survival gear in the world won’t help much if an individual has lived a very unhealthy lifestyle and is unable to physically and mentally cope with a natural or manmade disaster.
My next step would be to get to know my neighbors much better, and plan together for cooperative efforts in the event of a disaster, as I truly believe that almost no one in the modern age can survive for very long on their own.
What book or movie, fiction or non-fiction, do you think gives the best portrayal of what could happen?
Hollywood focuses on providing entertainment, not information, so I can’t think of a movie I’ve seen that best portrays what could happen. The most recent disaster flick, “San Andreas,” is a very good example of a movie that would get an “A” for entertainment (if you like that sort of thing) and an “F” for scientific accuracy.
I can recommend a great nonfiction book, though, that provides excellent information about the Cascadia Subduction Zone and the great earthquakes and tsunamis it fairly regularly produces. The title is “Cascadia’s Fault: The Coming Earthquake and Tsunami that Could Devastate North America” by journalist and documentary filmmaker Jerry Thompson, available on Amazon and through bookstores. I highly recommend it for readers who want to learn more.
Thompson also produced an excellent documentary on the subject called “Shock/Wave – Surviving North America’s Biggest Disaster” (2008) that was broadcast on PBS stations and as far as I know is still available as a DVD from Omnifilm Entertainment in Canada: http://www.omnifilm.com/factual/shockwave .
Do you have plans for another book?
I don’t plan to write any more fiction, as it is extremely difficult to gain attention for a novel unless one is already famous or has relatively unlimited time, energy, and money for incessant marketing. (Did you know that several thousand titles, mostly self-published, are uploaded to Amazon.com every day?)
I am, however, currently working on two nonfiction books on completely different topics. Hope springs eternal.
Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers?
Cascadia’s Curse usually sells for $5.99, but will be reduced to $2.99 for two weeks after it appears in this Book Festival. It is currently available as an eBook through the following outlets: Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Page Foundry, Scribd, Tolino, Inktera, and Oyster. (This may change in the future, as I may decide to place it in Amazon’s “KDP Select” category so that Kindle Unlimited subscribers can borrow it, in which case Amazon requires that it not be available through any other distributors.)
J.A. Charnov has reserved 5 copies of Cascadia’s Curse in eBook format for this Book Festival Giveaway. Not only that, as a special treat, J.A. has provided us with the giveaway question!
The deadline is 9:00 PM Pacific on Tuesday with the winner notified by email and announced on the Rafflecopter in the article. Please note that the winner must claim their book within 48 hours or an alternate will be selected.
Note: If you are having difficulty with the Rafflecopter, attempt to clear your browser cache to see if that helps. Instructions are here: http://www.wikihow.com/Clear-Your-Browsers-Cache. If that does not work, contact support at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Final Word
I don’t need to tell you that living in fear of some major disaster that may or may not happen your lifetime is folly. Although we continue to prepare as though something will happen tomorrow or next week, these preps are our insurance and like other types of insurance, we hope we will never be required to use it.
Something we can do, however, is practice using our preps – and I mean skills as well as stuff – on camping trips or “stay-cations” where we go off grid for a weekend at home. Another thing we can do is continue to read survival fiction and learn from the choices the characters make when faced with catastrophic circumstances.
Regardless of where you live, take a peek at the article in The New Yorker. Then keep on prepping!
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Spotlight: Cascadia’s Curse
Two sisters are jolted awake by the piercing alarm of their emergency alert radio. It’s the middle of a cold, damp March night on the Oregon coast, and a tsunami warning has just been issued after a great earthquake occurs nearly 2,000 miles away in the eastern Aleutian Islands. Emily and Laura leave their home and are among the first to arrive at the official evacuation assembly area a few miles up the road. There the crowd of coastal residents and visitors grows larger by the minute, and many believe that it will turn out to be another false alarm, as so many other warnings had proven to be in the past.
Fearing that they might be confronted by a hostile man whom Laura had encountered earlier that day, and increasingly uncomfortable with the mass of people, the sisters decide to risk driving up into the mountains. They are soon followed on the narrow, steep logging road by a few others who have their own reasons for leaving the area.
Before the next day is over, all who head up into the mountains, as well as those who stay behind, will find themselves tested and challenged by increasingly dire circumstances no one could have foreseen.
Bargain Bin: For your convenience, here is a list of all of the books in the current Backdoor Survival Prepper Book Festival as well as a link to the books mentioned by today’s author.
Prepper Book Festival 9 – Non-Fiction
Chickens from Scratch: Raising Your Own Chickens from Hatch to Egg Laying and Beyond
Prepper’s Natural Medicine: Life-Saving Herbs, Essential Oils and Natural Remedies
Shotguns: A Comprehensive Guide (PrepSmart Volume 3)
The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide: Harvest, Treat, and Store Your Most Vital Resource
The Pantry Primer: A Prepper’s Guide to Whole Food on a Half-Price Budget
Prepper Book Festival 9 – Fiction
Plus: The Preppers Guide to Food Storage
No list of books would be complete without my own book, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage. The eBook is only 99 cent plus the print version is available for less than $6.00.
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